Drowning in despair – 31 Aug 2022

INDIAN climate scientist Anjal Prakash recommends not using the word `unprecedented`in relation to climate catastrophes in South Asia, `because every time a new precedent is being formed`. It`s probably worthy advice, albeit hard to follow in the context of what Pakistan has lately been undergoing.

In the wake of torrential monsoon rains, preceded by a shocking heatwave and followed by biblical floods, it`s hard to avoid that word, however worthy the sentiment.

It`s important to grasp, though, that as hard as it may be at the moment, there`s almost certainly worse to come.

`The impact of warming on Himalayan glaciers, which are retreating very fast, is much faster than we earlier thought,` says Prakash, one of the lead authors of the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. That UN body`s predictions have frequently been dismissed as hyperbole by vested interests, but the greater likelihood is that they are understatements.

Ministers Sherry Rehman and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari are undoubtedly correct in pointing out that Pakistan contributes about 1pc of the global carbon dioxide emissions that continue to exacerbate global heating decades af ter the earliest prognostications of catastrophe went largely unheeded. It`s less certain, though, whether that ought to be lauded as an achievement or lamented as a symptom of underdevelopment.

Pakistan`s distressing plight is hardly unique. It has been obvious for years that some of the smallest contributors to anthropogenic climate change will be its biggest victims. The Global South, environmentally and economically ravished both by local elites and predatory conglomerates from the Global North, is particularly vulnerable to the impact of nature`s wrath.

Which is not to say that the North is invulnerable. Europe has recently witnessed floods and parts of it are currently in the grip of a drought. Likewise, North America, where just this week the mayor of Jackson in Mississippi called for evacuation as further flooding loomed. Both Europe and North America have also in recent years experienced destructive wildfires. Yet they insist on pursuing the continued use of fossil fuels coal, oil and gas on the basis that renewable resources won`t be capable of satisfying the world`s energy needs for decades to come.

Rarely in history has there been a more potent recipe for disaster. But that won`t restrain the chefs, who have added untold billions to their coffers during the coronavirus pandemic, and are expecting more from the Ukraine war. This is accompanied by `greenwashing`, whereby some of the worst culprits pretend to be doing their best to pro-pel the climate transition towards the goal of net zero emissions. The latter itself is a farce, given it effectively means that the worst polluters can buy `carbon credits` from smaller or more conscientious operators and effectively continue polluting the world.

That does not mean, of course, that the various authorities are not part of the problem. As War on Want director Asad Rehman points out, Pakistan and other states in the developing world … `are stuck in a toxic interplay between a climate catastrophe that they`re not responsible for, increasing hunger, structural inequality and a rigged economic system that has literally lef t the poor hanging by a thread`.

So, what`s the solution? This year`s still unfolding disaster is a warning about what lies ahead, as the Himalayan glaciers melt and extreme weather events become the norm. Pakistan might have a lot to learn from Bangladesh about flood resilience, even though the former East Pakistan, long accustomed to the consequences of extreme weather events not least the 1970 cyclonethat changed its f ate features a notch higher than Pakistan on the scale of nations most vulnerable to climate change.

The rigged economic system that Asad Rehman refers to, however, is within the scope of what could be ame-liorated in Pakistan, alongside the deforestation and the decades-old neglect of Balochistan in particular. The largest province by area has been ravaged for more than half a century and hardly anyone remembers that Balochistan was a reluctant adherent to the Pakistan formula.

It`s amusing, anyhow, to read Bilawal`s comments about how he has never witnessed any previous catastrophe of comparable proportions. He`s probably being honest, and does not clearly recall the occasion a dozen years ago when his dad had to be recalled from a vacation at his properties in Britain and France because of what was happening in the nation of which he was purportedly the president.

At the moment, the best Pakistan can hope for is the massive assistance that has been sought from `friends`. The UAE and Turkey have chipped in, but the UK and US have offered only condolences and tiny amounts of money. Beyond the begging bowl, though, what will ultimately count is what we so far can`t count on: worldwide resistance to climate change. m mahir.dawn @gmail.com

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The turning point – 31 Aug 2022

Over the last six months, the world took a giant step backward in its efforts to address the current climate crisis. In February, after finally reversing its position and pledging to become carbon-neutral by 2060, Russia invaded Ukraine and set off a panic around access to fossil fuels. In March, South Koreans voted out an administration that had put a Green New Deal at the center of its agenda in favor a new president whose idea of a sustainable energy transition was to build more nuclear power plants.

