Monday, September 21, 2020

Coronavirus Update: Karachi registers 70% of Sindh infections

By Mukhtar Alam 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
Karachi division recorded 70% of the new COVID-19 cases detected across the province of Sindh on September 20 when one more patient was reported expired due to the virus during the last 24 hours.

Official reports revealed that in all 321 new cases were registered in 18 districts during the last 24 hours ending September 20 morning, with an overall daily infection rate of 2.43%, against 1.83% calculated on September 19. 

According to official COVID-19 data, Karachi registered an average 157 new cases every day during the week ending September 20. 

Its share in the total new cases reported across the province remained 53% on September 17, which increased up to 73% by September 19. 

Karachi’s different districts have so far added 86,512 COVID-19 cases to the overall Sindh’s tally, including the maximum 25852 from East district where a total 684 patients lost their lives due to the diseases in hospitals and homes, so far. 

The Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, in his statement related to COVID-19 status, shared that the new cases were found out of 13,198 samples, pushing the overall number of infections to 133,947 for the province. 

He informed that 2,793 infected persons were at present isolated in homes, while five at the isolation centres and 282 at various hospitals, including 179 critically ill patients, with another 168 people having recovered from the diseases during the last 24 hours. 

The reports said that 24 patients were receiving the ventilator intervention at various hospitals, including six at AKUH, five at CHK, four each at the Infectious Diseases Hospital and Research centre and Indus Hospital Karachi, on September 20. 

The new solitary fatality was reported from Badin which has registered a total 12 COVID-19 deaths, while there are still 152 active patients in the district. Earlier, Badin had reported one death, along with Karachi (three deaths), on September 18. 

The district wise breakdown of new infection remained as: Karachi (225), Dadu (97), Tando Allahyar (7), Hyderabad (6), Thatta (5), Jamshoro (5), Badin (3), Sujawal (3), Matiari (3), Tando Mohammad Khan (3), Larkana (2), Mirpurkhas (1), Shaheed Benazirabad (1) and others. 

In the meantime, an official summary related to samplings done in different targeted areas revealed the highest rate of COVID-19 infection, two percent, was found among people visiting shrines and attending urs/mela (congregations).

Sunday, September 20, 2020

China lunar exploration on course

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
The deputy chief designer of China's lunar exploration programme, Yu Dengyun, has said that the preparations were progressing smoothly and the Chang'e-5 probe will make a soft landing on the moon and bring samples back to earth by end 2020. 

Yu revealed this at the ongoing 2020 China Space Conference in Fuzhou, capital of east China's Fujian Province which concluded on September 19. 

China's current lunar programme involves three phases, comprising of orbiting, landing, and return. The first two phases have been completed successfully, Yu informed.

The Chang'e-5 probe is expected to realize lunar sample collection, takeoff from the moon, rendezvous and docking on lunar orbit and high-speed reentry into the Earth's atmosphere, marking breakthroughs in China's aerospace history, he added. 

According to Yu, China was conducting a further verification study for the research and development of space station and the manned lunar mission, and it planned to set up an unmanned lunar research station for manned landings on the moon.

Pakistan-China friendship above CPEC: Ambassador Yao

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
The Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan, Yao Jing, remained convinced that Pakistan-China friendship was much above the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). 

"CPEC is not the whole thing. We were friends even before the CPEC. There is no doubt CPEC has strengthened the bonds further but the brotherhood is much above a project," he said to a loud applause by the journalists who had come to say good-bye to a friend of Pakistan. 

Ambassador Yao has completed his tenure in Pakistan and will soon leave for Beijing. He has been replaced with the nomination of Nong Rong, Head of Ethnic Affairs Commission of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region 

Speaking at the farewell reception, with an emotional and victorious voice, the senior diplomat remarked that CPEC could not be stopped or delayed on the wishes of the conspirators. 

"Yes, there are conspiracies but CPEC is going on smoothly. I am very satisfied with the pace of work. Let the conspirators do their job as we focus on development and prosperity," he asserted. 

