AN ill-conceived, and frankly ridiculous, notification issued last week by the CAA was mercifully withdrawn late on Sunday night — but not before causing much pandemonium. No one seems to be owning up to being the brains behind the decision to make it mandatory for all passengers travelling out of Pakistani airports to have their check-in luggage wrapped in plastic for the bargain price of Rs50 per bag. The earlier notification attributed the decision to the federal government, which left many scratching their heads, wondering how the government could take such a step. These included some members of the cabinet and ruling party themselves, while others — including, incredulously, the minister of state for climate change — sought to justify the decidedly non-green initiative. Besides the terrible inconvenience caused to travellers being forced to stand in yet another queue to pay for the ignominy of participating in the environment’s destruction, there was also the question of how the contract to wrap everyone’s luggage was awarded. From confusion, to consternation, to occasional bouts of mirth as the mini saga unfolded over the weekend, perhaps it would have been more fitting had the proclamation ordered that all our baggage henceforth be wrapped in red tape.
Ostensibly, what little logic can be made out in this decision might be linked to complaints by passengers that their luggage had been ransacked after being checked in, as well as a general attempt to ensure that no smuggling activity took place following the ANF, ASF and Customs screening process. But any issues of these kinds are a result of systemic failures, and not trivial matters that can be patched over with cling film. It is also deeply troubling that, despite long-overdue bans on plastic bags finally coming into effect in several of our cities, a move that would make the consumption of single-use plastic in this country burgeon overnight could still be considered. Clearly, not everyone is on the same page vis-à-vis tackling Pakistan’s environmental emergency.
Published in Dawn, July 23rd, 2019