And in the United States, the Biden administration was trying but failing to get any of its climate legislation passed in Congress thanks to the opposition of a senator from West Virginia who owed his personal fortune to the coal industry.

In 2021, carbon emissions rebounded from pandemic lows to reach a new record. Last year, the world sent over 36 metric gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere from fossil fuels alone.

The “recovery” from the pandemic slowdown has continued this year. More disturbing has been the trend of countries to use more coal because of the war in Ukraine. And carbon emissions continue to climb. In May 2022, the Mauna Loa Atmospheric Baseline Observatory measured a record 421 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Despite sanctions, Russia is expected to earn $320 billion in energy sales in 2022 as it has redirected its sales away from Europe and toward China, India, the Middle East, and Africa. Meanwhile, the United States and other countries have increased their own energy production to compensate for the reduction in access to Russian oil and natural gas.

Meanwhile, in Korea, the new Yoon administration is indeed moving to revive interest in the nuclear industry, particularly smaller units. But it has not attempted to revise the previous administration’s commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 or meet interim goals in 2030. Energy companies in South Korea are also slated to source 25 percent of their energy from renewables by 2026, which is a dramatic increase from 9 percent.

In a remarkable turnaround, the Democratic Party in the United States managed to achieve consensus on a major spending bill that includes $370 billion for addressing the climate crisis. Packaged as a way to reduce inflation, the new measure will pour money into communities to facilitate a transition to clean energy along with creating a national green bank to provide additional financing.

So, after a dismal start, will 2022 mark a turning point in humanity’s effort to address the climate crisis? Can we not only stay on target to keep the global temperature increase to under 2 degrees Celsius by 2050 but also begin to take more radical steps to improve the health of the planet?

Let’s start with the United States. The recent Inflation Reduction Act is the largest climate-related piece of legislation in US history. The amount of money slated for the clean energy transition is unprecedented.

But it isn’t enough.

By most estimates, the Inflation Reduction Act will reduce carbon emissions in the United States by 40 percent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. That’s not quite the 50 percent reduction that the Biden administration has promised, but it’s better than the 30 percent reduction that would have likely taken place without the new legislation.

But the models that have generated the 40 percent number do not account for the resistance to clean energy taking place in the United States. In some cases, that resistance is individual (a desire to keep using a huge recreational vehicle or a Hummer); in other cases, pushback is community-based (a rejection of wind farms or solar arrays). But much of the resistance comes from fossil fuel companies that spread misinformation about climate change and push for laws in conservative-controlled states that make it virtually impossible for cities to mandate changes in housing, utilities, and transportation.

Worse, the Inflation Reduction Act contains provisions that benefit fossil fuel companies such as increased subsidies, tax benefits, and more opportunities to drill.

The European Union is doing a little bit better. It is aiming for a 55 percent reduction (below 1990 levels) by 2030, which should enable the 27-country bloc to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. But at least some of this reduction will be a sleight-of-hand maneuver as the EU continues both to outsource its carbon-heavy manufacturing to other countries and to rely on extraction industries in the Global South to provide components currently necessary for solar and wind energy.

And what of the rest of the world?

To reach global carbon neutrality, all countries essentially have to immediately stop all of their oil and coal projects. That’s something that the new government in Colombia is pledging to do. But not too many other countries are following suit.

Even the notion of ‘carbon neutrality’ is flawed, because it allows for countries to use ‘offsets’ to compensate for their continued emissions of carbon. Some of these offsets are legitimate, such as rain forests, but others are essentially tricks of accounting.