The envoy said he will miss Pakistan as he had spent 11 years of his career in the country under different capacities. "When I first came to Pakistan, I was a junior diplomat. And as I complete my tenure now as the ambassador, I am more in love with Pakistan. I don't know when I will return to Pakistan but my heart and soul will remain in Pakistan," he declared amid the thumping of desks and clapping.

Coronavirus Update: No fatality day in Sindh

By Mukhtar Alam 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Sindh for the third time reported no COVID-19 fatality on September 19 when authorities confirmed 264 new cases during the last 24 hours across the province.

Since the outbreak of the lethal virus in the country, the province registered deaths among the virus infected patients every day, excepting September 5, 14 and 19. 

As of morning of September 19, according to official data, Sindh’s total of COVID-19 laboratory tests stood as 1,214,790, out of which 133,626 were found positive. 

The province’s overall infection rate remained 11%, against 9.67% of Pakistan. National dashboard on COVID-19 revealed that Sindh’s 264 (1.8%) positive cases came out of 14,352 samples examined during the last 24 hours. 

With 94 more patients recovered from the disease on September 19, taking the total of cured people to 128,239, while the death tally remained unchanged at 2,459, for the province. The district wise breakdown of new cases in Sindh was not made available by the provincial government, however.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Indus Water Treaty turns 60

By Tariq Asad 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The controversial boundary demarcation of the sub-continent in 1947 by Sir Cyrill Radcliffe germinated the seeds for unrelenting water conflict between the new-born states that have persisted till-date. 

Awarding the Muslim-majority areas like Ferozepur, having headworks for Sutlej River, to India accrued aggression from her by blocking water flow into all the canals entering Pakistan on April 1, 1948. 

Though a Standstill agreement was concluded between the two neighbours but India cropped out in a highly commanding position on water-front. The matter was resolved by the mediation of the World Bank in the form of Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) as India and Pakistan were given exclusive rights on three eastern (Sutlej, Ravi and Bias) and three western rivers (Indus, Jehlum and Chenab) rivers respectively.

September 19, 2020 marks the completion of six decades of the IWT, signed by the then President of Pakistan, General Muhammad Ayub Khan, and the then Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, in 1960 at Karachi, under the auspices of the World Bank. 

A terse treaty, with 12 articles and 8 appendices (A-H), provided a detailed framework not only for bifurcation of rivers but entails provisions regarding exchange of data, future cooperation, creation of Permanent Indus Commission, settlement of differences and disputes and its modification. 

The treaty has shown remarkable resilience during three scores of its life as it sailed through the war period of 1965, 1971 and Kargil crisis (1999) besides numerous other diplomatic crises between Pakistan and India that abysmally hit the bilateral relations. 

Nevertheless, India’s debatable and objectionable use of permissive features in Article III (2) that allows unrestricted use of western rivers’ waters to Pakistan besides permitting India the limited domestic, non-consumptive, agricultural and hydropower generation use has affronted the treaty provisions. 

Violation from India has been seen, time and again, in construction of engineering works on Jhelum and Chenab in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK). Engineering works there are to be notified to Pakistan well before their initiation so that the design features be mutually agreed upon by the two states under the treaty provisions. Only the design provisions of Salall hydroelectric project were amicably settled in 1978 after some objections raised by Pakistan. 

Bilateral diplomacy could not compel the two intractable Indian governments for stopping the construction of Baghliar and Kishanganga dam in 1999 and 2007 respectively. 

Questions became differences in case of Baghliar Dam on the Chenab River with the unprecedented appointment of Neutral Expert (NE) under Article IX (2a). The NE resolved the matter in February 2007 such that a win-win situation appeared for both parties. 

However, the filling of Baghliar dam gave a severe blow to Pakistan savage reduction of water flow from Marala headworks in September and October affected millions of acres of arable land causing billions of loss to agriculture sector in 2008. 

Kishanganga dam excelled a step further in underscoring India’s grave violations of the IWT. The project envisions diversion from the Kishanganga River through a 22 kilometre long tunnel towards the Bunar Madumati Nullah of River Jehlum for 300 MW hydro-power generation and then its re-route to Jehlum via Wullar lake. The project also fulfills the gains from constructing Wullar Barrage on Wullar River that was objected to by Pakistan in 1985 resulting in halting of engineering work in 1987. 

