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Falling Into the Grip of Bloodlust?

The Kashmir Monitor

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By Prem Shankar Jha

This is the country where Gautam Buddha was born. This is the country where Bhakti and Sufi poets and saints stripped Brahminical Hinduism and orthodox Islam of ritual, idol worship and clerical control, and preached union with the almighty through love and submission.

This is the country that produced Mahatma Gandhi, who drove the British out of India without firing a shot at them. But today this same country is in the grip of a bloodlust in which the only issue being discussed ad nauseam is ‘how many terrorists/ Pakistanis did “we” kill in Balakot?’

 

Nowhere is the new bloodlust more visible than on Indian television, which is being watched abroad with growing horror on YouTube. A report in the Washington Post has summed up its irresponsibility with damning precision:

More than two weeks after the (Pulwama) attack, our analysis finds that no news site had rectified the errors in their reporting, leaving these misleading facts as a matter of public record. Instead, the Indian media has ascribed to itself the role of an amplifier of the government propaganda that took two nuclear states to the brink of war. Many TV newsrooms were transformed into caricatures of military command centers, with anchors assessing military technology and strategy (sometimes incorrectly). Some even dressed for the occasion in combat gear. Speculation and conjecture were repeated ad infinitum, and several journalists even took to Twitter to encourage the Indian army.

If blame can be ascribed to any single individual, it has to be Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is willing to stop at nothing to win the next election. But why has the media, which prides itself on being the fourth estate of democracy joined in so enthusiastically? The short answer is that the audience to whom it panders is not the India that has existed for ages, but a new India being created mainly in the urban areas today.

That India and its proponent, the RSS, are products of modernity and the rupture it creates with the past. For this India, religion begins and ends with the robotic performance of ritual, pooja to idols, pilgrimages to Vaishno Devi and Amar Nath, and ‘purifying’ baths during the KumbhMela at the confluence of the stinking Ganges and Yamuna rivers that they have not the slightest intention of either reviving or cleaning up.

This new India is still small. Even in 2014, barely 31% of the electorate voted for Modi. So why are there no defenders of the old India out there? While many factors are responsible, in the political sphere the answer seems to lie in the cultural vacuum at the core of the Congress, the largest party in the opposition.

Neither the Congress president nor his advisors have a gut understanding of the core values of Hindu society; its syncretic, accepting, pluralism; its willingness to adapt, live and let live. So they are unable to feel the anger that the degradation of Hinduism, and perversion of its core values by the RSS has created in caste Hindus of the old India, and the fear it has inspired in the Dalits, some of the backward classes and the Muslims.

This emotional vacuum at the top has led the Congress into the trap of trying to compete with the BJP by peddling ‘soft Hinduism’, instead of opposing the ‘hard Hindutva’ of the RSS, tooth and nail. Before the Gujarat elections, Rahul Gandhi visited temple after temple, came out of them with a teeka on his forehead and proclaimed that “I am a Hindu” in much the same way as a convert to Islam or Christianity would proclaim that he or she is now a Muslim or Christian.

This “soft” Hindutva explains why he was so quick to accept Pakistan’s direct culpability in the attack, why he described it almost sentimentally as “an attack on India’s soul” and, without prior discussion, committed not only the Congress but the entire opposition to “fully supporting the government and the security forces” in their actions. By doing this he legitimised in advance every action that Modi has taken against Pakistan.

“Soft Hindutva” also explains many of his subsequent silences and omissions, such as why he did not point out that Pakistan was only indirectly to blame because the suicide bomber was a Kashmiri youth; why he was unable to respond to Modi’s dangerous brinkmanship in launching a pre-emptive attack on a Jaish-e-Mohammad madrassa and training camp at Balakot, and why he did not immediately condemn Modi’s calculated silence over the expulsion of hundreds of Kashmiris from apartments, rooms and hostels by frenzied mobs across north India.

To the minorities, as well as to the Hindus of the ‘old’ India, this conveyed the disheartening news that for the Congress too, political expediency trumped the rule of law. So why bother to vote for it?

