EDITORIAL: Many a slip
The longest strike in the country’s history by doctors in Punjab called by the Young Doctors’ Association (YDA) came to an end after the doctors’ representatives and the Punjab government held talks and reached an agreement. After the failure of earlier negotiations, PML-N stalwarts stepped in to persuade the doctors to call off the strike. The government agreed to accept the doctors’ demands and reinstate the sacked protesting doctors. The Punjab government has constituted a six-member team comprising three members each representing the government and the doctors’ side, which will present its recommendations within 15 days. However, judgement on this seemingly happy outcome must be reserved, as there has already been “many a slip ’twixt the cup and the lip”. It took a complete breakdown of the health infrastructure, loss of about 500 lives due to non-availability of emergency services at public hospitals and the threat of strikes by senior doctors in Punjab and young doctors in other provinces for the Punjab government to come down off its high horse and finally accept the doctors’ demands for a better service structure. Regrettably, what the government did belatedly, it could have done much earlier when the doctors first expressed disaffection with their working conditions and salary structure over a year ago.
Chief Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry of the Lahore High Court (LHC), hearing writ petitions against the doctors’ strike has rightly taken to task the Punjab government and provincial health secretary, Fawad Hussain Fawad, for letting things spiral out of hand. He made telling remarks about the governance style of the dispensation in Punjab, which runs government affairs through bureaucrats and is notorious for attempting to solve problems through removing concerned bureaucrats from their posts. However, in the present crisis, the main culprit, the provincial health secretary, was not only allowed to continue with his job but also spoil the negotiations by taking a hardline approach towards the doctors. For several days advertisements were published in newspapers, first coaxing and cajoling and then warning the doctors to call off the strike or else face legal action, which hardened positions on the other side. On March 31, the government announced a raise in the salaries of house officers and post-graduate trainees after which the doctors ended their strike. However, no sooner did the doctors resume their duties, the Punjab government went back on its word by stating that this raise would be implemented through an annual raise of Rs 3,000 in the doctors’ salaries. Obviously, this ploy did not work and the doctors immediately resumed their strike. At one point, the Essential Services Act was evoked to take legal action against the protesting doctors and a harassment campaign was started against them. Scores of doctors were sacked and new doctors recruited to replace them.
There is no question about the merit of both the doctors’ and the Punjab government’s stance. The doctors’ remunerations are neither commensurate with their qualification and training nor constitute a living wage. On the other hand, it is difficult for the Punjab government to triple the salaries of young doctors overnight as per their demand. However, the dictatorial and duplicitous manner in which the government tried to impose its decision on doctors by painting them as the sole culprits in this crisis, and in the process prolonging the strike by another eight days is highly condemnable. Hearing writ petitions against the doctors’ strike, the LHC has asked the Punjab government to constitute an inquiry commission to probe the matter and fix responsibility for the fiasco. The ‘good governance’ of the Punjab government has been exposed; the LHC should make sure that those responsible for inducing a health crisis in the province are brought to book through an impartial judicial process. *
SECOND EDITORIAL:Attack on DIG in Quetta
Terror seems to have no inhibitions in continuing to
target women and children. A ruthless attack on the residence of DIG Wazir Khan Nasir, where a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden vehicle, resulted in the death of one police constable and critical injuries to the DIG, his wife and children. This was a blatant attack on the elements that preserve law and order and secure the country against the militants. Why DIG Nasir was picked as the unfortunate victim is open to speculation. He may have been involved in investigations that aim to curb the terror threat, making him a likely target. That his family would also be made pawns right inside their home was still an inconceivable thought. However, these militant monsters are no stranger to mayhem and seemed to have upped the ante on their diabolical activities by bringing their bloodbath right to the doorstep of their victims.
The attack occurred in the provincial capital of Quetta, in a region besieged by a war of its own, where anti-establishment sentiment runs deep and nationalism runs high. It would be very easy to pin the blame on the Baloch nationalists but the modus operandi in this attack is not one used by those who are waging their own struggle in Balochistan — i.e. suicide bombing. Such despicable acts can only be ascribed to the Taliban. Therefore, whether they claim responsibility or not, it is likely that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) are behind this attack.
As in almost all the attacks by the TTP nationwide, there seems to have been a glaring lack of security measures at the target site. Likely targets such as the offices — and now the homes — of law and order forces, shrines, check posts and the like should all be heavily protected. Adequate safeguards are vital when living in a literal war zone.
The militants have truly become monsters. Wazir Nasir’s children are in the hospital and will live in constant fear now that even their home is not safe. Effective measures need to be taken after the opening of this new ‘front’ to push back this menace. *