All kinds of diversion from the western rivers entering into Pakistan from IOK are absolutely barred in the IWT. Kishanganga River is termed as Neelum-Jehlum River when it enters Pakistani-administered Kashmir and is an input source of Pakistan’s 969 MW Neelum-Jehlum project. 

The Indian design will drastically curtail the power generation from the project besides impacting severely on agriculture production and local demography. The construction work started in 2007 but stopped in October 2011 by the Court of Arbitration (CoA) under Pakistan’s request for arbitration. Some other projects on western rivers are also disputed between the nuclear-armed South Asian neighbours. 

The treaty grapples with the challenge of climate change that was utterly unknown during its negotiating years (1954-1960); the deleterious effects of climate change were unimaginable at the time of signing moment of this historic accord. 

The Swiss NE in Baghliar dam case Professor Raymond Laffitte also hinted and based his decision on multiple factors related to climate change. India, being the upper riparian, is in an advantageous position. The reduction in water flow owing to the causes of climate change must be shared by both the countries and not by Pakistan alone as in the past. 

Former UNSC Secretary General, Boutros Ghali, once famously remarked during his tenure in 1991: “Wars will now be fought over water, neither politics nor oil.” His statement validates the current water conflict between Pakistan and India. 

The incumbent Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has repeatedly threatened abrogation of IWT as well as stopping the flow of water into Pakistan territory. The successive Indian governments during the last 40 years have devised controversial projects on the upstream sides of the western rivers in absolute contradiction to the clauses of IWT. The third party dispute-settling mechanism by NE or CoA is also an exorbitant process draining millions of dollars out from the national exchequer. 

India’s controversial step of annexing the occupied Kashmir last year has exacerbated the situation further. Though voices have been raised from both states in the recent past for revisiting/amending the treaty but in near future it seems almost impossible keeping in view their current state of bilateral relations. Evidently, the status quo will prevail in the years to come.

***The writer is Deputy Director at Pakistan Railways

Sindh delays middle schools reopening

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
The Sindh Minister for Education and Labour, Saeed Ghani, announced that the government has decided to defer the reopening of middle schools until September 23 as there were reports confirming the COVID-19 infections among teaching staff. 

"Unfortunately, educational institutions, both private and public, are not fully implementing the prescribed standard operating procedures," he observed in a press statement, while referring to his visits to some of the institutions allowed to resume teaching for Class IX and above classes from September 15 in the province. 

“Despite our efforts, we are seeing a lot of flaws and violations. Therefore we are delaying the second phase of resuming grade 6-8 classes. These classes were slated to resume on September 21 but now it will be pushed back to September 28, if the situation concerning the virus improves. But if the situation remains the same, we might review the decision on Sept 28 again," he added.

Coronavirus Update: Infections increase by 17% in Karachi

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Karachi witnessed a 17% increase in its daily new COVID-19 cases, compared to the preceding day’s numbers, on September 18 when authorities in the government confirmed 237 new cases across the province, with four more related deaths, during the last 24 hours.

Karachi had a share of 163 (53%) new infections in the total 307 cases reported in Sindh on September 17, which increased to 165 (70%), out of 237 cases registered at 8 am on September 18.

The six districts of Karachi had reported its lowest (45% of the Sindh’s overall daily new cases), during the last week, on September 14. 

The other districts which reported new COVID-19 infections by September 18 morning included Badin (11), Hyderabad (9), Tando Mohammad Khan (5), Jamshoro (4), Khairpur (4), Shaheed Benazirabad (4), Ghotki (3), Naushero Feroze (2), Dadu (1), Larkana (1), Mirpurkhas (1), Sanghar (1) and Tando Allahyar (1). 

The Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, in his daily COVID status statement, shared that as many as 154 patients recovered from the diseases, pushing the tall of cured patients to 128,145, against overall 133,362 infections, for the province on September 18. 

He further said that 2481 of the 2758 active COVID-19 patients were isolated at homes, while another five at the isolation centres and 272 at hospitals. “The number of critically ill patients stood at 171, while 23 patients were being given the ventilator intervention,” he mentioned. With four new deaths, the total death tally has reached to 2,459 on September 18.