People skills: investing in employees’ growth

Singapore prides itself on its ‘people’ as its most valuable resource.

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” — Dale Carnegie

I quote Carnegie for he mastered the science of understanding people for productivity. In today’s fast-paced corporate world where technology and innovation often dominate discussions, a noteworthy shift is quietly reshaping the landscape. This transformation is not solely defined by algorithms or data analytics; it hinges on the often-underestimated power of soft skills. In a realm where financial reports hold great sway, it’s crucial to recognise the significance of qualities like emotional intelligence, effective communication and adaptability. We are entering an era where interpersonal skills have risen beyond mere preferences; they’ve become indispensable tools for attaining success in the modern corporate environment.

Singapore prides itself on its ‘people’ as its most valuable resource. Their entire development plan hinges on prioritising people’s well-being for maximising productivity. We have all seen how the country has grown from a fishing village into a global example of excellence in all areas.

My point is not only to highlight the importance of ‘people’ focus for any business but to propagate it too. It is no longer a humane or CSR approach — it is vital to the success of the business. The social skills that create this harmonious enabling environment are accordingly called people skills now, and they encompass the interpersonal and communication proficiencies that facilitate effective collaboration and cohesion within teams. These include capabilities like teamwork, leadership, creative problem-solving, emotional intelligence and adaptability.

As someone associated with an international organisation working across the world, I cannot stress enough the importance of building bonds between people. A person sitting in Islamabad would be interacting with a resource in Buenos Aires, and both need to be on the same page to build a relationship that would be beneficial for the organisation. Trust and rapport are the foundation of any relationship, whether it is with a customer who needs a solution, a colleague who needs support or a manager who needs feedback. By demonstrating abilities such as active listening, empathy, respect and professionalism, one must establish a positive and lasting impression on others and foster a culture of collaboration and mutual respect.

A few decades ago, communication skills were dubbed essential for only those who had to interact with others, for instance in the sales or marketing departments. The concept evolved to include non-verbal and written communication to become part of it. In fact, non-verbal is almost 70% of communication. This has added a lot of responsibility to the leadership of the new age. To address the multifaceted challenges at workplaces today, it is imperative for leaders to not only excel in written and verbal communication but they must also possess the capacity to actively listen, show empathy and adapt effectively.

The corporate world is constantly evolving and presenting new opportunities and threats. To thrive in such an environment, one needs to be flexible, resilient, innovative and proactive. We know that the ‘what’ part of the job requires hard skills but then there is the ‘how’ part. People skills can aid one in presenting their views persuasively and negotiating confidently. While organisations realised the importance of a happy rising employee, and willingly invested in programmes that enabled professional development for better learning and growth, they also ensured a whole package of communication skills development to guarantee the success of each initiative.

Technical skills and qualifications are undoubtedly important, but strong interpersonal skills bind successful careers with enhanced productivity and longevity. Investing time and effort in developing soft skills can lead to personal and professional growth, improved job satisfaction and increased opportunities for career advancement. As the professional landscape continues to evolve, the importance of people skills will only become more pronounced.

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Constitution or no Constitution?

THE Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973, makes Pakistan a democratic state. It is categorically provided in the Constitution, that `Wherein sovereignty over the entire universe belongs to Almighty Allah alone and the authority which He has delegated to the State of Pakistan, through its people for being exercised within the limits prescribed by Him is a sacred trust`. It further provides, that the power and authority of the state shall be exercised through the chosen representatives of the people where `the principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance, and social justice as enunciated by Islam shall be fully observed`.

Pakistan has become a playground for the police and other law-enforcement agencies who act with impunity in violating the fundamental rights of the people as prescribed by the Constitution. Torturing citizens has become the order of the day and is accepted as an inevitable part by the law enforcement in Pakistan.

Our Constitution prohibits torture and ensures the elimination of all forms of exploitation. It safeguards individuals by giving them protection of the law. `No action detrimental to the life, liberty, body, reputation, or property of any person shall be taken except in accordance with law.

