A lot of people should lose their jobs for allowing over 21,000 Australian sheep infected with salmonella and actinomyces to be imported into Pakistan, even though the sheep were previously rejected by Bahrain for being diseased. The first person to go should be the Sindh livestock and fisheries secretary, who lashed out at the media for printing test reports which showed that the sheep were infected. The executive director of the company which imported the sheep should also be shamed into resignation, not only because he was willing to release the animals into the market but also because he denounced the media for indulging in “fake” propaganda.
Punishment must also be accompanied by introspection. This incident was a clear case of Pakistan willing to let itself be used as a dumping ground for products that would be outright rejected by rich countries. As strongly as we should protest to Australia for assuming it could unload the animals in our country, the government also needs to avoid instantly taking a defensive posture when such public health scandals are brought to light. Now that the sheep have been confirmed as infectious, the government needs to ensure that they are culled in a safe and speedy manner and that there is no possibility of a single sheep making its way to our market.
Pakistan also needs to set safety standards for imports that match those that other countries have placed on us. Countries such as the US, Japan, South Korea and Jordan all banned the import of Pakistani mangoes for over a decade until we recently changed our vapour treatment of mangoes to mandate hot water treatment. It is time for us to be similarly careful about what food items and animals we allow into our country. Doing any differently would confirm that our government is hungry only for the almighty dollar. There is no way we should countenance boosting our foreign exchange reserves on the back of our health and safety.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 19th, 2012.