View from the neighbourhood: Time to work

“The only question now,” according to Khurram Hussain’s August 30 column in Dawn is when do the “optics” end and “the work begin”? Pakistan is waiting, says Hussain, “for that moment when one sees key members of the cabinet beginning to gel together as a team, when the language of the prime minister and his […]

Updated: September 3, 2018 12:35:45 am
Pakistan, Imran Khan, pakistan PM Imran Khan, Pakistan child malnutrition, imran khan government, Nawaz Sharif, india pakistan relations Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“The only question now,” according to Khurram Hussain’s August 30 column in Dawn is when do the “optics” end and “the work begin”? Pakistan is waiting, says Hussain, “for that moment when one sees key members of the cabinet beginning to gel together as a team, when the language of the prime minister and his spokesman moves away from today’s little stunt to tomorrow’s big vision”. Hussain brings up Prime Minister Imran Khan’s repeated promises to tackle child malnutrition — “an admirable goal” — including in his speech to the Pakistan senate. But, it seems that “there is no indication that he has been briefed on the work that is already under way in this area for at least two years now (the government of Sindh launched a programme in 2017 to reduce stunting in collaboration with the World Bank).” “If this is such an important priority,” asks the article, “the least that Khan could do was find out how much there is to build on in this area, who are the right people to talk to and how to get a briefing from them”.

Hussain goes on to pillory those who say “give them a chance” and asks “how much time do they need?” He also lays down some “rules for Pakistan politics” that may well find resonance beyond the country’s borders: “There are some rules of politics in Pakistan. First rule: Those in power get skewered, whether they like it or not. Second rule: those in power own the failures and deficits of the state. If down the road, as a condition for a bailout, the government has to hike taxes on petrol and electricity, raise interest rates by several percentage points, depreciate the currency till it hits 140, roll back the tax cuts left behind by the last finance minister, they will have only limited room in which to say ‘all this is Nawaz Sharif’s fault’.”

The conclusion? “We [Pakistan] need a policy direction and we need it fast.”

Indus water woes

The August 30 editorial in The Express Tribune uses the visit of a nine-member team from New Delhi for two-day talks on river-water sharing between the countries, to question India’s recent action on the Indus waters. “The (Indus Water) treaty has survived years of tensions between the two arch-rivals, including two wars and countless military standoffs,” acknowledges the editorial. “However,” it states, “several recent steps by India pose a threat to the treaty that is widely regarded as an extremely successful agreement.” These include the decision by India to construct the Pakal Dul and Lower Kalnai projects, despite “having promised to modify the designs” of these projects. The editorial says that “India’s confrontational stance must.. be tackled by energising the arbitration mechanisms existing within the 1960 treaty.”

Kuldip Nayar, a friend

Mahfuz Anam, editor and publisher of The Daily Star, says that with the passing away of journalist Kuldip Nayar last week,”Bangladesh has lost a sincere and lifelong friend, India has lost a conscience keeper for secular values, Pakistan has lost an untiring voice for greater understanding between the two neighbours, South Asia has lost one of loudest voices against hatred and oppression of all minority groups everywhere.”

Anam recalls the last article Nayar wrote for The Daily Star, published on August 14: “The article titled ‘71 years on, frosty relations continue’ did not hide his sadness in seeing life’s work not reaching its desired goal. But he never gave up. He recounts in the said piece, about his lifelong effort for peace and understanding symbolised by his annual candle lighting project at the Wagah Border that he started 20 years ago.”

“For us in The Daily Star”, writes Anam, “Kuldip Nayar was a guiding spirit and a symbol of the values of the best in the profession. His occasional visits would be occasions for us to learn from his long and vast experience, a learning that would be made easy by his generosity, humility and sincere desire to see The Daily Star succeed in its mission of serving the people.”

Freedom for Alam

“As the capital (Kathmandu) welcomes the heads of states for the ongoing BIMSTEC summit,” says the August 30 editorial of The Kathmandu Post, the installations by jailed photographer Shahidul Alam “pointedly called for attention from Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, whose government had summarily arrested Alam from his home on August 5”. Alam, who was charged under Bangladesh’s contentious Information Technology Act, has been critical of the Sheikh Hasina government and the Awami League, recently over the treatment meted out to student protestors. “In Nepal,” according to the editorial, the platform “, which has worked closely with Alam over the years, “has led protests, vigils, and more creative actions like the projections of Alam’s work and image.”

The Kathmandu Post ends the editorial with a call: “With Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina currently in Kathmandu for the BIMSTEC Summit, the Post joins in the call for Alam’s immediate and unconditional release. We would also like to remind other leaders at the BIMSTEC Summit, including our own prime minister, that majority rule should not equal an infringement upon the democratic rights of citizens.”

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

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