An arrested person cannot be `detained in custody without being informed … of the grounds of arrest, nor shall he be denied the right to consult and be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice`. Fundamental rights enshrined in Articles 9 to 25 are the bedrock, wherein any law contrary to them shall be void. The dignity of citizens, torture and the privacy of home is of prime importance and is inviolable.

Pakistan ratified the Convention Against Torture (CAT ) on June 23, 2010. In 2017, Pakis t an gave its Initial Report on the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment for Punishment. In the Initial Report, Pakistan did not agree to the competence of the committee or the International Court of Justice to decide matters of violation under the convention.

The report admitted the above facts, stating that all legal frameworks in Pakistan criminal-ise and prohibit torture committed by anyone whether at the public or private level. The report categorically speaks of policy that does not allow or condone the use of torture as a tool of the state`s law-enforcement agencies, and urges that torture is neither encouraged nor justified even under exceptional circumstances, despite serious ongoing security threats due to terrorism.

In April 2017, the Initial Report was taken up by the CAT. Pakistan was severely criticised for not proceeding in the manner as required under the convention, especially Article 1, whichdefines `torture`, and Article 4, which provides that the state shall ensure elimination of torture, and that offences under its criminal laws shall be acted upon. The report further highlights the non-implementation and lack of special laws for the purposes of criminalising torture in Pakistan`s domestic laws.

Pertinently in 2016, the European Commission`s report on GSP-Plus for 2014-2015 observed that though Pakistan had ratified CAT in 2010, the practice of torture, cruelty, degrading treatment and punishment persisted in the country. In April 2017, the CAT committee concluded that Pakistan should take the necessary measures to legislate on the specific definition of `torture` contained in Article 1 of the convention and establish penalties that are commensurate with the gravity of the act of torture. In July 2017, following the review of Pakistan`s human rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights required amendments to laws regarding the crime of torture, ill treatment, coerced confessions and the training of judges, prosecutors, police, the military and security forces.Similarly, in 2018-2020, in the GSP-Plus repor ts from 2016-2019, the European Commission echoed concerns and reiterated the recommendations of the CAT committee, while in 2020, the European Commission categorically stated that Pakistan`s legislation fell short of legally defining `torture` and that the country had failed to criminalise torture as required under the CAT. A draft Torture and Custodial Death Bill, 2019, was presented in the Senate, which remains pending.

The Constitution provides for the protection of law and the elimination of all forms of exploitation. No action detrimental to life, liberty, body, reputation or property of any person can be taken except in accordance with the law. Fundamental rights of persons provide for a fair trial as enshrined in Article 10A. Unfortunately, none of the fundamental rights of citizens are ensured by the state, or the enforcers of the law. Where is the dignity of man and the privacy of home, which is inviolable, and why is torture the norm for extracting evidence? Why is the freedom of movement, or peaceful assembly being restricted? Isn`t this subversion of the Constitution? My question will always be this: isn`t it contrary to the Constitution when people are taken into custody without being given rights provided by it, when they are removed from sight and held against their will without their location being disclosed, without legal recourse, without being allowed legal representation, without being referred to a court of law and without being given access to family members? The Constitution is a sacred document, which is why Article 6 has been provided, wherein any person who abrogates or subverts or suspends or holds the document in abeyance by use or show of force, or by any other unconstitutional means, is guilty of high treason.

In the wake of the aforementioned provisions of the Constitution and international conventions I leave it to the people of Pakistan to determine for themselves, whether there is a Constitution and if so, whether it has been violated, subverted or been suspended or held in abeyance. m The writer is a senior advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

Election season

THE promise that democracy will be restored soon is a breath of fresh air in this current atmosphere of doom and gloom. After a rough start, the election machinery has started to click into gear. The chief justice`s stern warning to the media, telling it to desist from airing any further speculation on the timing of elections, has signalled to other stakeholders that there may be a finality to the Feb 8, 2024, date that can be banked on. It is encouraging to note that the PTI, PML-N and PPP the three largest `political parties in the country have all welcomed the announcement and seem eager to begin the contest. Right now, their attention should be focused on the upcoming electoral exercise rather than anything else. There is not a lot of time for them to regroup and launch effective campaigns.