This lack of courage has allowed Modi to turn the tables on the opposition. Whereas it is he who is playing a dangerous game of brinkmanship in a desperate effort to win an election, he was almost certain to lose (with the help of the ever-subservient media), he has been able to portray the opposition as unprincipled, opportunistic politicians who care two hoots about India’s security and standing in South Asia and the world, and are only intent upon ousting the BJP from power at any cost.

As a result, Modi has been able to make a significant part of the population of the country forget, at least for the moment, the collapse of the economy, the crisis in agriculture, the stagnation of industry, the 11 million jobs lost by it over the past five years, and the hollowness of the grandiose promises he made to them when he came to power. Whether Modi will be able to make their amnesia last till the general elections remains to be seen. But Rahul Gandhi’s silence on this front too is not going to shorten it.

Sadly, this is not the end of India’s misfortune for, having made one major mistake, Rahul Gandhi seems intent on making another, even bigger one. This is not to understand the imperative need to avoid fracturing the anti-BJP vote at any cost. Instead, through his lack of experience and his want of leadership qualities, he is doing the exact opposite: in state after state, he is allowing the short sightedness and greed of his party rank and file to make him demand far more seats than the Congress’s share of the vote merits, and thereby disrupt the building of a common front against the BJP.

In Delhi, the Congress has flatly refused to make any seat-sharing agreement with the AamAdmi Party, and has decided to fight all seven seats by itself, despite the fact that it does not stand a snowball in hell’s chance of winning even a single seat, and can only divide the vote in favour of the BJP. This has been made abundantly clear by an opinion poll based on a mammoth 18,750 person sample which shows that while the AAP still holds 52% of the vote, the Congress share is a paltry 5.5%.

In the crucial state of UP, the Congress has already published the names of 11 candidates and intends to fight many more seats in spite of having won only 2 seats out of 80 in 2014 and commanding barely 11% of the vote. In UP too, whatever little chance the Congress had of cutting into the BJP vote to win some seats has been destroyed by its tame acceptance of Modi’s leadership in dealing with the aftermath of Pulwama. Today, all that the Congress can do is to increase the number of seats that the BJP will win.

As if these setbacks are not enough, relations between the Congress and Tejaswi Yadav’s RJD are also becoming strained in Bihar, if reports in some newspapers are accurate.

Well before the Gujarat assembly election, Arvind Kejriwal made three attempts to contact Rahul Gandhi in order to forge an alliance with the Congress in the state.

Kejriwal understood that while the AAP could not win any seats on its own, it did command a sizeable share of the vote in Gujarat. He was therefore willing to put up AAP candidates in seats selected by the Congress, where the AAP had the greatest capacity to cut into the BJP’s vote. Rahul Gandhi did not even bother to reply to his phone calls. So the BJP came back to power by the skin of its teeth, winning 18 seats with a margin of 5,000 or fewer votes and nine with a margin of less than 2,000.

Today, the Indian nation is facing a crisis whose seriousness almost no one in the Congress party understands (and the few who do dare not to speak). Thanks to Rahul Gandhi’s inexperience and indecisiveness there is now a distinct possibility that the BJP will emerge as the largest single party after the next elections and be able to form a government with allies of one sort or the other.

Should that happen, the dwindling but still substantial number of Kashmiris who want azadi without losing their links with India will lose all hope and start backing those who want to secede from India. India will have lost Kashmir forever. Worse still, a future BJP government’s attempt to hold on to it by force alone, as Modi has done for the past five years, will almost certainly precipitate a war with Pakistan.

In the Indian heartland, democrats and dissidents will be silenced through a wholesale use of repressive laws. Vigilante rule targeting Muslims and Dalits will gather momentum. As faith in the police and the judiciary dwindles, first a few, and then more targeted youth swing to terrorism, just as hundreds, if not thousands, of Kashmiri youth have done in the past five years. The police repression that will inevitably follow will destroy the last vestiges of democracy and the rule of law.

State governments not under BJP rule will not take this lying down. Their attempts to protect their democratic systems will deepen the crisis of federalism. The portents are already visible: Modi has not held a single meeting of the National Development Council since he came to power, and questioned the very need for its existence in January 2015.

