View From The Neighbourhood: Imran’s U-turns

View From The Neighbourhood: Imran’s U-turns

A weekly look at the public conversations shaping ideas beyond borders — in the Subcontinent.

Imran Khan, Pakistan, Sunni extremists, Pakistan suicide bomb attack, Quetta attack, Quetta suicide attack, pakistan news, Indian epxress
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan. (AP/File)

In his column in Dawn on April 20, Irfan Hussain compares Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan rather unfavourably with Jacinda Arden, his New Zealand counterpart. The thrust of Hussain’s argument is this: Khan has gone back on nearly all his campaign promises, and worse, “there appears to be little compassion in our prime minister’s heart for the plight of the Hazaras who are regularly targeted by Sunni extremists”.

The suicide bomb attack in Quetta, in which 20 people lost there lives, took place in an area where the Hazara community lives. By not visiting the families of the victims of the attack, Hussain believes Khan is “sending out a signal”. On the campaign trail a year ago, Khan had “promised an inclusive Pakistan”. In fact, Hussain argues that U-turns on his most important promises have marked Khan’s tenure: “Less than a year into his tenure, the prime minister has been forced into a number of U-turns that would have been embarrassing had he not been blessed with a thick skin. At campaign rally after rally, he vowed he would not beg for aid and loans. Indeed, he went so far as to vow he would commit suicide rather than extend a begging bowl before the IMF. But as soon as he was sworn in after a contentious election in which many detected the active role of hidden forces, there he was in China, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, asking for alms. And just a few days ago, his verbose now ex-finance minister was in Washington, negotiating a loan from the IMF.”

Hussain also gives several other examples of PM Khan’s going back on his word. Khan had also promised, for example, “that transfers and promotions in the bureaucracy would be made strictly on merit. However, the swift changes of officers in Punjab have shown that little has changed: personal likes and dislikes take precedence over efficiency and transparency.”

PM Khan did visit Quetta and address the Hazara community on Sunday, April 21.


Double Standards
Mano Ratwatte, a Sri Lankan commentator, writes in The Island on April 16 of the double standards on issues like war crimes and human rights’ violations. Taking off from the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, the article uses a series of examples of how the West gets away with such crimes while third world countries are constantly vilified. He argues: “Is Accountability not required when the ones committing atrocities are resource-rich, powerful western nations? This is no defence of alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka (those need to be investigated) or India, but just a commentary on the rank hypocrisy that is part of geopolitical realities. There is definitely a different playing field for different nations.”

US Senator Bob Kerry of Nebraska, for example, has admitted to committing war crimes in Vietnam, and the My Lai massacre was initially covered up by the US government. “And only this week did EU member Belgium apologise for the kidnapping, segregation, deportation and forced adoption of thousands of children born to mixed-race couples during its colonial rule of Burundi, Congo and Rwanda. The apology is the first time that Belgium has recognised any responsibility for what historians say was the harm on the Central African nations, which it colonised for eight decades. “

Unfree Media
Reporters’ Without Borders’ recently published report on media freedom ranks Bangladesh at dismal 150 out of 180 countries when it comes to freedom of the press. According to the editorial in The Daily Star, “it cannot be a pleasing thought that every other country of South Asia stands above us; even in Myanmar (where there’s a virtual military government), the press seems to be doing somewhat better than ours.”

India ranks at 140, so perhaps some of the following issues raised by the editorial could have some resonance, across South Asia: “Regrettably, the press in Bangladesh is in a unique situation. Like most segments of the society, the media has become fractured, and thus vulnerable to the powers that would want a pliant media. This has given way to the media exercising more self-censorship than is necessary for it to perform its job with impartiality and fairness, devoted to projecting news as it is rather than twisting the tale to give the people what a particular media outlet wants them to read. But there are compelling reasons for the press to choose discretion over valour—physical harassment of journalists by ruling party cadres, unnecessary litigation as well as the newly enacted draconian rules that encumber free media, are a few.”

The editorial remarks that a free media is also an index of other freedoms available in a society — and on that front, the neighbourhood has much room for improvement.

In his column in Dawn on April 20, Irfan Hussain compares Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan rather unfavourably with Jacinda Arden, his New Zealand counterpart.