Now that the country is in election mode, the ECP should expect increased scrutiny of its actions. The immense task of ensuring that the upcoming elections are free, fair, impartial and inclusive rests on its shoulders, and it needs to do much better if it wishes to be remembered for discharging its duty responsibly.

There are several things that need immediate attention. For instance, the caretaker government is reportedly attempting to undertake a large-scale reshuffle of officers at the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting despite the announcement of an election date. All such tinkering with the executive branch must be stopped forthwith. The state must be oriented towards one thing alone: assisting the ECP in delivering a credible election.

Everything else is unnecessary at this point in time.

Secondly, the ECP must start utilising its considerable powers to ensure that the contest will be fair. The arrest of former National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser on corruption charges the day after elections were announced is not a good omen. The public perception is that the PTI and its people will continue to be harassed with arbitrary detentions and arrests on trumpedup charges for as long as they refuse to toe the establishment`s line. There is little justification, legal or moral, for a political party to be treated in this manner, and it is up to the ECP to put a stop to the victimisation. Other parties have also been complaining about being denied a level playing field. They have accused the caretaker governments and other powerful forces of manipulating the state machinery to favour the PML-N. There is no point in asking the electorate to vote if a handful of people are going to overrule their choices anyway. The Pakistani people must not be denied the right to choose their future themselves.

The ECP should be wary of these sentiments and demonstrate it is working to counter them.

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Newborn disposal

The recent and deeply distressing discovery of three newborn bodies in a Karachi garbage dump should jolt our collective conscience. The appalling details unveil a shocking disregard for the sanctity of life, raising urgent questions about the ethical practices within medical institutes.

The bodies, found floating in jars filled with water and chemicals, suggest a sinister connection to potential medical practices. The mere speculation that these infants, the epitome of vulnerability, might have been utilised and then callously discarded is a stark indictment of the moral fabric that should underpin our healthcare system. The improper disposal of newborns in such a dehumanising manner is a grave violation of the inherent right to dignity and care. It calls for a comprehensive investigation into the circumstances surrounding their abandonment, especially if medical institutes are implicated. However, this incident is not an isolated one, as highlighted by a report revealing the burial of hundreds of newborns by the Edhi Foundation. The significant discrepancy between official records of infanticide and the actual number of infants buried raises serious concerns about transparency and accountability. The authorities must address this alarming gap to safeguard the rights of innocent lives. The swift response from the Sindh Police, issuing instructions to register a criminal case for abandoned newborns, is a step towards accountability. However, the true measure of justice lies in the thoroughness of the investigation and the severity of consequences meted out to those responsible.

In the face of such heartbreaking revelations, our society must unite in condemning and combatting the mistreatment of newborns. Transparent medical practices, rigorous investigations and severe consequences are imperative to ensure justice. The protection and well-being of newborns should be a non-negotiable priority, and it is incumbent upon the authorities to act decisively in upholding the sanctity of every life, regardless of how fragile or voiceless they are.

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Entering the carbon market

CNG burns cleaner than petrol and diesel. In the internal combustion engines used in automotives, CNG produces CO emissions which are less by 80 per cent and hydrocarbons by 44 per cent than conventional fuels like petrol and diesel. Fuel consumption is also less.

CNG cylinders are also stronger and safer than gasoline tanks, provided installation is done according to prescribed standards. Unfortunately, there is a lot to be desired in this respect in Pakistan.CNG ignition temperature is 600 C, almost double that of petrol and diesel. This means that the fire risk of CNG engines or cylinders should be lower than that of petrol and diesel engines.

In Pakistan, there is opposition to CNG; commercial vehicle operators have been indulging in unsafe practices while installing CNG kits. It is also considered to be a waste of resources, keeping in mind the continuing scarcity of gas. Despite all this, there is a continuing demand for CNG and reportedly around 2500 CNG stations are still operating.

CNG, compressed natural gas, can be obtained from bio-organic sources as well, thus saving fossil gas whose reserves are going down on a yearly basis. The alternative product, although chemically the same as CNG, is called bio-methane. Biogas is of two types: one, raw gas consisting almost equally of both methane and CO2; it can be used for cooking and other miscellaneous uses. The other is biomethane which consists solely of methane, apart from some small impurities; this is used in automotives as fuel after compressing it.

