Patience, it appears, has its limits. In its January 18 editorial, Dawn appears almost annoyed at the invitation by India to Pakistan for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit, to be held later this year. In deference to consistency perhaps — the newspaper has always favoured talks as the only solution to the issues between India and Pakistan — the editorial does pay lip-service to the fact that the invitation is a departure from New Delhi’s overall reticence and jingoism. Given that the sidelines of multilateral events can help informal talks “the prospect of Pakistan’s participation in the SCO summit. has brought up the possibility of forward movement where the currently frozen bilateral ties between the two countries are concerned”.
But after this drab note of optimism, the editorial issues a caution: “There should be no illusions; unless the core issues affecting the Pakistan-India relationship are addressed, a mere photo op between the two leaders will be of little use.” At the centre of these “core issues” are New Delhi’s actions on the constitutional status of Kashmir as well as the clampdown on communications, politics and alleged human rights violations in the state. In addition, there are now “Islamophobic” laws against Muslims in India and “the recent bellicose, anti-Pakistan statements by Indian generals have further poisoned the atmosphere”.
“If there is to be peace,” says the editorial, “such jingoism must be reined in”. The editorial does reiterate that dialogue is the only way forward for the Subcontinent. “Pakistan has over the past few years taken several steps for peace, yet the response from the other side has been less than enthusiastic. The SCO summit can prove to be a chance to change things for the better.”
A new culture?
“President Gotabaya Rajapaksa (GR),” says the editorial on January 16 in The Island, “has decided to put an end to the practice of arrests being made even in situations where they are not called for.” Instructions to this end have reportedly been given to Sri Lanka’s police chief. The newspaper welcomes the development, understandably so.
The “selective” efficiency of the Sri Lankan police in certain matters has been a cause for concern in that country for some time. With nearly every political change of guard in Colombo, there has been some targeting of political workers. In addition, given the state of most prisons and judicial delays, the fact of an arrest is dire punishment in itself.
The very top of the political class, though, has been immune to this in Sri Lanka: “Some of them have the remarkable ability to fall sick at will. This, they do when they are about to be arrested and get themselves admitted to hospital; they recover upon being bailed out. But neither politicians nor other people should be arrested and remanded unless there is irrefutable evidence to prove that they are bent on perverting the course of justice.” GR’s call to end this culture, whether for politicians or ordinary people, “is welcome”.
Mobs and justice
Unfortunately, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India share more than just a rich history, culture and many other affinities. In all three countries, the lynching mob has made what the editorial in Dhaka Tribune calls a “mockery of justice”. In 2019, from students to ordinary people, Bangladesh has been witness to the mob and its variety so-called justice — much like in India and Pakistan.
While the end of the year saw a decline in the number of attacks, the sheer fact of this phenomenon is something to bemoan: “No one can take the law into their own hand. Last year, Bangladesh witnessed a series of mob lynchings that shook the nation to the core. While the trend died down near the end of 2019, it is sad to see this most heinous of acts resurface, with four people having lost their lives in separate incidences throughout the country. In Jessore, three men were lynched as they were suspected to be cattle thieves; in Savar a 40-year-old was beaten to death, while a 14-year-old was brutally tortured by a group of people in Gaibandha.”
But the editorial, somewhat disturbingly, also qualifies its condemnation: “The fact that the public is forcing its way into the position of judge, jury, and executioner indicates that they are wary of the police. To simply punish those who are carrying out these lynchings, then, would be a half measure, as it does nothing to strike at the heart of why people feel the need to take the law into their own hands in the first place.”
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