The portents are unambiguous: if the BJP of the Modi era (not to be confused with the BJP of the Vajpayee era) is returned to power, it is not only its democracy but its unity, and its syncretic culture that will be in mortal danger.

(Courtesy: thewire.in)


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Opinion

Lock, stock and barrel unconstitutional

The Kashmir Monitor

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By Shariq J Reyaz

The unfortunate legal and constitutional history of Jammu & Kashmir has been fraught with various acts – both direct and indirect, innocuous and dangerous, benign and malignant – that have consistently compromised the unique Constitutional position of the State.

The recent constitutional amendments and the consequent amending of the Jammu & Kashmir Reservation Act by the President by virtue of an Ordinance is an ex-facie unconstitutional Act.

 

There are two major legal arguments that have to be appreciated when it comes to the present constitutional amendments and the consequent amending of the State Act.

The first deals with the implications of Article 370 of the Constitution of India, and the second deals with the power of the President to amend a State Act (J&K Reservation Act in the present case) during the period of the proclamation under Article 356 (colloquially known as ‘President’s Rule’) of the Constitution of India.

The first argument is rather simple, and I have seen constitutional experts comment on it when they say that the Constitution of India does not apply to the State of Jammu & Kashmir of its own force, and has to be applied to the state by resorting to the rigors of Article 370 of the Constitution.

Article 370 provides a mechanism for application of the Indian Constitution to the State of Jammu & Kashmir. It can be done by a presidential order, which for its implementation requires the ‘consultation’ or ‘concurrence’ of the state government. The state government, for the purpose of Article 370, meant the Maharaja (now the Governor by amendment).

The upshot of the above is that every presidential order that applies any part of the Constitution to the State of Jammu & Kashmir, whether in a modified or amended form, requires the mandatory consultation or concurrence of the state government being the Governor acting upon the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers.

So, when the 77th Constitutional Amendment and the 103rd Constitutional amendment were hitherto not applicable are to be now applied to the State of Jammu & Kashmir, the ‘concurrence’ of the State Government is a prerequisite. Since the Assembly is dissolved and there is no Council of Ministers, the Governor, acting without the advice of the Council of Ministers, is legally incompetent to give such concurrence.

The usage of the words ‘acting on the aid and advice of the council of Ministers specifically assumes all significance because when the Article was drafted, it was done in a particular way to incorporate the mandatory views of the representatives of the State of Jammu & Kashmir, being the Council of Ministers.

The Constituent Assembly debates make it further clear that the Maharaja, who was otherwise the sovereign head of the state, had inducted a Council of Ministers by a royal warrant dated 05.03.1948 and vested all the responsibility of the government with such Council. The following excerpt from the Constituent Assembly debates takes the matter beyond the realm of doubt.

M GopalswamiAyyanagar, who proposed and debated Article 370 (then Article 306A), had, in the context of Council of Ministers and the Maharaja said that the Maharaja had “instituted a kind of responsible Government with a Prime Minister and colleagues who would own collective responsibility for their acts and regard themselves as jointly responsible for all the acts of the Government’.

The Maharaja then and the Governor now are merely nominated heads with no independent decision-making power when it comes to Article 370. Thus, today, the Governor (being the nominated head of the State), acting without a Council of Ministers, is legally incompetent to give any concurrence to the application of any part of the Constitution of India to the State of Jammu & Kashmir. The unilateral action of the Governor is insufficient compliance of Article 370 and is thus manifestly vitiated in law.

There is, however, a specious counter-argument that could have led the Governor to give his concurrence. A legally inept mind could have suggested to the Governor that by virtue of the President’s, Rule the function of the state government now vested with the President and such function includes the duty to aid and advise the Governor. Hence, if the function of the state government was delegated by the President to the Governor, the Governor by such delegation had subsumed the function of the government and could thus aid and advise himself for the material satisfaction of Article 370.

Such a proposition, as you must have gathered from the plain wording of it, is too grotesque to be accepted and would be alien to the working of a Constitution. It would certainly not hold up to judicial scrutiny, because apart from being legally incongruous, it patently militates against the rationale behind the incorporation of the Article in the first place.