Currently most of the dung, bio-solid waste goes into air in the form of methane and CO2. There are very few plants that may convert and capture it to be used as methane. If biogas and biomethane plants are installed, it would have two advantages – supply of green energy/gas and reduction in GHG emissions. Methane emission is 28-80 times more dangerously effective than CO2 against the climate change process. Thus biogas and bio-methane are great multi-benefit products. In addition to earning revenue from gas, one can earn revenue from the carbon market too.

There are companies and organizations which cause excess GHG emissions. They have an option to let other people, companies or nations engage in activities that reduce their GHG emissions. They may do it cheaply due to their resource endowment – for example, we have many opportunities to engage in forestry, mangroves cultivation, and also in the production of biogas. We will get carbon credit for that which we can sell to a GHG producer like an oil refinery or a group can buy this credit from us. It has been estimated that Pakistan has a potential of earning $200 million a year by participating in the carbon market.

Unfortunately, Pakistan has been lagging in carbon market participation. Reportedly, only 10 projects have been registered with the UNFCCC and even fewer projects have started earning. Even Nepal and Bangladesh have done more in this respect with 80 projects between them. And India and China have developed around 1600+ projects.

However, there is one success story that must be mentioned here: the mangrove development project in Sindh which has already earned $40 million in carbon credit. It is expected to earn another $60 million. Over a period of the 75-year life of the project, total carbon earnings of this project have been estimated to be $12 billion. Similarly, there is tremendous potential in forestry, agriculture and energy conservation.

Biogas and biomethane projects have already been approved as an eligible project for the carbon market by competent international authorities like the UNFCCC. Countries from Africa, and Vietnam and India have developed these projects and are developing more. Thus, Pakistan will not have to waste time and resources to get the type approval in this respect. It would be useful here to briefly mention a biogas project in India. There is an Indore Bio-CNG plant in India which processes 550 tons of organic solid municipal waste and converts it into 17 tons of bio-CNG per day earning 130,000 carbon credits. One unit of Carbon credit may earn as much as $25.

Pakistan has the potential to produce 4.63 billion M3 only from cattle dung. If 70 per cent is collected, 3.24 billion M3 of biogas can be utilized. Other organic sources and biomass waste are extra. Some calculations and studies would be required to compute carbon revenue. However, it is evident that a good revenue potential for foreign exchange is there. This is besides the energy value that would be sold in the market.

It should be noted that both unprocessed biogas for rural homes and processed bio-methane for bio-CNG and feeding into gas pipe grids, can and should be produced. Both can earn Carbon revenue. It may be noted that Biogas production also results in the two main products – CO2 and green fertilizers. The CO2 industry can be developed which has uses in cold chain for refrigeration and air-conditioning. These may, apart from generating their intrinsic benefits and income, also generate direct or indirect carbon revenues.

There has been a pessimistic outlook on the development of the biogas and bio-methane industry, probably due to lack of awareness and deeper investigation. India has embarked upon a bio-CNG programme involving installation of 5000 Bio-CNG plants. China and many ASEAN countries have built millions of rural biogas plants. Both rural and urban economic and social life can be influenced positively by the biogas industry.

Pakistan has updated its commitment to GHG reduction by 50 per cent by the year 2030. There are two parts to it: 15 per cent unconditional commitment and 35 per cent conditional commitment. These are substantial commitments and innovative and creative approaches will have to be developed and fast-tracked.

By developing credible projects, Pakistan may be able to mobilize concessional grants and get higher values for its carbon projects. Biogas is an opportunity which will have multi-pronged benefits, besides contributing significantly to reducing the energy/gas supply gap. And it will also be liked by the IFIs and other bodies. The country is passing through grave economic problems, especially in terms of forex deficit. Fast track approaches and actions are recommended.

Lack of a policy framework has sent away many potential investors, both local and foreign. This programme will be wholly invested into by the private sector and no public resources would be required. But nobody will spend his money in a policy vacuum. A framework that encompasses all the relevant aspects, risks and finances is needed.

