View From The Neighbourhood

View From The Neighbourhood

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

View From The Neighbourhood
The second and final draft of Assam’s NRC will be released on Monday.

NRC and Bangladesh

While the turmoil in Dhaka over student protests, violent reprisals and attacks on the media have understandably grabbed centre stage in the English press, Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) and how and if it will affect Bangladesh is also a matter of concern. Taslima Yaslim, an assistant professor in the department of law in Dhaka University highlights in The Daily Star on August 10 the statements by political leaders on “illegal Bangladeshi migrants” and even talk of deporting them. She even recalls the Indian prime minister’s campaign rhetoric: “During the 2014 elections campaign, Narendra Modi had been quoted as saying that he would ‘send these Bangladeshis beyond the border bag and baggage’.”

She seems to suggest, with some hyperbole, that Bangladesh has much to worry about, given the potential “4 million stateless people”: “In addition to being labelled illegal migrants, what is worrying for Bangladesh is that in search of an answer as to what would be the fate of these potential stateless individuals, the possibility of deportation to Bangladesh had been mentioned at various forums. Moreover, the 2014 Supreme Court directive itself had asked the government of India to ‘enter into necessary discussions with the Government of Bangladesh to streamline the procedure of deportation’.” But she also adds that “there is, however, also an argument that it is unlikely that the issue of deportation would ever be formally raised by the Indian government considering its delicate diplomatic relationship with Bangladesh”.

The editorial in The Dhaka Tribune on August 7 is a call to let journalists in Bangladesh do their job free of fear and persecution. What stands out is the fact that the editorial is not addressed to the government or any party, as a newspaper’s view is wont to be, but rather an exhortation to an unmentioned power: “Media personnel have been attacked with sticks, iron rods, and machetes by cadres, and some of these attacks took place in the presence of law enforcement officers, who stood by doing nothing to protect the journalist”, says the editorial. It adds that “prominent photojournalist Shahidul Alam has been detained by the authorities under the ICT Act, which raises questions about the freedom of expression in the country.” It ends simply by saying “we hope these unwarranted attacks on journalists stop, and those responsible for them are brought to book”.

Imran’s task


“Every government,” asserts journalist Khurram Hussain provocatively in Dawn on August 9, “manages to do only one big thing in its tenure”. For Pervez Musharraf, it was the privatisation drive, for the PPP it was restructuring the federation and Nawaz Sharif “finally broke the power sector’s dependence on imported furnace oil”. For the incoming PTI government, Hussain suggests that “it “can bring the revolution sweeping the world in renewable energy to Pakistan”. Renewable energy, a power surplus on an integrated grid, he argues, will be akin to the next tech revolution, one off which companies and countries can get rich. “There is no shortage of ideas to spur this movement along in Pakistan. Since the PTI claims to be a popular party, it is best situated to take on the powerful vested interests that are holding this revolution back in the country,” Hussain concludes.

Talat Masood, a retired lieutenant general of the Pakistan Army and a former federal secretary, on the other hand, argues that a strengthening of institutions is essential for Pakistan to grow and for Imran Khan to fulfil his poll promise of “eradicating corruption”. “If corruption is to be eliminated,” argues the August 8 article in The Express Tribune, “[the PTI] leadership will have to take parliamentary democracy seriously. Without checks and balances on expenditures, controlling corruption is not possible.” Masood adds that: “What level of interest Imran Khan would show in the affairs of parliament and build the structures of democracy is critical. For taking the nation on board on major issues and particularly the economy intense involvement of parliament would be necessary.” Reforms, economic, political and social, will require a strengthening of institutions which will deliver economic growth (something the article claims the Army will value) as well as respect globally.

Allowance in Nepal

The government of Nepal has proposed has proposed a 120-day unemployment allowance per year. After welcoming the step as being in line with the constitutionally guaranteed right to employment and highlighting the country’s need for jobs the editorial in The Himalayan Times on August 7 points out that “this, however, is not the first time such plans have been introduced”. “In the past also various governments had announced similar kinds of schemes under different names. But they were largely unimplemented for various reasons ranging from lack of commitment from the government to political instability. The danger of such programmes, our experience says, usually turn out to be a tool to appease cadres of the ruling party or those who are close to power centres,” it adds. The editorial suggests that the government focus on creating “awareness” of the scheme: “Unless people are made aware of the scheme — and how it works — the scheme runs the risk of being redundant.” It also cautions that “freebies can make citizens irresponsible, and this fact also should be well taken care of”.