Smog disrupts GCC-Pakistan flights

This picture taken on November 10, 2017 shows the grand Faisal Mosque covered in heavy smog in the Pakistan's capital, Islamabad. (AFP / AAMIR QURESHI)
Updated 10 November 2017
0

Smog disrupts GCC-Pakistan flights

ISLAMABAD: The smog currently plaguing eastern Pakistan shows no sign of abating.
In recent days, it has disrupted flights, forced the government to change school timings, and posed a serious health risk, particularly in the densely populated province of Punjab.
The country’s national carrier, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), has mostly rescheduled, rerouted, or even canceled some of its flights. Over 60 flights were delayed on Friday morning alone, including international and local flights. Several GCC-Pakistan flights were affected.
PIA spokesman Mashood Tajwar told Arab News, “PIA has to adjust the timings of its flights due to prevailing weather conditions, and keeping in view safety requirements, as the airline cannot operate flights with poor visibility.” He added that the current weather conditions were “expected to prevail for the next few days.”
The polluted air that blankets cities in Punjab and some areas of the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) is hazardous to health, especially for the elderly and for children going to school or college early in the morning when the smog levels are high. Doctors have suggested adopting preventive measures when outdoors and using masks when traveling. Hospitals have reported a hike in cases of irritation of the skin and/or eyes, respiratory problems, coughing, and sore throats.
Mansoor Ali Shah, the chief justice of Lahore High Court, has ordered the concerned authorities in Punjab to update the court about measures adopted to control and prevent the smog.
Naseem-ur-Rehman, director of the Environment Protection Department (EPD), told a local television station that a number of preventive measures have been taken: The Punjab government has imposed a ban on farmers burning their leftover crops until December 16, and 150 factories have also been shut down, he claimed.
Police have partially closed several sections of the country’s main highway — known as the motorway — between Lahore and Islamabad because of visibility issues, particularly at night and in the early morning, while some cities have also reportedly made special arrangements to avoid traffic jams and accidents.
Dr. Mohammad Hanif, a Pakistani meteorologist, told Arab News that a lack of rain, dust and emissions from factories and vehicles, and smoke from burnt crops are the leading factors behind the toxic smog.
He added that rain or strong winds would disperse the smog, but there is no rain forecast in the next fortnight.


Church members attack idea of armed priests in the Philippines

Updated 5 min 39 sec ago
0

Church members attack idea of armed priests in the Philippines

  • Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director General Oscar Albayalde last week revealed his department had received applications from more than 200 religious workers for permits to carry firearms outside their residence.
  • Priests have been the subject of violent attacks in the Philippines over the past months. The latest victim was Fr. Richmond Nilo, who was shot dead June 10 inside a chapel in Zaragoza town, Nueva Ecija as he was preparing to say mass.

MANILA: The idea of arming clergymen in the Philippines for personal safety continues to gain opposition, as more members of the Catholic church say that “guns and priests don’t go together.”

Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director General Oscar Albayalde last week revealed his department had received applications from more than 200 religious workers for permits to carry firearms outside their residence.

It came in the wake of recent attacks on clergymen that have left three priests dead in six months.

Fr. Elizeo Mercado, senior policy adviser at the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG), cited theological reasons for opposing the idea.

Mercado said that if priests carried guns, even if concealed, they could lose their credibility as peacemakers.

“The bishops could take responsibility and exercise their leadership to tell their priests, and all those under them, that priesthood and guns do not go together, or else we will lose our credibility as peacemakers and the values that we stand for,” he told Arab News.

Mercado condemned the killings, saying it showed the failure of the security forces to protect citizens. “Whether priests or non-priests, law enforcement should protect all citizens,” he said.

“There are three priests who have been victimized, but this is going on nationwide and I don’t know why it can’t be stopped. So it is really a challenge to law enforcers, particularly to the president, to put a stop (to the killings),” he said, noting that in Mindanao where martial law is currently in effect, killings continue.

Mercado said that there have been killings of priests in the past but “not that frequent and not that many.” However, now it was “too many and in a short period of time.”

While the attacks raised concerns, Mercado said that there were other ways in which priests could get security, even employing security agents. “But not them carrying firearms,” he said. Mercado, a member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), is also an advocate of peace in Mindanao.

Archbishop Romulo Valles, the head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), has also said he is strongly against the idea of priests carrying guns.

“These recent days, the news has reported a good number of Catholic priests asking for permits from the Philippine National Police that they be allowed to carry firearms. I have already stated my mind on this issue some days ago ... that I disagree with such action — that a priest would carry firearms,” he said in a statement.

“It is simply not appropriate, to say the least, for a priest to carry firearms to protect himself,” he said.

Valles said he was very aware of the dangers to clergymen, especially with the killing of three priests in recent months.

“Together with other reported killings, we are disturbed and deeply saddened by the death of these priests. We have strongly condemned these killings. But still to me, it does not warrant at all that priests carry firearms,” he said.

“That is why we give our trust and confidence to our PNP and other related peace and order personnel in the government. We pray for them and challenge them to do their very best in this very difficult and demanding task of protecting all of us, including priests,” Valles said.

Valles is archbishop of President Duterte’s home city of Davao. He strongly discourages priests under him from seeking a gun permit, and said that for clergymen in other archdioceses “this is a matter that you should discuss with your bishops and among yourselves as priests — regarding the appropriateness and witness to our people if you carry firearms.”

In a previous statement, Valles stressed that “priests are supposed to be men of peace, not violence.”

For Cebu Auxiliary Bishop Oscar Florencio, who is also the apostolic administrator of the Military Ordinariate of the Philippines, priests carrying weapons “will create more chaos” instead of solving problems.

Priests have been the subject of violent attacks in the Philippines over the past months. In December last year, Fr. Marcelito Paez, 72, was shot dead in Jaen town in Nueva Ecija after facilitating the release of a political prisoner.

In April, Fr. Mark Ventura, an anti-mining advocate, was gunned down after celebrating Mass in the province of Cagayan.

The latest victim was Fr. Richmond Nilo, who was shot dead June 10 inside a chapel in Zaragoza town, Nueva Ecija as he was preparing to say mass.

Another priest, Fr. Rey Urmeneta, a former police chaplain, was also attacked but survived, although was wounded, in a shooting in Laguna province June 6.

PNP spokesperson Senior Supt. Benigno Durana, Jr. said that there is “no deliberate efforts by any quarters inside or outside the government” to target clergymen. He said that the killings of the three priests were unrelated.