The constitutional import of Article 370 is all too well known to make way for any such perverse argument. The importance of the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers being the elected representatives of the people of Jammu & Kashmir is what keeps the power grounded in the democratic realm, otherwise, the safeguard of Article 370 would have been a fool’s bargain.

If such aid and advice is directly or indirectly dispensed with, the decision would fall foul of the spirit as well as the letter of Article 370 and would hence be unconstitutional.

The second more egregious argument pertains to the fact that the President, after having issued a proclamation under Article 356 (‘President’s Rule’), has amended a State Act (J&K Reservation Act) by issuing an Ordinance under Article 91 of the State Constitution. There is absolutely no discernible method to this madness.

It must be understood that a proclamation under Article 356 falls under Part XVIII of the Constitution, which deals with ‘Emergency Provisions’. Such provisions are a departure from the general working of the Constitution where the state government and Union Government operate in different fields. Under the Emergency provisions chapter, there is a lot of overlaying in which powers of the state government and the state legislature can, in emergent situations, be drastically vested with the President and the Parliament.

However, the exact and the only mechanism and manner in which such things can be done is also specifically provided in the said chapter. Whenever President’s Rule u/a 356 is declared in any state of India, the functions of the state government vests with the President, and the power of the state legislature i.e. the power to make or amend laws for the state, vests with the Parliament of India.

That is to say that under President’s Rule, only Parliament can make/amend laws which otherwise the state legislature is competent to make/amend. So, in essence, right now, while Jammu & Kashmir is under President’s Rule, only Parliament could amend the J&K Reservation Act and no other authority could do that. The President is, by the express language of Article 356, precluded from exercising any power of the state legislature.

Article 357, however, provides a mechanism in which Parliament can delegate its newly acquired power of making/amending laws with respect to the state legislature to the President. That would require Parliament to pass an Act delegating its powers with respect to the state legislature to the President. When such an Act is passed, then and only then would the President have the power to amend the J&K Reservation Act, a State enactment.

The examples when in the past Parliament, while a state was under President’s Rule, had enacted a law to empower the President to make/amend laws for a state legislature are many. The Uttar Pradesh State Legislature (Delegation of Powers) Act 1973, West Bengal State Legislature (Delegation of Powers) Act, 1968, Madhya Pradesh State Legislature (Delegation of Powers Act) 1993, Tamil Nadu State Legislature (Delegation of Powers) Act 1976, are some of them.

So, for all intents and purposes, like every other state under President’s Rule, Jammu & Kashmir also should have had a J&K State Legislature (Delegation of Powers) Act, 2019 passed by the Parliament delegating its power to the President and empowering the President to amend any state law including the J&K Reservation Act.

While Parliament in its Winter Session approved the President’s Rule in January 2019, no such Act was passed delegating the powers of the state legislature to the President. Parliament, by doing no such thing while it was in session, kept the power with itself and in absence of any such delegation, vested no power in the President to even touch any state enactment leave alone amend it. There was no other way available in which such delegation of power could be achieved. If the President resorted to any other way to amend the J&K Reservation Act, it would be manifestly ‘unconstitutional’.

The President astoundingly and against all known legal canons issued an Ordinance under Article 91 of the State Constitution to amend the J&K Reservation Act. An Ordinance can never be issued for a state by the President during a period of proclamation under Article 356. It is an impossibility and has never been done for any other state.

The period of proclamation, as pointed out before, is an extraordinary situation governed solely by Part XVIII of the Constitution and the only mechanism that can be resorted to amend a state legislature is the one provided under Article 356 and 357.

The general provision of an Ordinance under Article 123 of the Constitution of India or Article 91 of the State Constitution is not countenanced as a mechanism to amend the state Act during a proclamation under Article 356. There cannot be any automatic assumption of power in the President on the pretext that the Parliament is not session. The express language of Article 356 precluding the President from assuming the power of state legislature and the express command of Article 357 mandating how such power can be delegated, would prohibit the President from usurping the power not belonging to him.