Excerpted: ‘Will 2022 Mark the Turning Point in the Climate Crisis?’ Courtesy: Counterpunch.org

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Coping with the climate induced calamity – 31 Aug 2022

There couldn’t have been a more apt description that Pakistan is presently facing a catastrophe of ‘biblical proportions’, as described by Becky Anderson, the CNN Managing Director, based in the UAE. It is a crisis that has devastated the lives of millions as the country is literary flooded by torrential rains with no end in sight. Pakistan has faced many a crisis since its inception. The massacre and the influx of millions of refugees at the time of the partition, the two major wars with India and several major natural disasters, especially the 2010 floods, but this one has been exceptionally overwhelming.

Its adverse consequences would be felt over a generation if not more. And for a country as poor and a struggling economy it throws even a greater challenge. In this bleak scenario, one expects that the country would stand united, and leadership at all levels, especially political, would set aside their differences to be taken up later and focus on rehabilitating the people and doing their utmost to reduce their pain and suffering. Regrettably, this is not happening and presenting a sad spectacle of mutual antagonism as the blame game continues. PTI’s primary focus is Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and supporting the efforts of the Punjab government and the PM’s call for a united national effort is largely being ignored. And going by what Imran Khan’s recent statement that his mass rallies and campaign against the government would also continue would be an unnecessary diversion during the national calamity.

This aspect needs to be highlighted and pressure should be built on the major parties to rise to the challenge, be more tolerant and set aside their petty politics at least for a while. It is expected that all those who can afford must contribute generously in flood relief to reputed charity houses while keeping in mind that prices of food and basic necessities have shot up in some cases exponentially due to excessive demand and limited supply. Medics have warned of disease outbreak if preventive measures are not taken. Availability of medicines could be affected if manufacturers remain short of foreign exchange. The floods have laid bare the inadequacies and fragility of the country’s physical infrastructure and above all brought in full focus the rampart poverty of the people.

This is also a reflection and a cruel reminder of how successive governments and the landed aristocracy have neglected the development and well-being of those living in rural areas. They have taken advantage of the patience and resilience of our people. With the global weather pattern changing and showing a highly aggressive trend, the current crisis should be a wake-up call for all of us but more so for the power elite. Business as usual will not work. The immediate and foremost challenge for the government and aid agencies is to save lives and provide the basic necessities. The military personnel as in the past have been in the forefront for rescue and relief. And credit goes to those NGOs and individuals who have been engaged in relief activities, risking their lives against great odds. They are truly an inspirational lot that gives hope and lifts our morale.

The international response has been moderate although the recent deluge may draw attention and shake their conscience provided CNN, BBC and other international channels project the extent of damage, death and destruction forcefully and widely. Nearly half a million people have found refuge in camps and many thousands are still without shelter and waiting for aid to arrive. Although, the rains have stopped, or not that intense for the last two days, but in many areas the after-effects of the torrential rains and flooding still persist and it would take quite a while for people to return to normal life. Our climate minister, Sherry Rehman has warned that Pakistan is on the front line of climate crisis.

This warning needs to be taken seriously. More so as we are least equipped and prepared for this contingency. The rehabilitation of the people will pose a major challenge for the government. Organised community effort and foreign assistance would be necessary. Qatar is providing $2 billion and the UAE $1 billion. It is likely that the Saudi government would also extend assistance to shore up our foreign reserves. But the government would need far more funds and resources to rebuild the devastated infrastructure and the lives of the millions of displaced persons. In the near term there will be shortage of raw materials for textile and other industries and some mills may even lay off their workers. The great challenge would be to revive the economy both in the agricultural and industrial sectors and provide assistance to displaced persons until they are able to fend for themselves.

It is important how the government plans and executes to rebuild the devastated countryside. Economic rehabilitation has to be the foremost priority. Emergence of an economic crisis and existing political dissonance would strengthen TTP and create a favourable environment for terrorist organisations. We are already witnessing that in North and South Waziristan and in Swat the TTP and other militant groups are gaining influence. And what is worse they enjoy the tacit umbrella of the Afghan Taliban Clearly, it would take at least a year or two to counter the fallout of the present crisis.

As brought out earlier Pakistan was already facing an economic crisis and the present climateinduced crisis makes governance even more difficult. On the top of this if the hostility bordering on enmity between the top leadership of the political parties does not yield to sanity and placing interests of the country and its people above their egos, the consequences could be serious. It is possible if people lose confidence in the leadership, democracy and economy would suffer badly. One hopes sanity would prevail and Pakistan’s leadership address the woes of the flood-stricken people and set aside their differences for the greater good of the country and its people.

