EDITORIAL: Yet another murder mystery


Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM’s) leader Dr Imran Farooq’s murder in London on Thursday has opened up a Pandora’s box. Dr Farooq’s body was found with multiple stab wounds and head injuries near his London residence. Scotland Yard is investigating the murder. According to latest reports, the murder will be investigated under the purview of anti-terrorism. MQM chief Altaf Hussain has called this the greatest loss of his life. After Shahnawaz Bhutto’s murder more than two decades ago in France, this is the first time that a Pakistani political leader has been murdered outside Pakistan. All sorts of speculations surround this murder. Dr Farooq had taken political asylum in Britain in 1999 after going underground in 1992 following a military crackdown against the MQM. He was accused of involvement in murder and other serious crimes, though he denied these charges. Being one of the founding members of the All Pakistan Mohajir Students’ Organisation (APMSO), which eventually led to the formation of the MQM, he was an integral part of the party. Farooq was also the first convenor of the MQM. For the past two years though, Dr Farooq was sidelined in the party over some differences with the MQM leadership. The reasons for his obscurity were not made public.

Being a politician in Pakistan is not an easy job. Many of them have been assassinated in broad daylight in the country. But Dr Farooq’s murder in London has now shown that even our leaders in exile are not safe any more. The implications for MQM chief Altaf Hussain and other leaders in exile are severe. The MQM has declared 10 days of mourning and suspended all party activities following Dr Farooq’s murder. It is not yet clear who would be interested in killing a marginalised leader of the MQM who was no longer functional in the party. Conspiracy theories abound as usual. Some are saying that it is an inside job, others think the MQM Haqiqi — a breakaway faction of the MQM — could be behind the murder. It will take days, maybe weeks, before we can know for sure who killed the MQM leader but if this was indeed a political assassination as is being speculated by many quarters, it may remain a mystery forever why he was killed. It is hoped that the British police would be able to solve the mystery.

The MQM, being part of the federal as well as Sindh government, is an important political party. Karachi and some other parts of Sindh were closed down in view of the security risk. Transport, schools, gas stations and markets remained closed because whenever a high profile murder of an MQM leader takes place, we have seen a violent reaction from MQM supporters. Fortunately, Karachi remained relatively peaceful after the news of the murder was announced. The MQM has also called for peaceful mourning. Patience must be exercised by the supporters of the MQM as it would not bode well for the country if a new wave of violence erupts. Pakistan is already going through the toughest phase in its entire history. Terrorism, floods, corruption scandals, a government under siege, the economic crunch and other such crises have engulfed the country lately. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: EU trade concessions

It is good news that the EU, on the urging of Germany and Britain, has decided to grant time-limited, textile-specific trade concessions to Pakistan in view of the adverse impact of floods on the economy. In addition, Pakistan may also benefit from Generalised System of Preferences Plus (GSP+) in 2014, which grants duty-free access to the EU for approximately 7,200 products from small and vulnerable countries, if it satisfies the EU on its human rights and governance performance. Where EU countries have not been able to grant much direct aid due to the economic recession, trade concessions to Pakistan can greatly help in giving the sagging economy the necessary support. The EU has finally moved to open up to Pakistan for the first time since 2004.

The details of the concessions are yet to be released, but the textile lobby in Pakistan has expressed fears that these may cover only the lower end of value added products. If the concessions, which have been kept time-bound in order to prevent competing countries from challenging them under WTO rules, do not encompass a wide range of textile products, it will have a minimal economic impact in terms of stimulating the textile industry and reducing unemployment. On the other hand, it is incumbent upon Pakistan to make the best use of the special consideration it is receiving.

Pakistan enjoyed special trade access to EU markets for textile products under the Generalised System of Preferences during 2002-04. However, heavy duties were imposed from 2005 onward on charges of Pakistan dumping its bed-linen, for which there is a wide consumer base in European markets, to gain an edge over its competitors. Since then, the regulatory trade regime has become much more alert and it will detect any move by the Pakistani textile manufacturers to gain a foothold in European markets and outdo competing industry once again. There are already strong lobbies against granting of preferential access to Pakistan within and outside the EU. Portugal, Italy and France have their own textile industries, whose products will face competition from Pakistani goods. Likewise, India and Bangladesh would also like Pakistan out of the equation. In such a situation, it would be wise to act honestly and take maximum advantage of whatever concessions are available.

No comments:

Post a Comment