The writer is a former member of the Energy Planning Commission. He can be reached at:

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Climate aid

The apocalyptic floods of 2022 managed to finally wake up those that roam our power corridors to take steps to tackle the climate emergency. During the second Pakistan Climate Conference organized by the Overseas Chambers of Commerce and Industry (OICCI) this week, Caretaker Finance Minister Dr Shamshad Akhtar expressed that the country needs $340 billion by 2030 to deal with climate change and other related development challenges. The amount is 10 per cent of the country’s GDP. While it is true that Pakistan is responsible for only 1.0 per cent of global carbon emissions, if 2022 is anything to go by, the deleterious effects of climate change do not discriminate and punish all countries equally. The estimated amount is supposed to tackle infrastructural challenges and other environment-friendly development work that can help Pakistan withstand the effects of the ever-changing weather and climate patterns. But the problem is that Pakistan is an economically fractured country at present and does not have enough financial means to cover its climate funding. International IDEA’s Global State of Democracy report says that economic challenges in Pakistan that brought the country to the verge of default hampered its response to the 2022 floods. In such a scenario, it is quite a challenge for the government to get the funds needed for the reforms and measures required to keep the country safe from the effects of climate change.

What countries like Pakistan are facing is essentially an apathetic Global North. The world’s rich nations are responsible for polluting the environment and making the earth completely inhabitable, but we have far too many examples to confirm that the developed world does not care about developing countries. People in the West and in rich nations are so divorced from the traumas and tragedies occurring in low-income countries that barely any voice is raised for the necessary climate funding. The Loss and Damage Fund that was the highlight of COP27 is still waiting for its contributors to make the pledged contributions. For rich nations, the developing countries are attractive only when they can get something out of them. The only investment that these countries are making in countries that are low polluters is through carbon credits (which allows countries to make up for the emissions through investments in climate-friendly projects in different parts of the world). Even at present, as the world sees a live genocide in Palestine, it has gone completely silent.

While Pakistan can again try to make a strong case for some funding at COP28 which is supposed to take place in the last week of this month, the country also has to think about shaking off its reliance on external factors and come up with a policy for sustainable living. It should make necessary lifestyle changes and make itself immune to the effects of climate change. Many countries have already set up several green and smart cities. Pakistan can draw inspiration from them and lead its own fight against climate change. There have to be awareness campaigns at a mass scale to convince people to shift to sustainable living and take charge of saving their country from the destructive effects of global warming.

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Justice or discipline?

In 1967, during the tenure of field marshal Ayub Khan, the scope of military courts was extended to civilians. Section 2(1)(d) was included in the Pakistan Army Act, and military courts were empowered to try civilians for certain offences.

A section which was added by a military dictator in the law has now been declared unconstitutional by four judges of the Supreme Court. Justice for civilians, regardless of the offence, was handed back to the civilian authorities.

This is a courageous decision by the Supreme Court. Military courts are only appropriate for serving members of the armed forces. The purpose is to maintain discipline within the armed forces – this system of discipline cannot be extended to civilians. A former judge advocate general of the armed forces in England wrote “discipline is an essential element of command and the commanding officer is central to the system. Without the ability of the command to exercise punitive powers over their subordinates the fabric of discipline would be weakened.”

The primary objective of military courts is to allow the command of the army to maintain control over the forces, and to deal with insubordination through a swift system of military discipline.

Under our constitutional dispensation, certain fundamental rights have been guaranteed. Article 8(1) of the constitution expressly states that any law insofar as it is inconsistent with fundamental rights shall be void to the extent of such inconsistency. Article 8(1) is unequivocal – the court must strike down any law found to be in violation of fundamental rights.

However, Article 8(3)(a) of the constitution contains an exception. Where a law relates to members of the armed forces and is for the purpose of ensuring the proper discharge of their duties or the maintenance of discipline among them, it cannot be examined on the touchstone of fundamental rights. A section which permits the trial of civilians by military courts has nothing to do with the maintenance of discipline and the discharge of duties of the armed forces. The court had to examine whether the trial of civilians by military courts was in accordance with fundamental rights.

