DAWN - Letters; July 24, 2005

Published July 24, 2005

Internal security

PRESIDENT Pervez Musharraf addressed officers of the law-enforcement agencies in Islamabad the other day and directed them to root out extremism and terrorism from the country. He used the two terms almost synonymously, though these should have varied roots and connotations. The task has been assigned primarily to the police force.

In my opinion the police have already been loaded with more work than they are capable of handling with the available manpower, training, and equipment. Every day we read news items about police failures in arresting criminals, preventing crime, prosecuting culprits, maintaining peace and tranquillity and so on and so forth. Now, we have assigned internal security duties to the police. On the one hand, we blame the police for their frequent failures in performing their assigned duties and, on the other, we keep on increasing their workload.

Internal security is beyond the scope of the duties of the police anywhere in the world. It requires a highly specialized, extremely demanding and most expensive outfit. It has to be composed of a totally different set of personnel with their own unique features, training, equipment, monitoring, motivation, evaluation and inter-agency relationships. The best of the best from the intelligence, law- enforcement, and investigation fields should be inducted into an internal security outfit.

I would suggest that the government should establish a separate internal security agency to handle issues relating to extremism and terrorism and provide the agency with the required resources. The internal security agency should be empowered to look beyond immediate happenings, identify the causes of those happenings, suggest measures to remove the causes and implement those measures.

The government has no choice but to work out an internal security strategy in consultation with all the stakeholders such as parliamentarians, political parties, religious organizations, ethnic and sectarian groups and relevant government agencies and to put together its resources to implement the strategy with honesty and sincerity of purpose.


Nathiagali leopards

AFTER years of hard work the wildlife department managed to conserve the leopards of the Galiat. It is not uncommon for an odd leopard to turn man-eater once in two or three decades. Unfortunately more often than not the reason is man himself. Some irresponsible person shoots at and wounds a leopard, which then either out of spite or because of the injury sustained resorts to killing the most easily huntable species of all, man.

When a leopard turns into a man-eater, it must be captured or killed immediately because if this is not done many human lives may be lost. But the locals resort to poisoning or shooting each and every leopard they come across. Leopards that have not attacked human beings are also killed for no fault of theirs.

Finding and identifying a man-eating leopard is a job which can only be entrusted to responsible and experienced hunters, not wannabe glory hunters. Unfortunately, in our part of the world, hunting a leopard and calling it a man-eater somehow is considered to be a very brave thing.

To cite an example, two gentlemen from Lahore went over a weekend to the Galiat and killed a two-year-old female cub, which came close to the bait they had laid for her. Later these poachers cooked up a story that they were attacked by the cub.

Once a leopard charges, it almost never fails in mauling the group of hunters. This is an established fact gleaned from the experiences of hunters in Africa and India.

I sincerely request the wildlife department and authorities concerned to immediately put an end to this poaching activity and entrust the job to responsible hunters who will not kill any leopard they come across.

I hope the one killed a week back by the commandos was actually a man-eating leopard and if not, then soon we will have another loss of human life. Identifying a man-eater and capturing or killing it is a tedious, time- consuming job, involving identification of pug marks and sitting at night over human kills.


Mangla Dam

APROPOS of the report (Dawn, July 12) by a team of Pakistani experts in hydrology and meteorology led by Mr Abdul Majid, former director of the National Flood Forecasting Bureau, Mr Majid alleges that foreign consultants used “fictitious” data and “manipulated… grossly estimated probable maximum flood (PMF) of 2.6 million cusecs (million cubic feet per second) for the Mangla Dam in 1959.” And that “it had restricted the maximum water level at the dam at 1,202 (feet above sea level) for the dam’s safety… resulting in under-utilization of the dam’s capacity during the past 40 years.” Copies of the report were sent to concerned authorities including Wapda.

I expected Wapda to defend its design against Mr Majid’s criticism. Apparently Wapda sought refuge in the ostrich-like policy of disregarding the fact that such serious accusations, if unchallenged, created misgivings.

Meteorologist Majid seemed to believe that meteorology is the all and end all of the Mangla Dam design. Nothing could be as self-deluding. It is river hydrology and not meteorology that counts as one of the numerous inputs which determined the criteria for design and operational pattern of a multi-purpose storage dam such as Mangla. Its planners were faced with lack of requisite hydro-met data and probable impact of some extraordinary factors pertinent to the Mangla situation. The Mangla design was therefore not a straightforward textbook exercise. It called for an extraordinary conservative approach to make up for deficiencies in data and uncertain factors. Consequently, the discharge capacity of the spillway is the largest ever designed and that too for a relatively small river as the Jhelum.

