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Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) spokesman informed the media that as a back-up plan the corporation is in talks with Etihad and Turkish airlines to facilitate passengers going to and coming from the West notably the US, Canada and Europe; and additionally has arranged four Boeing 747s to bring back 2000 stranded pilgrims from Jeddah. This statement brings to mind three obvious concerns. First, if there was a back-up plan in place then it should have come into effect on the first day that flight operations ceased for after all the strike was planned and announced well in advance. Second what about passengers scheduled to travel to and from countries other than the West and Saudi Arabia and, finally, what about PIA's stalled cargo operations, including export of perishables and transport of items within the country?
Wednesday's inauguration by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of a 193km-long motorway in Balochistan marks the first important milestone in the progress of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. This Rs 13 billion Gwadar-Turbat-Hoshab road connecting western, central and eastern routes of CPEC with Gwadar port has been completed in 19 months. Which is no small accomplishment considering that the construction activity was attacked by miscreants as many as 207 times, causing the death of 20 members of the Frontier Works Organisation staff and 18 others working on the project.
At long last conceding electoral victory to Aung San Suu Kyi the military regime has handed over government to people's elected representatives who were sworn in as members of Myanmar's bicameral parliament. Some 600 members, including about a hundred former political prisoners, took oath of office on Monday amidst an air of hope and despair - hope that they would introduce institutional reforms to strengthen democracy and despair that they won't be able to elect Suu Kyi as president of the country. Under a Suu Kyi specific constitutional mandate anyone having foreign husband and/or children cannot be elected president of Myanmar. Reports that she was in touch with military to remove this ban have been quashed, proving right her premonition and hence her oft-quoted decision to govern from behind the scene. And that she will, given it is she who won her National League for Democracy 80 percent of the contested seats, with overwhelming support of Myanmar's ethnic minorities who constitute 40 percent of country's 51 million populations. The sitting president, Thein Sein, a general-turned-politician, will step down in March and NLD nominee will take over. But, as Washington said in its congratulatory message, 'impediments remain to realisation of a full democratic and civilian government'. The military will not only retain 25 percent of seats in the newly-elected parliament - just as ex-president Suharto had Golkar party in the Indonesian parliament - but also some key ministries. But expectation is that finding itself increasingly a pariah in the emerging democratic ambience world over the military rulers would like to keep a low profile, just as they have over the last few years.
At his recent news conference JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman lashed out at the Punjab government for announcing several measures, in pursuance of the National Action Plan (NAP), against seminaries and members of religious organisations suspected of involvement in terrorism. He recalled that at the time of the finalisation of NAP by the national leadership he had expressed reservations, saying "I was left alone at the time" yet he had supported both the NAP and the 21st Constitutional Amendment handing special powers to military courts for trying terrorism suspects. He now wants a review arguing that "NAP and the 21st Amendment are not divine revelations. Operation Zarb-e-Azb has not been started as a result of divine injunctions." Going by this line of argument the right forum to seek review is Parliament; for, in the Islamic Republic sovereignty belongs to Allah and is exercised by the public representatives on His behalf. In any case, there is no justification for him to criticise so strongly something he himself endorsed a year ago.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, while talking to the media in Sahiwal, accused the protesting Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) staff of having the backing of political parties which, he argued, was the reason behind the 100 million rupee loss per day. Nawaz Sharif further reaffirmed what was earlier stated by the Minister of Information Pervez Rashid, that subsequent to the passage of the Essential Services (Maintenance) Act, the protesters would lose their jobs. The objective, the Prime Minister added, was to improve the performance of the airline. While initially the government appeared to be succeeding in breaking the strike with the pilots association agreeing to fly the planes on schedule yet the pilots' cooperation was, explicably withdrawn after the deaths of two protesters in Karachi.
The long, sun-drenched Makran coast is both a blessing and blight for Balochistan, as its largely uninhabited mineral-rich broad expanse. This blessing is yet to be benefited from by its people, but its blight remains ever handy to be exploited by others. In the past, it attracted foreign interference - quite a bit of it in the name of 'Greater Balochistan' and 'warm waters of the Arabian Sea' - but now it is the Gwadar port, projected to provide sea access to China through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that rankles in many a heart east and west of Pakistan. But surprisingly, even when foreign interference is so much in evidence it has not being raised with the offenders of international law with due diligence. At the most a few dossiers have been passed on to the United Nations and some concerned powers, and this hasn't worked at all. It is time that the government raise the issue at all possible levels so that the people of Pakistan know whose proxies or 'sons-in-law' these are. Whatever the cost, the culpable foreign powers must be exposed. At the same time no less lamentable is the fact some of Balochistan's own so-called sons of the soil agree to play pawns in the hands of their foreign masters - some of them under the rubric of an 'Independent Balochistan' and others in furtherance of sectarian divide that has bedevilled the region around the Gulf for centuries. Addressing a seminar on 'Prospects of Peace and Prosperity in Balochistan', the Army Chief, General Raheel Sharif, said, "our foreign adversaries have been more than eager to exploit any opportunity to destabilise Pakistan by harbouring, training and funding dissidents and militants." Consequently, Balochistan became such an intense hotbed of intrigues and proxy wars for regional and global powers that support terrorism through their proxies. These proxies are externally supported and internally facilitated, a job that gets done with much ease given the problem of securing the long, porous borders with Afghanistan and Iran.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's decision to impose Pakistan Essential Services (Maintenance) Act 1952 on the Pakistan International Airlines Corporation for six months makes the ongoing strike against its proposed privatisation by the corporation's staff illegal and gives the government the power to arrest the striking workers. Pervez Rashid, the Minister for Information was selected by the government to publicly declare that the government would not hesitate to implement the Act and those workers who continue to strike would risk being terminated.