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Activists demand release of missing persons – 31 Aug 2022

LAHORE: Human rights activists and various student bodies on Tuesday reminded the state of its responsibilities towards its citizens and demanded immediate release of all the missing persons in the country besides action against their abductors.

On the occasion of International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, observed annually on Aug 30, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) organised a protest outside the press club here that was attended by dozens of rights defenders and student organisations. The commission had also affixed, inside sacks of cement, an installation, placards bearing pictures of several missing persons, the places they disappeared from and the datesoftheirdisappearance.

The demonstrators shouted names of each of the missing persons whose photos featured at the gathering and demanded their release. They were holding posters inscribed with slogans such as `Frontier Corps should immediately vacate Pashtun regions`, `Har shehri ka tahaffuz riyasat ki zimmadari hai` (the state is responsible for protecting every citizen), `Release all Pashtun missing persons`, ¼li Wazir ko reha karo` (Release Ali Wazir) among others. Some of the slogans the dem-onstrators were shouting demanded release of all missing persons, including Baloch, Pashtuns, Sindhis, Punjabis, and that enforced disappearances be declared illegal.

Addressing the occasion in Punjabi, Amjad Saleem Minhas from Punjab Lok Sangat said it had been a longstanding demand that if a person had committed a crime he/she should be presented before a court, a case should be registered and, if a crime was proved, punished under the law.

`If a state just abducts a person, it shows that it is too weak to proclaim the commission of a crime. This means there are certain elements within the state that consider themselves above the law. We condemn such lawlessness and extra-constitutional steps. From the heart of Punjab and Pakistan, Lahore, we stand with our Baloch and Pashtun brothers and everyone picked up unlawfully, and demand their release,` Minhas added.

Raja Ashraf from the HRCP said over 1,100 people from Balochistan and over 1,400 people from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were missing or they were subjected to forcible disappearance. He also mentioned the case of journalist Mudassar Naru who, he said, had been missing for four years, and his wife was also found dead while campaigning for his recovery.

`There are people missing for even decades with no knowledge of theirwhereabouts. Their families don`t know if they`re even alive. No constitution or civilised state in the world can tolerate people being kept missing,` he said.

Muhammad Tehseen of the SAPPakistan mentioned that the HRCP`s local chapters were demonstrating in all big cities of the country simultaneously on the occasion.

He also questioned why those picking up innocent people could not be prosecuted.

Rubina Ghazal from the Centre for Legal Aid Assistance & Settlement commented that if activists and other people were picked up, it`ll create fear in society.

`We demand the government and relevant institutes arrange meetings of families with their abducted relatives and simultaneously conduct investigations into the alleged crimes of the abductees.

Riaz Khan Mehsud of the Pashtun Education Development Movement at the Punjab University, in a scathing address, called enforced disappearances a violation of law and the Constitution. He said that anyone who talked about the law and Constitution, rights and security, peace and justice was picked up in broad daylight.

He also mentioned how MNA Ali Wazir had been imprisoned in a `fake FIR` for two years for, what he called, criticising terrorism, demanding peace and rule of law and Constitution.

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Girl raped after abduction – 31 Aug 2022

BAHAWALPUR: A 14-year-old girl was allegedly raped after abduction from village Jallah Arian in Lodhran district.

According to police spokesman Imran Umar, the girl `B` was allegedly abducted by suspect `S` along with his accomplice `Sa` at gunpoint and taken to a house on Monday night. `Sa` allegedly raped the girl.

Police have registered a case on the complaint of girl`s f ather Akram. Police claimed that with the help of technology, the suspect and the girl were located in the house of `Sa` in nearby village Desi. On Tuesday, the girl was produced before a magistrate.

The spokesman said suspect `Sa` after his arrest attempted to injure himself with a firing shot in a bid to implicate the complainant in the firing case.The Jallah Arian police registered a first information report against `Sa` on the charge of suicide attempt. The police said they recovered a pistol along with two bullets from `Sa` and a 12-bore gun from his accomplice `S` and both were also booked in the case of illicit arms.

