View From The Neighbourhood: Leniency in Lankahttps://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/sri-lanka-blasts-maithripala-sirisena-ranil-wickremesinghe-easter-attack-5724218/

View From The Neighbourhood: Leniency in Lanka

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

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Police officers guard St Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, after bomb blasts ripped through churches and luxury hotels on Easter, in Sri Lanka. (Reuters/File)

In its May 8 editorial, The Island has continued its unrelenting attack on the Sri Lankan government and President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. In the Sri Lankan Parliament on May 7, “government leaders were cock-a-hoop in Parliament. they bragged that most of the terror suspects had been arrested and normalcy restored”. Yet, argues the editorial, it were these same leaders that “promptly denied” responsibility for the intelligence failures that led to the Easter Sunday attack and instead laid the blame at the feet of the police chief and defence secretary, both of whom have resigned since.

The editorial warns the president and prime minister that “it is too early to declare victory” and recaps the where the government has fallen short: “It is mind-boggling why the police did not try to prevent nine out of ten suspects, arrested over the Easter Sunday bombings, from getting bail. For some unknown reason, the suspects had not been taken into custody under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). They are no ordinary suspects, to begin with. Insan (or insane?) Seelawan, who joined NTJ leader Zaharan Hashim in carrying out suicide bomb attacks at Shangri-la Hotel, on 21 April, had handpicked them to work in his copper factory, which is believed to have been used for manufacturing bombs.”

Arguing that the police seldom grant bail to suspects under political pressure to do so, the editorial hints at a disturbing collusion from the powers that be. Its hawkish tone also cries foul at the “disturbing leniency” towards the terror suspects and even seems to question why those returning from ISIS camps in Syria haven’t been detained: “Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe insists that the government could not take any action against several families, trained by the ISIS in Syria, upon their return to the country, because there is a lacuna in Sri Lanka’s laws. (Some legal experts have pooh-poohed his assertion.) How will the government explain why the police did not use the existing tough anti-terror laws in dealing with the copper factory workers? It will have its work cut out to convince the public that its anti-terror action plan is copper-bottomed.”

Finally, The Island calls for a probe “to find out why the police did not take action against the copper factory workers under the PTA”.

Asia’s blasphemy

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With Asia Bibi and her family having moved to Canada, after being granted asylum there, the May 10 editorial in Dawn says that “finally, a shameful chapter in this country’s (Pakistan) history has drawn to a close”. Asia spent “eight years in prison for a crime she did not commit” and the case of blasphemy against her “catapulted one among millions of anonymous farmhands toiling on fields across the country into an enduring object of hate for the ultra right”. Two prominent leaders, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer and Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti were assassinated for expressing support for Asia.

The editorial argues that Asia’s case took on “heightened significance” “because there was a woman at the centre of it, that too a Christian woman — in a patriarchal society where the minorities are already vulnerable to discrimination, even persecution”. It then recounts other, perhaps less publicised cases of people, persecuted under the blasphemy law.

The message from Dawn is unambiguous: “The Pakistani state must not continue to abjure its duty to those victimised by the blasphemy law.”

Modi and Pakistan

Farrukh Khan Pitafi, a Pakistani television host and columnist with The Express Tribune weighed in on the Indian elections on May 11, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the future of South Asia — all in the space of one article. Pitafi begins by recapping some of the more softball questions in the “interview” that actor Akshay Kumar conducted with PM Modi. According to Pitafi, this was yet another attempt to change the course and discourse of the Indian election, one which has failed.

Pitafi then moves on to argue that the attempts to make Pakistan the “patsy” to distract from the NDA government’s “abysmal economic performance have not worked. He the enumerates the Modi government’s “economically suicidal” measures like demonetisation and a poorly-implemented GST, and an abysmal macroeconomic picture.

So, who is good for Pakistan, India?

“In neighbouring Pakistan, there are two schools of thought that would want to see Modi return to singhaassan. Those who genuinely believe that only a strongman in New Delhi could build peace between the two countries. Sadly, they are not fully appreciative of Modi government’s economic incompetence or its readiness to use confrontation with Pakistan as a welcome diversion. The second group would like to see India being burnt down to the ground by Modi. Not a wise course because the sheer volume of Indian market means if it sinks it will most certainly take the region with it.”

Pitafi ends by asserting that peace, and economic cooperation, are the only way forward.

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