The power to make laws during President’s Rule is entirely different from the power of making laws through an Ordinance. They operate at different times for achieving different objects. One cannot be substituted for the other. It’s like chalk and cheese for the legally trained mind. The laws made during President’s Rule are qualitatively and constitutionally altogether different and distinct from laws made through an Ordinance.

What has happened in Jammu & Kashmir has absolutely no constitutional sanction. The entire act of giving concurrence by the Governor without the aid of the Council of Ministers and the act of the President amending the J&K Reservation Act through an Ordinance are lock, stock, and barrel, unconstitutional acts.

(The author is a practicing advocate. Source: Bar & Bench)

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Chowkidar campaign a non-starter

The Kashmir Monitor

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By Bharat Bhushan

If Prime Minister NarendraModi is really winning, then why does he look like a loser? The inverted snobbery of claiming that he was nothing but a humble a watchman of the nation has now come back to haunt him. His usual genius in political marketing is not evident in his 2019 campaign for re-election, which seems unsure, and even confused.

Prime Minister Modi’s attempt to turn around the Congress accusation “Chowkidarchorhai” (the watchman himself is the thief) by calling himself the First Chowkidar of the nation simply isn’t pressing the right buttons. Neither is his social media campaign calling upon citizens to sign up as watchmen #MeinBhiChowkidar (I am also a watchman).

 

That he should have allowed this to happen is particularly curious since the 2019 general election is centred around him. The 2014 election was led by a wave of anti-Congressism across the length and breadth of the country. The Congress lost even in those states where it was not even pitted against the BJP, and the result was evident in the meagre number of LokSabha seats it won — 44, the lowest in its history.

In this general election, by contrast, the persona of Prime Minister Modi is the sole reference point for the voter. The electoral choices are clearly polarised by pro-Modi and anti-Modi sentiments. In the face of anti-incumbency against his government, Modi needs a positive vote in his favour. He needs to ignite his campaign, enthuse volunteers and swing the undecided voters.

On all these counts, his “chowkidar” campaign seems to be a failure. The sum and substance of Prime Minister Modi’s address to 25 lakh chowkidars earlier this week was still milking the sentiment of anti-Congress incumbency from five years’ ago. Only the right-wing Hindutva organisations have such a long and deep-seated hatred for the Congress version of nationalism. Normal citizens tend to have shorter memories and more immediate concerns.

Chowkidars are in fact a palpable reminder of public insecurity. A proliferation of citizen-chowkidars would underline the idea that the State is unable to protect its citizens. On top of that, security guards work in the most exploitative conditions. No one would actually aspire to their jobs, unlike, say, the glamour of being in the armed forces or snapping up a permanent government job.

The chowkidar campaign has also pushed into the background the chest-thumping nationalist narrative centred on Prime Minister Modi’s bombing of Pakistani territory. It had the potential to kick start his campaign and rouse his supporters. Has he concluded, however, that the war narrative is not working or is he floundering?

His re-election campaign has been flitting from one slogan to another. On January 20, he introduced a potential tagline for his campaign, quoting a dialogue from the Bollywood film Uri: The Surgical Strike, asking an audience of film celebrities in Mumbai: “How’s the josh (enthusiasm)?” His supporters replied: “Josh is very high Sir”! “How’s the Josh” was sought to be revived after the Indian Air Force dropped bombs in Balakot in Pakistan, and it trended for a while on the social media.

However, by the end of February, “How’s the Josh” was replaced by the slogan: “NamumkinAbMumkinHai (The impossible is now possible). Using data showcasing the government’s welfare schemes, full-page advertisements appeared in all the major newspapers. On March 14, finance minister ArunJaitley’s blog revealed that the tagline had been amended to “ModiHaiToMumkinHai (Because Modi makes it possible)”. Prime Minister Modi was packaged as a doer, making decisions and implementing them at an unprecedented pace.