The dam has performed satisfactorily for the past 40 years. More importantly, it stood the test in 1992 when it safely passed a record flood discharge of 1.1 million cusecs. One failed to understand the raison d’etre of Mr Majid’s agitation for raising the Mangla conservation level higher than elevation 1,202. Nothing could be more risky. I would urge the powers that be not to permit any tinkering with the design and operational pattern of the Mangla reservoir — whatever the marginal benefit.

(Former chief technical adviser, UNO)

O/A Level students

THIS is in reference to Sanam Zafar Khawaja’s article ‘Discrimination against O/A Level students’ (July 17). I am a Cambridge student and I agree with the writer that the problems faced by students belonging to the British system of education in seeking admission to local universities are exasperating and need to be solved immediately.

Pakistan has a very low literacy rate as compared to other developing countries in the region like Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and India. Our government has failed to provide the nation with quality education. School syllabi are not uptodate and teachers are apparently not present in government schools. As a result, students seeking education from government schools and other private institutions offering matriculation and intermediate are deprived of many essentials that must be included in the syllabus to link them with the developing world of science and technology.

On the other hand, there is the British system of education that offers O/A levels. It offers a revised syllabus to all students opting for it and it is made sure that the syllabus contains all necessary information that is related to current development. Teachers are committed to their work and try to prepare students so that they can compete in the modern world.

People who are in charge of the ministry of education have failed to acknowledge that the foreign system of education is far better than the prevailing local system of education.

It is due to this that obstacles are created for students with a different educational background. An ‘equivalence’ certificate is the biggest stumbling block in the career of young people which makes them feel insecure about their future, leaving no choice but to go abroad to seek higher education.

It is my request to the ministry of education to judge O/A level students on merit.


Preventing floods

ALMOST every year floods devastate thousands of our villages, displace countless people and destroy property worth millions.

It is surprising that while the government spends a lot of money on the rehabilitation of the affected people, it never tries to address the real cause of floods and find a permanent solution to the problem.

Even about the current floods, the nation has been made to believe that they have been caused by premature melting of snow and the release of excess water into our rivers by India.

Floods occur when rivers overflow their banks. It happens on account of constant silting up of our rivers which has reduced their capacity to contain water. Visit a river when it is dry and you will have to go just two steps down to touch the river bed.

Apart from herds of cattle grazing there, you can see children playing on the sand.

One can even walk through to the other side quite easily. This is not what a river should be.

The solution is simple. During winters when the rivers are dry, dredge them by about five feet. Deposit the dug-out soil on the banks to increase their height.

I am sure this will rid us of the havoc of floods every year and the cost will also not be more than that spent on rehabilitation and reconstruction.


Smoking scenes

ACCORDING to a study published in the medical journal The Lancet, watching movie stars light up on screen is the biggest single factor in influencing teenagers to smoke.

According to the research, children are more likely to smoke if their favourite actor smokes. The study began by recruiting over 2,600 US schoolchildren aged 10 to 14 who had never smoked. Each child was then asked if he had watched any of 50 movies randomly selected from 601 box-office hits released between 1988 and 1999. The number of occurrences of smoking in each film was recorded by trained people.

When followed up one to two years later, 10 per cent of the children had tried smoking. Those in the top quarter of exposure to movie smoking were 2.7 times more likely to have tried a cigarette than those in the lowest quarter of exposure.

This effect was independent of other factors that might influence a child’s smoking behaviour, such as friends of family smoking. Previous studies have suggested that smoking in movies influences adolescent smoking behaviour, but this is the first study to show that viewing smoking in movies indicates who will start smoking in the future.

India has banned smoking scenes in movies. According to the new regulations of the health ministry, distributors and directors will have to show health warnings in the form of prominent scrolls on screens in old movies and TV shows, whether Indian or foreign, that show actors smoking.

This legislation is of prime importance for a country like India where one in every two males uses tobacco, while use among women varies from region to region from between two to 21 per cent. It is also alarming to know that Indians account for over 90 per cent of the world’s oral cancer patients, as reported by a news agency.

Smoking scenes in Pakistani movies, drama serials, cable TV programmes, DVDs, and videos are on the rise. Each new play being aired exposes more and more viewers of all age groups to smoking. Some scenes are subtle, with no cigarette but only smoke shown. Other scenes are quite direct where actors are shown relaxing and smoking with style. The duration of such scenes is also increasing. Previously, the average length of smoking scenes was about 10 to 15 seconds. Now over 30 to 45-second scenes have been incorporated.

Based on the above study, and the fact that tobacco use among our people is no different than in India, more and more of our children can be influenced by smoking scenes in our media. Before the situation reaches alarming proportions, the authorities are requested to look into this issue and take corrective action.

