EDITORIAL: Karachi on fire once again - Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Source : http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\03\22\story_22-3-2011_pg3_1

March has proved to be a ferociously deadly month for Karachi, a city that bleeds more than it prospers. More than 53 people have died in these 20 plus days with some 16 reported dead in the last 24 hours alone, and the death count continues to rise. Targets include political workers belonging to both the MQM and the PPP. Gunmen fired at a unit office of the MQM indiscriminately and an office of the PPP was targeted with a grenade attack. There are calls from members of the MQM to have the People’s Amn Committee investigated for the presence of criminal elements, who they say are being backed by the PPP. One of the MQM’s key figures and its coordination committee’s Deputy Convener, Farooq Sattar said that dozens of his party members had been shot down by members of the Amn Committee and that President Zardari and Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza, despite being shown proof, had not acted on controlling the law and order situation. At the same time, the PPP is making serious and determined steps to strengthen the coalition between itself and the MQM in Sindh. A few days back, the MQM re-entered the Sindh Assembly with much pomp and show announcing that it was no longer boycotting the current session of the assembly.

So why this violent frenzy with most of Karachi whimpering behind closed doors for fear of targeted attacks? This is because Karachi treads on extremely precarious ground because of the political entities in its playing field. Now that the PPP is looking to solidify its partnership with the MQM in Sindh after the many narrow scrapes the coalition has faced, there may be elements sabotaging any hopes of a reconciliation. The issue of the Amn Committee may have led to elements of the PPP and the MQM being at daggers drawn. The irony of this whole situation is that it may not even be the leaders of the political parties who are behind the entire mess in the first place — for a change. Hot-headed political workers (and thugs) seem to have become so conditioned to the use of violence and so desensitised to the bloodshed that has been a regular feature of the city that they may very well have gone on a rampage on their own.

With all the efforts being made by both the PPP and the MQM to re-establish congenial ties and to make stronger the Sindh coalition government, it may not be too far off to say that the leaders of both parties need to take some firm steps against some of their own. If there are some hot-headed elements within both the parties who are targeting each other and bringing Karachi to its knees, those in charge at the helm of both the PPP and MQM need to bring such political workers under control. If this is not done, there is certain danger that, with more violent players in the mix, Karachi may just dive into yet another vicious cycle of ethnic warfare. This is the last thing that this commercial and economic hub needs. What it needs is some solid leadership and, if the Sindh coalition is so keen to govern, it must start doing so by controlling the dismal law and order situation in the city. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: Water scarcity: cause for concern

It is a sobering thought on International Water Day that Pakistan has been dubbed as one of the most “water stressed” countries in the world by the World Bank (WB) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and is likely to face an acute water shortage over the next five years. This should ring alarm bells for the authorities because water scarcity will make life miserable for every Pakistani. There are many reasons for the lack of water availability and if the government does not take proper measures right away, the future will be literally ‘dry’.

One of the reasons for this acute water shortage is the implementation of the Indus Water Treaty, which is our water-sharing treaty with India. As per the treaty, India has exclusive use of the three eastern rivers — Sutlej, Beas and Ravi — while Pakistan is allocated the three western rivers — Indus, Jhelum and Chenab. Pakistan has been complaining for a long time now that India is manipulating the flow of the three western rivers by building dams and other storages to such an extent that by the time the rivers enter Pakistan, there is hardly any water left. The government has so far not managed the sharing question with India effectively. Since both countries have not been able to sort out this mess, it is time to ask the World Bank for a third-party arbitrator as per the provisions of the treaty.

The water-sharing mechanism with India is one of the reasons for the growing water shortage but we are also unable to manage well the water that we do have. In most other countries, there is a system of recycling water. The reusable water is not drinkable but it is used for washing, gardening, etc. The problem in Pakistan is that fresh drinking water is being used for everything as there are no separate lines for reusable water. Another fact is that the elite and middle classes have given up on piped drinking water due to its health hazards and have resorted to drinking bottled water. Our water supply systems are under great stress; piping networks are old and need to be upgraded. Due to lack of money, not to talk about inefficiency, the so-called fresh drinking water is fast turning into a disease-inducing factor. Pakistan has given up long ago on our old storage system and mostly uses direct water pumping, electricity availability permitting. We need to make small dams to store water. For large dams, we need to incorporate new technology to avoid silting.

It is time for serious action because the debate on water the world over has triggered alarm. All life depends on water. If scarcity becomes the norm, there is a possibility of conflicts over water in the near future. 

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