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Friday, February 21, 2020

View From The Neighbourhood: Kashmir centrestage

A cursory reading between the lines of newspaper editorials and opinion articles makes the conundrum for Rawalpindi and Islamabad clear.

Updated: August 5, 2019 4:01:11 am
imran khan, donald trump, trump kashmir modi, trump modi kashmir, imran trump modi kashmir, trump kashmir mediation, imran khan pakistan pm, indian express news, kashmir news, latest india news, latest kashmir news US President Donald Trump with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan at the White House Monday. (File)

Between Donald Trump’s claim that Narendra Modi asked him to “mediate” the Kashmir dispute, and the new NDA government’s seeming determination to abrogate Section 35A and Article 370, as promised in the BJP’s manifesto, Kashmir is front and centre in the discussions in the Pakistani media. A cursory reading between the lines of newspaper editorials and opinion articles makes the conundrum for Rawalpindi and Islamabad clear.

On the one hand, as Moonis Ahmar puts it in an article in The Express Tribune, “Pakistan must be careful while accepting American mediation offer on Kashmir, as it will question Pakistan’s stance that the Kashmir conflict needs to be resolved according to the aspirations of the Kashmiris and as per the UNSC resolutions.” But, there appears to be an argument in favour of international interference (or mediation, depending on your point of view), articulated by Dawn in its editorial: “The fact is that unless the Kashmir issue is addressed, peace in the subcontinent will be a distant dream. And it is also a fact that bilateral attempts to address the Kashmir question and restart dialogue have hit a brick wall, thanks mainly to Indian arrogance and intransigence.”

Two developments over the last month seem to be affecting the discourse in Pakistan around Kashmir. First, is the claim by Trump that Modi asked him to intervene in Kashmir. Trump’s statement, despite the vehement denials by New Delhi’s foreign policy establishment, seems to have energised the commentariat in Pakistan into encouraging the internationalisation of the Kashmir issue. Second, New Delhi’s policy stance in the Valley seems to provide some fodder for this endeavour. The decision to re-imagine the constitutional, federal structure of Kashmir vis a vis the Indian state, and the demographic insecurities and concerns that engenders as well as the accusations of human rights violations by Indian security forces, seem to be one of the justifications of the first aspect of the narrative.

Rohingya dilemma

Since the influx of Rohingya refugees to Bangladesh, the media in the country has been critical of Myanmar for its treatment of the Muslim minority community, as well as called for the reparation of the refugees back to Rakhine State. However, as the July 25 editorial in The Dhaka Tribune shows, the issue is far from a simple one. It welcomes the arrival of “high-level delegation from Myanmar to convince the Rohingya to return home” but acknowledges that “sadly, the overall task remains more complicated than one of simple persuasion”.

The editorial contends that “recent satellite images” show that Myanmar is ill-prepared for the refugees to return home and that the country is still not open to human rights organisations, journalists and international watchdogs.

The editorial argues: “Ethnic cleansing operations on a scale that took place in Rakhine state cannot and should not be swept under the rug, and it is a duty of the whole world to ensure that justice is served for the crimes that were committed.It may seem convenient to ignore the humanitarian complexities of the Rohingya crisis in favour of a speedy solution, but Bangladesh has so far not taken the easy way out, sheltering a million refugees while our own resources are stretched to breaking point. We cannot just give up on these refugees now.”

Triple talaq lessons

Since the Easter terror attacks in Sri Lanka, the country’s Muslim minority has been under siege, and at the receiving end of the state and security forces’ unwelcome attention. Ameen Izzadeen, a Sri Lankan journalist and activist argues in The Daily Mirror on August 2 that there are lessons to be learnt for the country’s Muslims from the criminalisation of triple talaq in India.

The article begins with recounting how in Islam — in both the Quran and the Hadith(s) — the practice of triple divorce in one sitting is a legal and religious violation. In Sri Lanka, like in India, Muslims “are embroiled in a debate over Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA) reforms. The reforms are called for because the law and the lacuna in it bring misery to Muslim women, instead of offering them the law’s protection.”

Izzaden argues that religious leaders in Sri Lanka must begin the process of reforms in marriage laws, making them more gender-equal, lest they give the state an opportunity to interfere in the community’s affairs. The article acknowledges that by and large, religious leaders of the community are progressive and “civic-minded”, yet there are some moulvis that are resistant to reform. To them, he says: “The Muslim scholars who entertain fears about MMDA reforms must realise there is nothing un-Islamic about setting 18 as the minimum age for bride and groom. Overhauling the corrupt Qazi court system is also an Islamic duty. They need to realise their opposition to reforms is in conflict with the country’s constitution and several progressive laws.”

A weekly look at the public conversations shaping ideas beyond borders — in the Subcontinent. Curated by Aakash Joshi

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