But the Prime Minister’s detractors quickly unravelled this catchy campaign with counter-slogans: “Chowkidarkachorikarnanamumkintha #NamumkinAbMumkinHai”, “Chowkidar hi chorhaikyonki #NamumkinAbMumkinHai”. The social media was trending with bon mots such as that it was impossible to mislead the Supreme Court, but Prime Minister Modi had made it possible; and that it was impossible to loot `30,000 crores (the offset offered to Anil Ambani’s companies by Dassault in the Rafale deal) from citizens, but it had been made possible; it was impossible for Jay Shah (BJP president Amit Shah’s son) to increase his turnover 16,000 times, but that too had been made possible; it was impossible to take unemployment rate to a 45-year high but Mr Modi had made it possible; and to top it all “entire political science mein degree nammumkinthi par #NamumkinAbMumkinHai” in a direct dig at the controversy about the Prime Minister’s claim of having got a master’s degree in “Entire Political Science”.

Perhaps the BJP was at its wit’s end when its strategists suggested that the party take on the Congress’ allegations frontally.

However, the “everyone-is-a-chowkidar” campaign is not really uplifting for the voters. Whereas his “chai par charcha (discussion over tea)” campaign during the 2014 general election had projected the voter as having a role in framing the nation’s future, the chowkidar campaign lacks the same buzz.

Only aspirational campaigns have worked well the world over historically. In the United States, the taglines that have won elections included “Vote Yourself a Farm” (Abraham Lincoln, 1860), “A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage”(Herbert Hoover, 1928), “Happy days are here again” (Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1932), “Change we can believe in” and “Yes we can” (Barak Obama, 2008 and 2012) and “Make America great again” (Donald Trump, 2016).

In India, aspirational slogans have worked very well in the past, such as “Jai Jawan Jai Kisan” (LalBahadurShastri, 1965 — although a mobilisational slogan, and not an election one), “GaribiHatao” (Indira Gandhi, 1972), “Indira HataoDeshBachao” (Jaiprakash Narayan, 1977), “Congress kahaath, sabkesaath” (Congress, 2004), and “Sabkasaathsabkavikas” and “Achhe din aanewalehain” a la Roosevelt (NarendraModi, 2014).

MeinBhiChowkidardoesn’t fit into the aspirational slogans that have swung elections in the past. Far from setting the agenda, this is a defensive campaign that at best diverts attention from the Opposition’s corruption allegations. It is unlikely that as a chowkidar, Prime Minister NarendraModi will be able to woo voters.

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Opinion

Tackling terrorism in Pakistan

The Kashmir Monitor

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By Imtiaz Alam

Bilawal Bhutto, otherwise seen as hawkish on India, seems to have attracted the accusation of subscribing to the ‘Indian narrative’ because of his demand to the government to go tough on the unfinished business of tackling proscribed terrorist outfits.

[The accusations by some PTI ministers against him may have reminded him of his diatribes against former PM Nawaz Sharif when the latter had tried to made half-baked overtures to ease tensions with India].

 

Ironically, in both India and Pakistan politicians accuse each other of speaking the language of the ‘enemy’. We see this in India too, where adversaries are blaming each other over the Pulwama attack. What Bilawal Bhutto is stressing is the urgency to effectively tackle terrorism; Prime Imran Khan himself has also talked about past failures in tackling this menace. Bilawal Bhutto has been very consistent against terrorism and has also rightly demanding a powerful bipartisan parliamentary body to oversee the full implementation of National Action Plan.

Meanwhile, China has – once again – put a hold on the designation of Jaish-e-Mohammed founder Masood Azhar as an international terrorist list by the UNSC. The move was initiated by France, US and UK who were supported by Russia, besides Germany, Australia, Japan, Italy, Belgium, Poland and Bangladesh. The UN’s 1267 Sanction Committee measures include asset freeze, travel ban and arms embargo on the listed terrorist outfits (and persons), including LeT and JeM. Pakistan, which has been placed on the grey list by the FATF, is legally bound to comply with these sanctions.

I don’t understand why Pakistan should carry the burden of opprobrium. Such a listing of Hafiz Saeed and his successive fronts did not make any difference and he and his successive fronts survived international sanctions and successive bans, embarrassing Pakistan’s official national stance against terrorism of all hues. Masood Azhar being listed would not have been of any consequence.

