EDITORIAL: Faisalabad and Adezai bombings - Thursday, March 10, 2011

Source : http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\03\10\story_10-3-2011_pg3_1

Although the bombings in Faisalabad and Adezai were conducted in two different areas, using different methods and for different reasons, they have been perpetrated by the same forces that want to destabilise Pakistan. The Faisalabad attack took place near the office of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) on Mall Road. Being unable to breach the security cordon of the ISI office, the militants exploded the car bomb at a nearby CNG station, taking 25 lives of innocent bystanders, and injuring more than a hundred people, some of whom are in critical condition. Reportedly, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has claimed responsibility for this heinous act, stating they did it in retaliation for the security forces’ detaining and later killing one of their senior members in Faisalabad. In Adezai area near Peshawar, a suicide bomber attacked the funeral of a peace committee member’s wife, which was attended by a large majority of Adezai lashkar (militia) members. The Adezai lashkar was formed to protect the local community from Taliban militants. By several accounts, this private militia constituted by the local people stood as a bulwark against the advance of the Taliban to Peshawar. However, lack of support by the military and the government compelled them to threaten that they would lay down their arms and make peace with the Taliban for survival’s sake. The existential question for them is why should they expose themselves to attacks by the Taliban if the government is not interested in supporting them.

All this reminds us that that the military establishment and the ISI have been playing with fire for a long time and now that fire has spread and arrived at their own doorstep. ‘Strategic assets’ created to secure dubious goals in Afghanistan are wreaking havoc in that country and also spilling the blood of Pakistanis. One might ask whose interests are these ‘assets’ securing if not the people of Pakistan, who foot the bill of all these adventures and then pay the additional cost of this treacherous game with their lives. Pakistan’s security agencies will have to scotch the monster they have created, and the sooner they do this the better. Also, it would not be in the interest of the military itself to alienate peace lashkars created to fight against the same elements the military is fighting. If the Adezai lashkar members had been uncertain about which way to go, this suicide bombing must have cleared their minds. Arranging for the security of the community in defiance of the Taliban has cost them heavily. For them, there is no hope of military or other assistance and making peace with the Taliban is probably the only option. If they do not do it now, they would risk being attacked again.

Last but not the least, the buck stops with the interior ministry, which is responsible for the country’s internal security. Rehman Malik has miserably failed to devise and implement a credible and coordinated plan that would ensure that each head of the hydra of militancy is cut off. Despite his blatant failure, the federal government insists on retaining him at this post. It would be in the best interests of the country for someone more capable to be given the challenge and task of providing security to the citizens of Pakistan. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: Misplaced priorities

Around 60 trees along Ferozepur Road were chopped down on Monday in order to create a temporary passage for traffic diversion while the construction of a flyover and underpass is carried out at Kalma Chowk. The environmental lobby and the general public have condemned this act. Previously, a similar reaction came from the Lahore Bachao Tehreek, when trees were chopped down along the Canal to construct an underpass on the Mall Road. Further plans to expand the Canal Road at the expense of hundreds of trees evoked an even fiercer resistance by civil society. They even took the matter to the Supreme Court, where the case still rests.

Under the Environmental Protection Act 1997, work on any mega project cannot be started without carrying out an Environmental Impact Assessment first. However, the Punjab government failed to carry out this legal obligation, thus violating the law. Moreover, it did not even consult the general public of Lahore before starting construction and as a result deprived them of their democratic right to be aware of any developmental projects being executed. The worst part is that these magnificent trees were brutally chopped down not even for the sake of constructing the underpass but merely for creating a temporary passage for traffic diversion, and that too surreptitiously at night so as to avoid any civic protest. Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif must understand that these trees not only add to the scenic beauty of our city and protect the environment but have also become landmarks. At present, we are already short of trees in urban areas and now by chopping down the existing ones for such spurious reasons, we are depriving the city of its beauty and endangering the environment.

No doubt that Kalma Chowk has become a bottleneck because of the ever-increasing vehicular traffic in Lahore, and causes great distress to travellers trying to get through this choke point. But what Mr Sharif needs to understand is that an underpass and flyover is not the solution to this problem. Previously, many underpasses have been constructed in Lahore for similar reasons; however, these have failed to reduce traffic congestion. The problem lies in the fact that the vehicular traffic in Lahore is so huge, and growing, that no amount of road expansion can cope with it. What we really need is an economical and efficient public transport system so that people do not have to bring their vehicles on the roads and cause traffic congestion. *

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