The editorial reactions in Dawn and The Express Tribune about Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar being designated a “global terrorist” by the UN, after China lifted its “technical hold”, is telling. In its May 3 editorial, Dawn remarks that “JeM may have made India-held Kashmir its focus, but its cadres have caused plenty of havoc in Pakistan as well.” It cites the following example: “Its (JeM) militants form the nucleus of what is known as the Punjabi Taliban, a loose confederation of jihadists, also consisting of sectarian elements. Though the JeM was banned in 2002 by Pakistan, its activities continued and Masood Azhar was largely a free man.” In addition, China only ceased to block the listing once all mention of Kashmir and terror in India was removed from the resolution. What is interesting — and admirably critical —in Dawn’s editorial, is the understanding that Pakistan must put its house in order. The editorial does say that New Delhi tries to link “the Kashmiri struggle for justice” with terrorism and that this “false binary must be exposed”. However, it adds that “if we had put ourown house in order, India would not have been able to exploit the situation and associate jihadist groups with Pakistan.”
“Ultimately,” writes Dawn, “all militant groups and non-state actors that promote hateful, divisive and sectarian narratives must be shut down”.
The Express Tribune, on the other hand, rubbishes any claims by Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the listing constitutes a diplomatic victory for India. Its May 3 editorial, in fact, spins the terror tag as China finding an “amicable way out” —it has responded to pressure from the US, UK and France without affecting its deep ties with Pakistan: “The global superpower rivalling the US utilised its power potential, forcing the movers of the resolution against the JeM chief to correct the relevant materials and re-submit them for the sanctioning exercise — all for the sake of Pak-China friendship that is indeed higher than the Himalayas, deeper than the oceans and sweeter than honey.”
While one publication seems to address the core issues around Masood Azhar from a patriotic but critical perspective, the other seems to be defending with great zeal China and the stylistically dated rhetoric around the China-Pak relationship — “friendship sweeter than honey” indeed.
Anger in Sri Lanka
Over the last week, editorials in the Sri Lankan English language press have been consistently critical of the government for failing to prevent the Easter terror attacks and subsequently, failing to be seen to be doing enough in its aftermath. In its May 1 editorial, The Island first lauds the Archbishop of Colombo, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, for refusing a bulletproof car and security and instead urging the government to ensure the security of all Sri Lankans. While stressing that no one would blame the cardinal for accepting or even seeking security, the editorial remarks that “some politicians have also woken up to the fact that the people are increasingly becoming antipathetic towards them. A few of them have cared to read the public mood. UPFA MP Indika Anuruddha, taking part in a television debate, on Tuesday, said the people were asking why the suicide bombers who carried out the Easter attacks had not targeted Parliament!”
The editorial also calls out the government for attempting to take advantage of the situation to strengthen its own powers: “It is trying to have its new anti-terror Bill passed in spite of fears being expressed by trade unions and the Opposition that it, if passed, can be used to suppress workers, the media and the oppositional forces. Nobody will buy into the government’s claim that new laws are needed to combat terror. The LTTE, which was considered the most dangerous terrorist group in the world, was defeated with the help of the existing anti-terror laws. The government had better abandon such sinister moves, for its own sake.”
Blame the Ideology
In his column in Dawn on May 4, Irfan Hussain demolishes the myth that terrorism, or “radical” or “jihadist” violence is a result of a lack of education. The suicide bombers who killed hundreds in Sri Lanka were well educated and Omar Saeed Sheikh, the man who killed journalist Daniel Pearl was educated at the London School of Economics. Radicalisation of the youth appears to take place largely through Salafism, the most regressive variety of Wahabism. This, argues Hussain, is because these varieties of Islam “are propagated by Saudi Arabia through the vast network of madrasas and mosques it supports across the world. From Jakarta to Johannesburg, clerics often paid by Riyadh preach sermons full of hate towards non-Muslims”. The West turns a blind eye to this fact. In the end, though, an important question remains: “Experts are unanimous in suggesting that education and jobs are the answer to jihadist radicalisation. But as we have just seen, some of the deadliest attacks have been carried out by well-educated and well-off men. So how do we remove the poison that has infected them?”
A weekly look at the public conversations shaping ideas beyond borders — in the Subcontinent. Curated by Aakash Joshi