In recently-held National Security Council and corps commander meetings, Pakistani authorities have once again resolved to effectively tackle terrorism. The National Action Plan is being revisited and a countrywide operation is underway to take over the assets of 68 proscribed outfits and put their activists under protective custody. Such measures were also taken in the past but they failed to achieve the desired results. The proscribed organisations re-emerged with new names and continued to embarrass Pakistan. Their amirs or spiritual-cum-military chiefs refused to take a backseat as they tried to reinvent their outfits for mainstream politics and welfare platforms.

From the very beginning, they claimed credit for most of their acts, which in certain cases led to the derailment of efforts towards resumption of dialogue with India by successive elected governments. Now, we hear a lot about a paradigm shift and the Bajwa Doctrine for peace, reconciliation and ending terrorism as an instrument of state policy, as civil and military leaderships are said to be on the same page. This was demonstrated in the recent standoff with India.

When it comes to the FATF, though, we need to show the task force that we will not be lenient towards rogue elements, something we have officially vowed we will not do. Otherwise, who will take us seriously? Despite undertaking successive kinetic counterterrorism campaigns and reaching a national consensus on NAP and repeatedly expressing our national resolve to not let our territory be used for terrorism against other countries, we continue to take international denunciations for our lapses. We have yet again launched a campaign against 68 proscribed organisations without, however, clearly knowing how to root out or reform them. And this is what Bilawal Bhutto is lamenting – and being wrongly accused in the process. For our national interest and future as a prosperous nation, we need a consistent strategy to root out all kinds of good or bad terrorists.

Extremist ideologies and militias were allowed to flourish for too long without giving any serious thought about their far-reaching adverse consequences. Given the past exigencies, the international community still suspects our intentions, despite the enormous sacrifices rendered by our people and our valiant soldiers in the nation’s fight against terrorism. Terrorist groups in Pakistan seem to be confused over their diminishing role. If at all they once served some limited purpose – at a great loss – they have now become totally counter-productive. Out of desperation, some of them have been playing the role of agent provocateurs and are desperately trying to make the state a hostage of their anarchist ideological designs. They have the potential to push Pakistan into an open conflict with India, Iran, Afghanistan, the US, China, Europe and the world at large.

Such elements will have to be dealt with full force. But, there are those who seem to be ready to submit to the law of the land and adopt a peaceful way of life. They have to be disarmed, re-oriented and provided with alternative means of peaceful living. While demolishing their networks, confiscating sources of funding, closing ideological and armed training centres/madressahs, they have to be absorbed in various civil subsidiaries of the state. While the experiment of their political mainstreaming was misused and has backfired, they may be allowed to have lawful political associations without the burden of their jihadi leaders.

On the other hand, regardless of the Indian obsession with Masood Azhar or Hafiz Saeed, the real issue is that of eradication of terrorism within and across our borders. The Indo-Pak military standoff has now metamorphosed into a vociferous electoral battle in India over the dividends of the surgical strikes (or the lack of them), and ridiculous point-scoring over the larger-than-life Masood Azhar. We should let the Chinese sort out this matter with India. To Modi’s dismay, Masood escaped the UNSC’s terrorist label. This has provided the Indian opposition another excuse to expose the BJP government’s yet another failure after the doubtful gains of surgical strikes against Pakistan.

As Modi drums up aggressive nationalism and takes a warrior path in his election campaign, Congress leaders and regional adversaries have joined hands in belittling his questionable military gains while dubbing him as the follower of the killer of Mahatma Gandhi. But there is no meaningful discourse on India’s future course towards Pakistan and the growing unrest in Kashmir. On the other side, Pakistan struggles to assure a suspecting world regarding its to-be-tested resolve to put an end to the use of its territory for terrorism against any country, India in particular.

Most of the media and public opinion leaders and makers were carried away by their respective national narratives, leaving little space for saner elements to register their dissent across the Subcontinent. As the four-week tension somehow recedes, voices of peace are emerging to address the most pertinent issues facing the future of the region. With the resumption of talks on the Kartarpur Corridor, it is time to revisit security paradigms, contain religious extremism and terrorism and explore out-of-the-box solutions to our disputes and differences. Let’s not allow non-state actors and jingoists play havoc with the destiny of our own Subcontinent.

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