Calling Kashmir — and its use in the elections by the BJP — “a natural hunting ground for the champions of Hindutva”, the April 28 editorial in Dawn weighs in on the politics of religion in Indian elections. According to the editorial, the “BJP believes that its best shot at securing a victory in the general election in India is by driving a wedge between the majority Hindu community and the minorities, which by no means constitute ‘small’ sections of the population. Armed with Hindutva ideas that are blamed for pre-deciding the polls on the basis of religion, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has gone about employing tactics that are meant to intimidate and scare off opponents and force large-scale public surrender to the BJP doctrine.”
The arrest of Hurriyat leader Yasin Malik, in particular, appears to be the cause of Dawn’s chagrin: “Mr Malik’s arrest and the banning of his Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front mark the continuation of a policy of division that had only recently seen a harsh crackdown on other Hurriyat parties. The clampdown against the Jamaat-i-Islami has been particularly severe. Sane analyses of the situation warn the BJP against the serious repercussions that new measures of suppression can lead to.”
Taking off from the second BRI meeting in Beijing, Munir Akram calls the CPEC and BRI “a historic opportunity for Pakistan” in his column in Dawn. First, he dismisses the objections to BRI and the fear that it could lead to a “debt trap” as part of the US’s “media campaign” to discredit China’s massive infrastructure project: “The admonitions regarding the debt owed to China are particularly galling given that over 90 per cent of developing country debt is owed to Western countries and institutions. Servicing this debt consumes around 30 per cent of annual hard currency outflows from these developing countries. This debt is due to flawed Western development ‘aid’ which has contributed only marginally to the development of recipient countries. The US opposition has a strategic rationale. The initiative trumps the US aim of creating a ring of alliances around China’s periphery and maintaining its domination of the ‘India-Pacific’. The US has yet to acknowledge this is a losing battle.”
Akram, a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN, then goes to great lengths to illustrate how far China has gone to help Pakistan as well as the benefits of being a leader of the BRI process. He then adds: “The opportunity for Pakistan in China is more compelling. China is supporting Pakistan’s infrastructure development and industrialisation. It can be a growing market for Pakistan’s exports. Pakistan must aim not only to emulate the path of China’s growth but to improve on it, by learning from its successes and failures. Pakistan’s aim should be not so much to ‘catch up’ as to ‘leapfrog’ into the 21st-century economy. In its cooperation, Pakistan should not seek the technologies of the past or present but those of the future which China is now introducing and applying: high-speed rail (not old systems), AI, electric vehicles, environment-friendly energy, e-commerce, etc. Pakistan needs to be well organised. Islamabad must identify what it wants and needs from China and formulate a strategy of how to achieve it.”
In the wake of the horrific attack in Sri Lanka on Easter, the April 27 editorial in The Daily Star welcomes Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s words to the effect that constant vigilance is needed to safeguard South Asia against terrorism and fundamentalism.
First, “she has rightly pointed out that everyone must play their part in the fight against this scourge including religious leaders. She has asked the imams of mosques to deliver sermons against terrorism and militancy at the Friday congregations where they should highlight Islam as a religion of peace… She has mentioned that guardians, teachers, public representatives, imams of mosques and clerics of all religions can stand together against suspected militant activity in their respective localities.”
Second, the editorial points out that “the reality is that terror attacks can occur anytime anywhere and the profiles of terrorists are becoming increasingly difficult to categorise. But if we can effectively address the roots of militancy it will become more and more difficult for terror groups to recruit agents and carry out attacks. While the government has initiated de-radicalisation programmes, we, as a people, have a responsibility to make sure our young people especially, do not fall prey to the indoctrination of distorted ideologies.”
In essence, the political and ideological pre-conditions that allow terrorism to take root must be addressed.