Article 10A of the constitution contains an absolute and unqualified right to a fair trial and due process. The procedure in military courts does not comply with fair trial standards. There is no right to a reasoned judgment. Rule 51 of the Army Act Rules 1954 (the ‘Rules’) states that a finding on a charge shall be recorded as a finding of ‘Guilty’ or ‘Not guilty’ or ‘Not guilty and honourably acquit him of the same.’ There is no obligation to give reasons for a verdict, and even the harshest of sentences could be imposed with the verdict simply stating ‘Guilty.’

There is no right to a public hearing, and Section 93 of the Pakistan Army Act states that the trial may take place “at any place whatsoever.” Open justice lies at the heart of a fair trial, civilians must not be subjected to trials behind closed doors.

While there are rules which permit an accused in a military court to prepare a proper defence, this right can be suspended on account of “military exigencies, or the necessities of discipline” as per Rule 26 of the Rules. The consequences of this are grave. Even the right to properly defend oneself was not absolute.

Serving members of the military act as judges (despite not being legally qualified to adjudicate.) The European Court of Human Rights 2022 guide on the right to a fair trial states that “where all the members of the court martial were subordinate in rank to the convening officer and fell within his chain of command…doubts about the tribunals independence and impartiality could be objectively justified.”

Under the Pakistan Army Act, for example, a general court martial is convened by the COAS or an officer authorized by him. The composition of a general court martial includes at least five officers each of whom has held a commission for at least three years. In such a situation, the ability of junior officers to take an independent decision that is not influenced by the higher command of the army is questionable.

In the last few days, many examples have been given of how other jurisdictions permit trial of civilians by military courts. These examples have been devoid of context. In England, there are limited categories of civilians who are subject to service discipline including: civilians who are members of military organizations, civilians working in support of the armed forces, civilians on board a crown chip or aircraft etc. Even in the US, the Uniform Code of Military Justice states, in times of “declared war or a contingency operation”, persons serving with or accompanying an armed force in the field can be subject to court martial. The jurisdiction primarily extends to civilians who are serving, or working with the army in certain limited circumstances.

Even otherwise, regardless of the law in other countries, our courts must follow and defend our constitution. The 1973 constitution mandates a separation between the executive (including the armed forces) and the judiciary, and gives express protection to fundamental rights. In striking Section 2(1)(d) down, the Supreme Court has preserved, protected, and defended our constitution.

There is no such thing as military ‘justice’, there is only military discipline. For civilians, this has rightly been brought to an end.

The writer is a barrister. She was part of the legal team representing one of the petitioner’s in the Supreme Court challenging the court martial of civilians. She tweets/posts @RidaHosain

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Pressing on

DON`T you get tired writing about the same thing, asked my friend ST, after she read through several of my old columns her idea, not mine; we were reconnecting after a decade. `You`re always writing about what`s wrong with journalism but you`re still in it. Maybe you need to move on,` she said. `The news media is dead.

I thought asking industry insiders to take remedial steps to fix broken parts of the news ecosystem was me sounding an alarm bell, not the death knell. ST explained I sounded like her journalist friends in Australia, where she lives, who berate audiences for wanting bite-size pieces of information because they don`t trust mainstream media. She tells them to move on too, especially `since the media is biased, hypocritical and sides with its bosses`.

I admit, I was left feeling a bit bummed after this brief exchange. Were journalists really at risk of becoming irrelevant as ST warned? Thankfully, Vinay Shukla`s new documentary While We Watched about then NDTV reporter Ravish Kumar in New Delhi reminded me why journalism is relevant albeit at serious risk. Filmed over a two-year period when Kumar anchored a show on NDT V featuring well-reporte d stories that did not get coverage on other outlets, the documentary was sounding alarm bells on what is evident across Indian media now. News and analysis draped in hyper jingoistic, often inflammatory, language, with anchors like Arnab Goswami ready to label any dissent as anti-India, anti-Modi. Goswami once said being a nationalist was a prerequisite to being a journalist.

Kumar is the direct opposite. He comes off as measured, despite the clear level of pressure he`s under whether it is a staff member explaining why they have no choice but to resign or when he`s answering abusive, threatening calls from audience members enraged by his programme, he remains calm.