It is also pertinent to mention here that many companies that concentrate on community service can easily help reduce the number of smoking scenes in our programming by simply not sponsoring such drama serials. There are many ad watch companies that can participate in this activity by providing timely reporting of smoking scenes to their respective clients so that they may question the advertising agencies and production houses accordingly.


Traffic chaos

YOUR editorial (July 14) on traffic chaos and resultant distress inflicted on the citizens of Karachi from what is termed VVIP movement will be heeded to neither by the traffic police nor the distinguished personages concerned.

However, by adopting a more sympathetic attitude and a less arrogant approach to the problem, the VVIPs concerned can certainly reduce the woes of Karachi citizens.

First, their visits should be limited to matters of unquestionable national importance on completion of which they can return to Islamabad and not indulge in attending wedding functions or dinner parties in restaurants with friends.

A modest gift (if it is chargeable to public funds) such as a signed photograph can be sent to the married couple through an ADC. If friends wish to dine in their company, they can do so in the comfort and security of the VVIP residences.

Secondly, the definition of national importance should not include laying foundation stones of projects which are unlikely to be completed within the next decade — our country is littered with such forgotten ‘tombstones’ — or brief attendance at seminars or functions that invariably coincide with the prime minister’s weekend visits to Karachi and are attended largely by those whose employment or fortune depends on his goodwill.

Such simple acts will reduce the inconvenience for Karachi residents without hurting the ego of the VVIPs.


Savings rate

THIS is apropos of Mr A. B. Shahid’s article ‘A case for increasing savings rates’ (Economic and Business Review, July 18). The writer has undoubtedly made a very strong case for increasing saving rates at the national savings schemes.

In this connection I wish to remark on the Behbood certificates introduced by the government on compassionate grounds for the elderly.

This scheme offers 10.08 per cent profit (now raised to 11.04 per cent) without withholding tax for a period of 10 years. Now perhaps only 50 per cent of the elderly may survive to benefit for 10 years. Would it not be appropriate if the government makes this a five-years scheme instead of 10 and offers profit at the rate of 20.16 per cent?

In this way the compassionate scheme will really deliver, otherwise kaun jeeta hai teri zulf kay sar honey tak.


Garbage disposal

GARBAGE disposal is a chronic problem in Karachi. Most of the time garbage is disposed of by burning which takes place in densely populated residential and business areas.

Food items and water consumed at eating places located nearby, too, become unhygienic and are the main cause of diseases and ailments from which people suffer.

One such place is just behind Sindh Madressah near Habib Bank Plaza on Hasrat Mohani Road where in the evenings and at nights a huge quantity of toxic garbage collected from nearby offices is burnt almost daily, instead of being shifted to some distant place away from city areas. The toxic gases emitted by the burning garbage cause air pollution and people suffer from ENT diseases after inhaling the polluted air and consuming polluted water and food served at eating places in the streets.

Health and municipal authorities are requested to prohibit the burning of garbage.


Mad cow disease

THIS refers to the news item in Dawn (Feb. 10) about 12 members of a family fainting after drinking the milk from a ‘mad cow’ in Mandiala Ponich, Kamoki. Mad cow is a specific disease and has only been reported in countries where cattle are fed meals prepared from remains of cattle and sheep. The mad cow disease has never been reported from any of the countries where cattle are given their natural food, i.e., fodder, concentrates and cotton seed.

The disease has never been reported in Pakistan. In fact, the cattle referred to in the news item were suspected to be suffering from rabies as our field staff visited the house affected and found this out from the family members who drank the milk. No one fainted after taking the milk and they were all later vaccinated against rabies.

Director-General (Research)
Livestock & Dairy
Development Department
Punjab Lahore

Promises galore

THE president has reaffirmed his commitment to the social and economic uplift of the people, declaring that basic facilities of education and health will be provided to all segments without any discrimination by 2007. (Dawn, July 13)

So the people of Pakistan should start dreaming till the promise turns into reality by 2007.

It is indeed very kind of our successive heads of state to keep us living on promises. Ziaul Huq picked up the topics of clear drinking water and bribery, and exploited the situation for 11 good years and finally departed after creating the chaos of arms culture and religious conflicts. Ayub Khan had invented basic democracy which turned the nation anti-clockwise.

Had the president visited the Civil Hospital or the Jinnah Hospital, he would have preferred to revise his speech and not make any promises.

Mr President, nothing has changed since your coming to the office and nothing is expected to change except the high profile lifestyle of government functionaries, ministers and members of assemblies.


Muslim leaders

NO one else but London’s mayor, Ken Livingstone, has reminded the world that Osama bin Ladin and all the jihadi elements were recruited and trained and taught how to kill by no one except the US and the West to serve their interests against the Russians.

I wonder why our leaders of the Muslim world do not have the courage to make such a statement.




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