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View from the neighbourhood: Imran Khan’s maiden 100

Asia Bibi’s acquittal on charges of blasphemy by the Supreme Court of Pakistan has brought the government into conflict with religious extremists and “caused the government to stumble badly.”

Published: December 3, 2018 12:50:25 am
Imran Khan, Imran Khan pakistan, Imran Khan PTI, Pakistan debt, Asia Bibi, Asia Bibi pakistan supreme court, pakistan news Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan

“In truth,” marks the November 30 editorial in Dawn, “any federal government would struggle to make substantive achievements in its first 100 days in office.” However, the “snazzy”, hyperbolic politics of Imran Khan’s PTI has put “undue pressure” on the current ruling dispensation in Pakistan. An event to mark the completion of 100 days of the government on November 29, reflected this facet of the PTI-led government once again: “Nothing particularly new or meaningful about policy matters was revealed and the achievements that were mentioned are modest at best. Indeed, more notable are the crises that the government has had to contend with than its achievements so far.”

First, the financial crisis, which predates Imran Khan’s ascension to office, has been made worse by the “indecision of the PTI’s economic team”. Second, Asia Bibi’s acquittal on charges of blasphemy by the Supreme Court of Pakistan has brought the government into conflict with religious extremists and “caused the government to stumble badly.”

On the foreign affairs front, “hostile governments in the US and India contributed to a difficult foreign climate”. On the domestic front, “The continuation of a bruising style of politics has brought the PTI rulers in conflict with the opposition in parliament and has kept the coalition government in a more precarious political position than it ought to be.”

Politics sans people

Noted Karachi-based political-economist S Akbar Zaidi writes in Dawn on November 30 about a number of events over the last few days in Pakistan that “most forms of progressive movements and politics, or expressions of resistance, have come to a dismal end”.

Zaidi writes: “The humiliation of activists is routine”, and the pillar meant to hold the state to account is faltering: “With a number of well-known, relatively progressive journalists having to leave their position of some importance as anchors or participants in television talk shows, the silencing of even minimal dissent has given way to the worst form of inane chatter on television, where any issue of real relevance is simply brushed aside. The proud tradition of journalists being part of the movement against every dictator has been forgotten as the new order of accommodation and compromise replaces free speech and dissent.”

But the greatest example of the phenomenon for Zaidi is the so-called “cleansing” of Karachi. In the name of removing “encroachments”, the city has been gutted. Zaidi writes: “Ironically, for a city which has been dominated by the politics of those who were once the lower middle classes, this absence reveals even more emptiness. While the elite would gather to march against the American consulate being built near a very elitist school or gather for some action to save parts of their favourite beaches, the destruction of the livelihood of many thousands just means better parking spaces for them if they ever venture ‘that side of Clifton bridge’. While Karachi has changed extensively over the last few years in many ways, the end of any kind of civic protest must represent the most dismal of changes.”

Call it a genocide

The December 2 editorial in The Daily Star of Bangladesh calls, once again, for the systematic persecution and killing of the Rohingya in Myanmar to be labelled a “genocide” by “world powers”: “With a consensus growing among human rights groups and other organisations that genocide was indeed committed against the Rohingya people, the US and other world powers must now recognise Myanmar’s anti-Rohingya military operation for what it really was: a deliberate extermination campaign.”

The editorial does “understand that the international community is wary of taking any action that may undermine Myanmar’s civilian government. But at the same time, when it comes to such a grave crisis, the world must prioritise its moral duty over realpolitiking.”

No bar

The November 29 editorial in The Himalayan asserts that the Nepal government’s “booze control plan is simply bizarre”. A new executive order — Control on Production, Sale and Distribution of Alcohol — prepared by the Ministry of Home Affairs is aimed at preventing bars and restaurants from serving alcoholic beverages after 10 pm, restricting alcoholic beverage manufacturers from advertising their products and not allowing liquor stores to sell alcohol after 9 pm. The government “wants” bars and restaurants to serve alcoholic beverages only after 5:00 pm and liquor stores only after 4:00 pm.

The editorial takes the view that “the government must identify the fine line between regulation and control. Any move to control alcohol sale, consumption and marketing needs extensive and informed discussions. By setting time for buying liquor and drinking at bars and restaurants, the government is also trying to take away people’s right to choose, which is tantamount to infringement upon people’s individual liberty”.

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

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