Sunday, August 22, 2010

Pakistan Police horror

The Frontier Post

As a freak flash flooding is wreaking horror on our land and on our people, the police force is wreaking its own on them terribly. Two recent episodes alone should be sufficiently illustrative, both caught on camera. In one, the police let a lynching mob beat to death with sticks two young boys, both brothers, right under its eye and later string up their bodies on the pole in the square of the Sialkot village where this horrific killing occurred. Not that this is the first act of its kind. Incidents of vigilante justice have lately been surfacing increasingly, indicating worryingly that the polity is getting violent. But this is perhaps the first vigilante murder that took place under the police force’s very nose. Some media reports suggest that the lynching took place in the presence of a police posse and as many as 14 police cops are among the 17 persons booked for this murder. The footage put out by a private television channel shows at least one clearly-identifiable uniformed police official in the mob, moving about unconcernedly, if not indulgently, making no move at all to save the victims, and thus holding out the frightening spectre of law-enforcers’ collusive role. The other episode sends the creeps in the body all over chillingly, so shocking it is. It relates to the police savaging of a Bahawalpur medical college students, protesting against a whopping increase in their fee. A photograph, splashed by the national print media, shows a jovial danda-wielding police official, who seems holding a high rank, pouncing viciously on a female student while she is scurrying haplessly to shield herself from his stick assault. This could happen only in a wild, lawless polity where prevails the law of jungle, not a civilised society that at least we profess to be. The attacking cops are so bold in roughing up the protesting students that they are least pushed that their assault is being filmed. The photograph clearly shows a photographer taking snaps of their charge. It appears that they were rather happy being photographed as if they were performing some heroic deed by raining their danda strikes on students, unsparing even the female students, and that they would rather have their feat visually covered for record. The Supreme Court has, commendably, taken promptly the suo motu notice of the terrible lynching and has ordered a high-level investigation. Surely, the culprits will be held to account and will have to pay for their criminality. And there is every hope that the police roughing up of female students would not evade the judicial notice, either. It is the superior judiciary that indeed has been taking notice of official malevolence that often goes unnoticed by the executive branch whose job actually it is to deal sternly with official misconduct but it fails to do more often than not. In fact, over these times the police brutalisation of the hapless is coming to the public fore increasingly, thanks to modern communications technologies, indicating that there has been no change in police culture and in police psyche, notwithstanding all those assertions of the nation’s top echelons regarding having changed the force into a people-friendly apparatus. It may have become anything, but people-friendly it has become not. High-handedness, torture, savaging and extra-judicial methods still stay its preferred tools unrelentingly. Not once but many a time over these days footage showing cops leather-flogging the accused has made appearance to a horrified public. More terribly, police cops have been caught on camera beating even the flood-ravaged people, who need compassion not savaging. Starving, hungry and thirsty as they are, a certain amount of unruliness can naturally be expected from them while struggling to lay hand on some relief supply from a truck or a relief camp to mitigate their suffering. With sweet persuasion and mild reprimand, they can be brought to orderliness. But the police force, evidently, is not initiated in this art. It has been groomed only in employing the muscle power, although this force is often the first to lose all grit and make a hasty retreat with the tail between the legs if the challenge is severe and strong. The increasing waywardness and misconduct of the force telling tells that its internal mechanisms of vigilance and monitoring are very feeble. After all, how comes the top echelons of the force and their political bosses learn of a police savagery from media reports, not internally? It is only then that the top comes into action, and not infrequently after the superior judiciary has taken suo motu notice of it. The real snag, however, is the outside interference not only in the police working but even in its recruitments, postings, transfers and promotions. Unless merit in inducted decisively at every tier of the force and outside interference and patronage are outlawed completely from it, no good could be expected from it. Police cops would keep watching lynching and keep beating female students. That’s that.
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Dated: Sunday, August 22, 2010, Ramadan 11, 1431 A.H

Pakistan battles economic pain of floods

Pakistan is courting IMF help to alleviate the threat of economic ruin as enormous floods wipe out farmland and industry, triggering UN warnings that the restive country faces years of pain.

Authorities Sunday were evacuating people from a town and flood-hit villages in the south from encroaching floodwaters, which nationwide have killed 1,500 people and affected up to 20 million, according to official tallies.

