The News Editorials | June 28, 2020

No space for students

Education and internet facilities in Balochistan and Fata are not at par with the majority of areas of other provinces in Pakistan. This is something known to everyone but the Higher Education Commission (HEC) which has been insisting that all university students must attend online classes and appear in online exams. And when students express their inability to do so they are not even allowed to protest peacefully. We saw this the way the police arrested over two dozen male and female students in Quetta a few days back during a nation-wide protest by students against the HEC’s online classes policy. These students were simply protesting against the unavailability of the internet for online classes. But the response to them in Quetta at least was violence and intolerance. Although the students were thankfully released soon after, there is a lot that is wanting in how Pakistan treats its young.

There is no secret that most of Balochistan does not have broadband internet to enable students in areas such as Gwadar, Loralai, Noshki, Sibi, Pishin, Turbat, and even in Ziarat. The same goes for students in many parts of the erstwhile ‘tribal areas’ or Fata. People in these areas have been complaining for long that they can’t even check an email due to the extremely slow speed of internet – and in some areas no internet at all. The students of these areas who were studying in various private and public sector universities across the country had to get back to their homes due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Once home, most of them were cut off from the outside world and unable to attend online classes. Finally they had to voice their concern because the HEC was unwilling to take into account their legitimate grievances.

This disrespect of our students and teachers alike must stop if we are to be counted as a civilized nation. We must respect our people’s right to free expression and peaceful assembly. Without respecting and protecting our students we can’t expect them to be responsible citizens of this country. The right to peaceful assembly is constitutionally guaranteed and must not be violated under any pretext. Shutting out voices is not leading us anywhere, and no country can ever hope for progress without its students being taught how to think independently.


A tainted planet

Even in the most remote locations of our planet, scientists have found evidence that plastic has entered the food chain. This is significant, indicating that we have not been able to save even the Antarctic from microplastic which we know is scattered elsewhere throughout the world. The first evidence of contamination even in the land-based food chain of the Antarctic poses, according to scientists, a particular threat to the biota and ecosystem of the planet. Findings published in the journal Biology Letters had feared that the most fragile polar ecosystems already facing a huge threat from climate change were under greater danger than we had previously known.

Plastic was found in the gut of small organisms which resemble fleas, although they are not insects, and are one of the few creatures able to survive harsh Antarctic conditions. They are often the dominant species in areas not covered by ice and mainly eat micro-algae and lichens. Research was held by scientists by Italy’s University of Siena and the creatures were collected in a chunk of polystyrene foam covered in a green layer of microalgae moss and lichens found on an island which forms a part of the South Shetland Island chain. There is heavy human activity in the area, and tourism has also begun to make inroads in what appears to be one of the most contaminated regions of Antarctica.

We can see then the manner in which we, as humans, are destroying our planet. Even the pristine icelands of the Antarctic are no longer safe. Humans have left their footprints literally on every corner of the Earth. We already know the ocean floor is largely covered by plastics and the remains of human consumption can be found even amongst the highest peaks on Earth. The entry of plastic into the Antarctic food chain means it will be consumed by other creatures and as such presents a devastating threat to the entire region which we have failed to keep safe from the destruction inflicted everywhere. There is no way of saying if this destruction can ever be repaired or the planet we call our home effectively cleaned up. It is essential wider awareness of the need to do so is disseminated and ecosystems restored so life on Earth can continue.

Published in The News, June 28, 2020

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