District Police Officer Lodhran Muhammad Kashif Aslam announced commendation certificate along with prize for Station House Officer Ghulam Mustafa, IO Zaf ar Iqbal and other members of the raiding party.

IMRAN: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan is expected to address a public meeting at local stadium on Sept 3.

The PTI local leaders claimed that it would be a big PTI power show wherein Imran Khan would appeal to the people for donations for the flood affectees.

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Baby recovered – 31 Aug 2022

Faisalabad`s Chak Jhumra police claim to have recovered a two-month-old baby, just 36 hours af ter his kidnapping.

He says after thoroughly investigating the case, the police found that an uncle of the baby, Mazhar Iqbal, had kidnapped him when his parents were asleep and sold him to a woman of Sialkot, who was without anissue.City Police Officer Umar Saeed Malik told reporters on Tuesday that through geo-fencing and use of other modern IT tools, the police traced and arrested the suspect and his accomplice Shahzad from Safdarabadand recoveredthebay.

The CPO says that the woman who purchased the baby from the suspects is still at large and the police were looking for her.

Madina Town SP Muhammad Nabil handed over the recovered child to his mother on Tuesday.

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Three drown as woman jumps into lake with children – 31 Aug 2022

HARIPUR: Three children, including an infant, were killed after their mother along with them jumped into the Tarbela Lake in Gandaf village here on Tuesday evening.

However, she and one of her children were saved by a rescuer.

The police said Aqiqa Bibi came to the lake near Bela area along with her all four children and jumped into it.

They said a 14-year-old boy, who brought his farm animals to the lake for drinking water, followed the family into the lake and rescued her and her five-year-old son, Mohammad.

However, three children, including Aisha Bibi, 10, Abdullah, 7, and Muzamil, 18 months, drowned. Their bodies were recovered afterwards.

The family sources insisted that the woman tried to end her and children’s life over her husband’s failure to return from a Sindh area, where he drove a taxi for living, despite repeated requests.

The police arrested the woman and registered a criminal case against her.

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Police fail to trace girl abducted 20 days back – 31 Aug 2022

TOBA TEK SINGH: Thikriwala police have failed to recover a girl who was allegedly abducted 20 days back from Faisalabad Air University (AUC) Colony.

Faisalabad Labour Qaumi Movement (LQM) chairman Baba Latif Insari told a press conference on Tuesday that Muqaddas Bibi, sister of sanitary workers` union member Ilyas Masih of Chak 66-JB, was a sanitary worker employed at different houses in the AUC.

He said on Aug 11, she was returning home af ter doing her duty, when some unidentified persons abducted her and since then she could not be traced by Thikriwala police despite registering a first information report (FIR) of the incident.

Thikriwala police Muharrar Naeem claims that although the abduction place mentioned in the FIR falls in Faisalabad Sadar police station jurisdiction, the police have taken into custody some suspects, but so far no clue to the abducted girl has been found.

An investigation officer was in touch with the complainant, a brother of the abducted girl, he says,hoping she will be recovered soon.

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Lahore sees uptick in divorce cases – 31 Aug 2022

Parental separations, spurred by economic crises, have affected 60k children

The number of divorces reported in Lahore has increased in recent years amid the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and economic hardships faced by a large section of the population.

Official record shows a marked increase in divorces in all tehsils of the provincial capital since 2019.

Social activists say children of the affected families have to face the worst problems because of the trend.

According to a research report, a notable increase in the divorce rate was witnessed from January 1, 2019, to February 28 this year due to Covid-19 and other problems.

As many as 24,157 cases of divorce were reported in the city during the period, of which 13,540 men divorced their wives and 9,827 women approached courts in order to part ways with their husbands.

Only 831 of the cases were resolved through reconciliation at the union council level, while 2,642 are pending in courts.

Most of such cases have been delayed because they have not been pursued.

The highest number of divorces in the district was recorded in the city tehsil at 11,879, followed by 6,656 in Shalimar and 5,679 in Cantt tehsil.

Commenting on the figures, civil society activist Abdullah Malik advocate said the separation of such a large number of families was tragic as it showed that about 60,000 children would continue to suffer due to conflicts between their parents.

