While the Pakistan press has given a significant amount of attention to the attack in Pulwama on February 14, the opinion pages in major newspapers have not been as reactive. In fact, conspiracy theories have found space as news rather than opinion. But, to be fair, many editorials and opinion articles have lamented the acrimony that the aftermath of the attack has brought with it.
The February 16 editorial in Dawn, for example, notes that “after each such incident, the already strained ties between the two countries take a further hit, this time with Delhi vowing to work for ‘the complete isolation … of Pakistan’ from the international community, while withdrawing the MFN status for Pakistan. Both countries have summoned each other’s envoys — India, to protest against what it sees as Pakistan’s ‘role’ in the attack, and Pakistan to refute India’s unproven allegations.”
The thrust of the editorial, however, is that given that the suicide attacker was a local Kashmiri youth, it is for New Delhi to admit to the failures of its policy in the Valley: “Importantly, the young suicide bomber in the Pulwama attack was a native… For many years now, India’s increasingly strong-arm, brutal tactics [in Kashmir] have alienated the local population who have had no need of outside help to vent their anger and frustration. Young Kashmiris are taking up the gun and attacking symbols of the Indian establishment. They have been met with a hail of bullets but have not been deterred… The fact remains that until Delhi backs down from its militarised approach to the Kashmir issue, the violence will continue. It is only through the path of negotiations involving Pakistan, India and the Kashmiris that the stand-off can be resolved. ”
The ideas dealt with with some subtlety by the Dawn editorial are expanded in a rather ham-fisted manner by Muhammad Ali Ehsan in an article in The Express Tribune on February 17. Ehsan, an Islamabad-based political scientist writes that “Hours into the Pulwama attack it was pointing fingers at Pakistan. Not something new that we are not aware of but the Indian impulsiveness to blame Pakistan every time a terrorist incident occurs mocks the very concept of examination, exploration and investigation which must be carried out before reaching a final verdict.”
He lays the “blame” for the heinous attack squarely at India’s door, glorifying “A freedom fight that has stood up against state terrorism for 70 long years will not end by state oppression.”
According to Ehsan, “The Pulwama incident is not a Pakistan-sponsored act of terrorism as India claims but an incident which is a consequence of the unending violence and brutality that the Indian forces have unleashed on the people of… Kashmir.” Towards the end of the article, Ehsan accuses Delhi of making unsubstantiated accusations against Pakistan.
The political scientist also uses a combination of exaggeration, implication and poor rhetoric to belabour his point. “Indian military effort alone will not end the Kashmir uprising. Neither will the attempts by India to balance against Pakistan by supporting and arming our rivals and by patronising separatism and anti-Pakistan movements like the PTM (Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement),” he contends.
Ehsan further argues, “ The tendency of the Indian government to lay down ‘red lines’ and threaten Pakistan with dire consequences and befitting replies is a political bluff to charm its domestic audience. All Indian political threats of isolating Pakistan internationally should be responded with strong diplomacy and the military threats of executing any surgical strikes should be befittingly responded in a similar fashion.”
The February 17 editorial in The Dhaka Tribune upholds the moral red line of Bangladesh politics. A leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami — Abdur Razzaq — resigned his party positions due to the organisation’s failure to apologise adequately for its anti-liberation stand in 1971.
“The resigning Jamaat leader’s call for an apology seems driven more by tactical considerations than by genuine contrition, the editorial notes. Nevertheless, it says that “it cannot be denied that the point made by Razzaq is correct”. “Unless and until Jamaat apologises for its crimes in 1971, not just in terms of opposing Bangladesh’s independence but also committing unspeakable atrocities on the population, there can be no legitimate seat at the table for Jamaat in Bangladeshi politics,” it remarks.
It also criticises the BNP: “We must also stress the moral poverty of the BNP as the party which rehabilitated the Jamaat in Bangladeshi politics, including sitting alongside them in government. This has long been a serious failing of the BNP and the sooner it recognizes this and severs all ties to Jamaat, the better. Otherwise, it too can credibly be accused of condoning Jamaat’s crimes against Bangladesh.”
(Curated by Aakash Joshi)