Pakistan goes plastic-free on Independence Day

Zartaj Gul, state minister for climate change announced in a press conference held in Islamabad on July 23, 2019 that single use of plastic bags will be banned in the federal capital effective August 14, Pakistan’s 73rd Independence Day. (PID)
Updated 15 August 2019
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Pakistan goes plastic-free on Independence Day

  • 55 billion plastic bags are used in the country every year
  • Ban to help reduce harmful impact on the environment

ISLAMABAD: Single-use plastic bags will be banned in the federal capital from August 14, on the occasion of Pakistan’s 73rd Independence Day, as part of an initiative undertaken by the government and keeping in line with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s plans to make the country greener.
Pakistan is the 128th country to stop the use of the non-biodegradable material made from various type of polymers that are harmful to the environments.
“We are banning (single-use) plastic bags in Pakistan, especially our capital territory, and after we implement it on August 14, we want to replicate the (ban) across Pakistan,” Zartaj Gul, State Minister for Climate Change told Arab News after distributing reusable bags to promote the initiative.
“We want Pakistan to be plastic-free because it is a burden on our environment,” Gul said, adding that Pakistan wanted to demonstrate to the world that it is “contributing to green initiatives” because it is the most “vulnerable country (due to its ability to adapt to adverse effects of greenhouse gases) and is ranked number seven on the index of climate change”.
According to the Pakistan Environment Protection Agency (EPA), 55 billion single-use plastic bags are used every year. The objective of the ban is to reduce litter and trash, remove hard to recycle plastic bags from the solid waste system, and protect the environment.
The ban, under the new regulation of Environmental Protection Act 1997, will impact all retailers, vendors, manufacturers, traders, and commercial users of plastic bags. However, the EPA will grant concessions for specific use flat bags used by industries and for waste collection.
Commending the move, several environmentalists urged the government to run awareness campaigns to educate the public which is highly dependent on the use of plastic bags across the country.
“We need to hold advocacy sessions; we need to highlight the issue in order to tackle the looming crisis of plastic pollution,” Noreen Fatima, an environmental researcher working at the National Institute of Maritime Affairs told Arab News, explaining the dangers of using plastic.
“It is impacting our environment, including our marine life, causing air pollution and disease and the main dilemma is that it is not biodegradable,” she said.


Jammu and Kashmir: A disputed state under siege 

Updated 22 August 2019
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Jammu and Kashmir: A disputed state under siege 

  • New Delhi fears protests if communication is restored and presence of troops scaled down in Kashmir
  • There is widespread anger and resentment among the people of the disputed region

SRINAGAR: It’s been more than two weeks since Indian administered Kashmir has been facing a security lockdown and prohibitory order. 
Markets in major parts of the Muslim majority region of Jammu and Kashmir are shut amid a communication blackout. 
Kashmiris have been barred from using any form of technology to communicate and denied even a basic phone call.
New Delhi’s decision on August 5 to abrogate two articles of the Indian constitution, Article 370 and 35-A, that gave the disputed state a special autonomous status under the Indian union has brought the Kashmir valley to a standstill.
The Modi administration has imposed strict prohibitor orders, reinforcing parliamentary troops to man each and every nook and corner of the valley.
The administration governing the Kashmiri districts relaxed the prohibitory order on August 19, allowing schools to reopen. It also restored some telephone landlines.
However, protests in some parts of Srinagar and Kashmiri towns forced the government to reimpose the communication ban. 
The schools remain empty days after reopening. 
People are gripped in fear. Uncertainty looms. Reports suggest that grieved communities have resorted to civil disobedience by keeping markets shuttered down and not sending their children to school.
There is widespread anger and resentment among the people. Majority of the Kashmiris feel let down by the government’s decision to strike down the special status passing a rush decree to annex their state without holding a plebiscite.
They say that their identity has been attacked and it’s not possible to live under abject humiliation.
Modi’s government fears large scale protests and resistance if communication is fully restored and the presence of troops is scaled down. 
If violence erupts, New Delhi fears that it stands to lose its political narrative domestically and internationally.
Jammu and Kashmir remains on edge. A disputed state divided between, India and Pakistan but fully claimed by both is under siege on New Delhi’s orders which has violated the UN charter.
It remains to be seen how long the Indian paramilitary forces will be able to contain the growing anger and angst among the local populace of the Muslim-majority region under Indian rule.