Goswami and his type we have similar ones on our screens too have shown that drinking the nationalism Kool Aid brings in higher ratings. But it`s for Kumar to decide whether he should follow that path and help NDTV out of its financial strain or continue to go against the grain and report on the `other` stories -unemployment, the state of the country`s infrastructure, Muslims` rights, essentially human stories. Kumar soldiers on but, as I`m sure you have guessed, has to pay a price. Advertisers pull out, ratings go down, staff is laid off or quit, cable operators shift their channel`s placement, even tal(e it off air when his show is on. Then the channel faces a tax investigation in 2019. Itseems all demagogues use tactics from the same playbook to muzzle their critics.

While we watched has received rave reviews, and awards, where it was shown at various film festivals around the world. It was screened publicly at a Mumbai film festival last week, a year after its release. I saw it on YouTube and encourage you to do the same, even though it`s not fair on the filmmakers.

While the film doesn`t cover recent events like Kumar`s resignation from NDTV after it was bought by Gautam Adani, dubbed Asia`s richest man, also known for his close ties to BJP, I believe it explains how the media got to where it is today. Kumar has since migrated to YouTube where he has an impressive following of 7.61 million subscribers. It`s ironic that he eventually got the `ratings` he wanted, but it came at a cost. In this case, credible journalism on TV is the loser, though I doubt Adani sees it this way.

Kumar`s story reaffirms my belief in the need for journalists here to bear witness totheir experiences.

No, the PDM government was not the worst in suppressing the press. The PML-N chose to take the high road and not constantly remind us about the media blackout they faced but to remind, you couldn`t mention Nawaz Sharif and his daughter anywhere.

Listen to former chairman PemraAbsar Alam`s testimony about how TV channels were manipulated during the Faizabad dharna and see the price he`s had to pay for standing his ground. Women journalists testified in 2020 before Pakistan`s parliamentary committee on human rights about how they were harassed, discredited, and intimidated for doing their job. This is not about who did it worse, it is us telling our stories so they are not downplayed or weaponised by our detractors. History must remember journalists who did right by their profession.

In accepting the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay award in 2019 for his fearless journalism, Kumar said something that I hope will remind journalists why they shouldn`t leave as ST suggested to me. `Not all battles are fought for victory. Some are fought simply to tell the world that someone was there on the battlefield.`• The writer is a joumalism instructor: X (formerly Twitter): LedeingLady

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Ongoing threat

PAKISTAN continues to pay a heavy price in the fight against terrorism. Three attacks were witnessed in different parts of KP and Balochistan within hours of each other on Friday, and then a fourth in Punjab in the early hours the next day. A police convoy came under an IED attack in KP`s Dera Ismail Khan, leading to the deaths of five passers-by and injury to 24 others. In another bomb attack in a border town between Tank and D.L Khan, which targeted a convoy of police and security forces, one soldier was martyred.

In Balochistan`s Gwadar, an ambush on two security vehicles martyred 14 army soldiers the year`s deadliest attack on the military. Separately, two soldiers were martyred in a military operation in Lakki Marwat. While the country was still reeling from these incidents, a training air force base in Mianwali came under attack before dawn. The military said the incursion was successfully thwarted, that nine terrorists were killed and the only damage was to a fuel tanker and three grounded aircraft. In all, 17 soldiers were lost to this most recent spate of violence.

The Mianwali airbase attack has been claimed by the TTPlinked Tehreek-i-Jihad Pakistan, which was responsible for the last high-profile attack on the military in Zhob this July.

The banned TTP is most likely the culprit in D.L Khan, having stepped up its operations against security forces since a ceasefire agreement came to an end last November. Fears abound of the insurgents fully regrouping, emboldened by the Afghan Taliban`s takeover of Kabul in 2021. Unverified photos circulating after the airbase attack show American weapons were seized, which likely fell into the T TP`s hands after the US troops` Afghanistan withdrawal. Although the Taliban deny it, most official and independent assessments indicate the TTP uses Afghan soil and has the new government`s backing. The Gwadar ambush was claimed by the banned Balochistan Liberation Front.

The attacks have occurred as Pakistan carries out its repatriation plan for Afghans, which has been met with anger in Kabul. Our security apparatus will need to remain extra vigilant and flush out not just the militants but also their facilitators.