Pakistan's weak civilian government has faced an outpouring of public fury over sluggish relief efforts, while officials warn the country faces economic losses of up to 43 billion dollars.

The International Monetary Fund said it would meet Pakistani officials in Washington this week to discuss the impact of floods that have devastated the country's southern agricultural breadbasket and its textiles industry.

Pakistan may reportedly ask the IMF to ease the terms of a 10-billion-dollar loan, which since 2008 has helped to prop up the enfeebled economy.

Millions of flood survivors in desperate need of food, shelter and clean drinking water meanwhile require humanitarian assistance to survive, as concerns grow over potential cholera, typhoid and hepatitis outbreaks.

On Saturday, six flood victims, including three women and two children, were killed and 25 others injured after being electrocuted in the Kashmore district of the southern province of Sindh, officials said.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon has praised the global community as emergency donations for Pakistan neared 500 million dollars, but warned the flood-stricken nation faces "years of need".

The United States, which has made the nuclear-armed nation a cornerstone ally in the fight against Islamic extremism, has given the most, followed by Saudi Arabia and Britain.

On Friday Ban welcomed the donations, but warned: "We must keep it up. Pakistan is facing weeks, months and years of need."

"It is very likely that the need for donations will strongly increase because... the number of people in need of immediate humanitarian aid has risen from six to eight million," Maurizio Giuliano, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Islamabad, told AFP.

The UN has increased its estimate of the number of people without shelter from two million to six million, he added.

"We have more than doubled the rate at which we are delivering relief but, since August 11, the number of people who need emergency help has undoubtedly more than tripled. We are in a race against time."

The UN World Food Programme said it urgently needed helicopters to get food to millions of flood victims who remain cut off by the high waters, although weather forecasters say the monsoon systems are easing off.

The WFP warned that the floods have killed or are threatening millions of livestock, and launched an urgent appeal for animal feed.

Flood survivors camping out in miserable conditions have staged angry, if isolated, protests against the government, shutting main highways and forcing police to mobilise.

Food prices are soaring. Pakistan has suffered an electricity crisis for years, but now the flood waters have forced power stations to close, exacerbating energy cuts and leaving entire communities without power.

"Alienation towards the government has increased and in the long run it can create internal instability. The opposition can cash in on that and in the long term, Islamist militants can benefit," analyst Hasan Askari warned.

Clinton Invokes Climate Change Debate to Explain Pakistan Floods

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other officials are pointing to the devastating floods in Pakistan and other extreme weather events as signs that climate change is getting worse.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other officials are pointing to the devastating floods in Pakistan and other extreme weather events as signs that climate change is getting worse.

Clinton, in an interview with Pakistan's Dawn TV, said "there is a linkage" between the recent spate of deadly natural disasters and climate change.

"You can't point to any particular disaster and say, 'it was caused by,' but we are changing the climate of the world," she said.

Clinton said that on top of the Pakistan floods, which have forced millions out of their homes, the forest fires in Russia stand as another example. She said there's no "direct link" between the disasters in Pakistan and Russia but that "when you have the changes in climate that affect weather that we're now seeing, I think the predictions of more natural disasters are unfortunately being played out."

Climate change skeptics say the planet is going through natural phases -- the kind it's gone through for eons. Pakistan, in particular, is prone to flooding and is routinely drenched by the monsoon rains. Some officials have partially blamed deforestation and inferior levee systems for the historic flooding which has affected one-fifth of the country's landmass and triggered nearly a half-billion dollars in international aid commitments.

Scientists who study climate change tend to offer more nuance in their explanations of the possible link to a rise in greenhouse gas emissions. They generally say that no one natural disaster can be chalked up to man-caused climate change, but that it can contribute to those disasters happening more frequently and more intensely.

Both the U.N. International Panel on Climate Change and the World Meteorological Organization reiterated that point in light of the Pakistan floods. WMO climate data chief Omar Baddour was quoted saying it's "too early to point to a human fingerprint" behind the recent disasters but climate change may be "exacerbating the intensity" of them.

But some government officials have shown little equivocation in directly linking the Pakistan disaster with climate change.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pakistan's foreign minister, said Thursday that his country's flooding "reconfirms our extreme vulnerability to the adverse impacts of climate change."