The father, mother and grandparents try to get custody of the children to upbringing them as per their own wishes.

The affected children were also prone to developing psychiatric problems, he added.

The lawyer said the basic purpose of family courts was conciliation between the estranged couples but because of hundreds of pending cases, they were unable to pursue the process and often take ex-parte decisions within 15 days to a month.

The divorce certificate is issued by the UC concerned.

However, the councils earlier summon the spouses three or four times within 90 days and make efforts for reconciliation.

In case of failure in patch-up, the UC issues the divorce certificate.

The activist said the main reason of the low rate of reconciliation was the absence of elected local governments as the representatives were more aware of the social conditions and more sincere in protecting the families in their communities.

Major reasons for separation between couples include social and emotional issues along with external interference.

Women demanding separation from their husbands mostly cite lack of education, economic and social problems and disputes with their mothers-in-law as reasons.

Most of the women seeking dissolution of marriage also accused their husbands of violence, drug addiction and lack of loyalty.

Replying to a question, Malik said domestic violence, as well as the number of divorces, had increased during the pandemic.

He lamented that no organisation or department was focusing on addressing the major social issue.

In many cases, the dissolution of marriage follows a struggle for expenses, dowry, and children’s custody.

He said it had been noted that husbands destroyed their own families by divorcing their wives immediately in an emotional state.

Abdullah Malik said a large number of love marriages were also ending in separation.

He said child marriages were also causing an increase in the ratio of divorce.

Data compiled from various sources shows that about 75,000 divorce cases were filed from 2005 to 2008, while the figure rose to 124,139 from 2008 to 2011.

As many as 269,064 divorces were registered in Lahore during the past decade.

The number of cases of Khula was 13,299 in 2012, 14,243 in 2013, 16,942 in 2014, and 18,091 in 2016.

When contacted, Islamic Ideological Council member Dr Raghib Naimi said the issue had religious, economic, and social aspects.

In the joint family system, the family is headed by the mother-in-law while TV dramas encourage a desire for a separate home.

Most people having low incomes cannot afford to buy separate houses.

He said one of the main reasons for increasing divorce cases is that the religious instructions of involving the elders from both sides to sort out a dispute are not followed and divorce is given at the moment.

Not allowing women to pursue a career or forcing them to do excessive work at home also results in the separation of many couples.

A psychologist said that conflicts usually arise between husband and wife over non-fulfillment of desires due to economic conditions.

She said the frequent imposition of lockdown due to coronavirus had caused an increase in domestic rites and divorces. She also blamed the media.

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`Missing` publisher – 30 Aug 2022

THOUGH the nation may be in the midst of a calamity of epic proportions, some within the security establishment are still focusing their energies on `disappearing` people.

This was apparently the case with Fahim Habib Baloch, a publisher and human rights activist, who was whisked away on Friday from Karachi`s Urdu Bazaar. According to details published in this paper, policemen as well as individuals in plain clothes approached Mr Baloch at his bookshop and asked him if he had sent books to Germany. Thereafter, they asked him to accompany them to a vehicle parked outside. There has been no news about the publisher`s whereabouts since then. Initially the police refused to register a complaint regarding the disappearance, but after the man`s family members and civil society activists insisted they do so, the law enforcers finally lodged the FIR on Monday.

It is unfortunate that invisible hands are still able to take away people`s right to liberty in such a fashion. If the powers that be felt that Mr Baloch had broken the law, there exist courts in this country where such plaints can be registered. Fahim Baloch was clearly not a militant, and his disappearance in this fashion is totally unacceptable. He needs to be released forthwith, and if the authorities have evidence linking him to any illegal activity, they need to present it in a court of law so that he can defend himself.

Sadly, the policy of `disappearing` people has not been done away with, despite the fact that the higher judiciary has slammed this vile practice. Picking people up without proof and without due process will hardly win hearts and minds. Instead, it will increase alienation from the state, and may further fuel the separatist militancy the establishment seeks to quell. Instead of `disappearing` people, the state needs to ensure equitable development and the rule of law in Balochistan, where many of the missing persons hail from. Adding to the list of the missing is no way to handle this delicate matter.

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