We must comprehensively implement the National Action Plan against militants of all stripes, and identify and cut off financial streams that support terrorists. Border security must be strengthened. In the case of the TTP, our efforts would need to take into account the complex dynamics of the regions where it operates, as well as the broader geopolitical implications, including ties with Kabul. The state must invest in the socioeconomic development of areas that are breeding grounds for such militant groups. Until we address the root causes, militants will continue to maintain the recently witnessed momentum of their nefarious activities.

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Sectarian harmony

GILGIT-BALTISTAN was recently in the news because of a sectarian standoff. Luckily, the ulema in GB agreed to put their sectarian differences aside and help the regional government maintain law and order. The move reflected the wisdom of the religious leaders of two communities, who in the spirit of true Muslim brotherhood, decided to resolve mutual differences through dialogue and discussion.

But putting aside sectarian strife means that it has only been suppressed temporarily. How can communities in GB (and maybe elsewhere) resolve thorny faithrelated issues on a long-term basis? As an editorial in this paper rightly points out: `Communal differences may only be a trigger for the protests, as there are several underlying factors in GB fuelling disaffection in the region.` Among these underlying factors is the sociocultural landscape.

GB comprises several breathtaking valleys. The region may appear like a monolith, but in fact, it is not one. Its population comprises various, distinct cultures in terms of language, outlook and faith traditions. Its religious landscape comprises four major Muslim communities Sunnis, Shias, Ismailis and Noor Bukhshis, often found in clearly defined areas. However, many villages and towns host mixed populations. There are many intercommunal marriages, but the atmosphere is generally very peaceful. For example, in my village in Hunza, there were a few members of the Sunni community and around a dozen Shia families some decades ago, but incidents of violence were unheard of.

They were well integrated in the same village as was the case in other villages of GB. Issues would randomly crop up in the relatively urban city of Gilgit where many communities live and earn, vying for a few jobs. The area is now a hotbed of political activity often influenced by the political orientations of southern Pakistan.

This external factor often makes GB, metaphorically speaking, a `seismically active` zone. The rise and fall of rival political parties have a direct bearing on GB politics.

Added to this factor is the contentious issue of GB`s political position. Afzal Shigri, who belongs to the area, rightly calls it `a constitutional black hole`, which is neither fully integrated with, nor fully independent of, Pakistan, but often referred to as a`disputed area`,leadingto a confused political status. It has no representation in the federal constitutional bodies, such as the National Assembly or Senate, or access to Supreme Court, duelargely to disputed relations. For as long as the area was undereducated, there was little turmoil. But gradually political consciousness rose and as of now, there are more educated and enlightened youth. As they become intellectually astute, they also acquire political sensitivity and are, therefore, in ever-louder voices, demanding a constitutional status for GB.

Sectarian differences also erupt on the pretext of some provocative issue or the other, or because of adverse statements from popular religious leaders, and can add to existing tensions.

Historically, differences over the interpretations offaithhave existedfor along time. Though in many regions these differences have subsided, and there is some semblance of communal harmony, contentions still exist. However, people have learnt to manage their disagreements to live peacefully.

Together, these matters exacerbate sectarian strains in some places, and have even made religion an ultra-sensitive sub-ject though it does not affect any community`s interests dire ctly as state policies are based on non-sectarian strategies. Religion, which should, first and foremost, try and achieve the objective of bringing humanity together, has now become for many, including inGB, a factor in discord.

In my opinion, the first step towards peace would be for the ulema of all schools of thought to refrain from stirring up emotions with rhetorical and hyperbolic speeches that can lead to ill feelings for each other. We should resist the temptation to scratch old wounds, which can kindle new conflicts. The good news is that many seasoned ulema are nowtaking a more positive approach towards other communities, and hopefully, this trend will persist into the future.

GB, in sum, is on the highway of development this is a strong motivation for higher education, women empowerment, greater upward mobility of its educated class, the cost-effective use of agriculturalproducts.So, staying on this path of development is in the best interest of all communities. Therefore, communities should be proud of helping, rather than, hurting each other in the 21st century`s global village. • The wúter is an educationist.

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