Daily Times Editorial 5 August 2019

Tension in Kashmir


Tension is at an all time high along the Line of Control (LoC) after Indian troops resorted to using cluster bombs on civilians in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Prime Minister Imran Khan called a meeting of the National Security Committee to discuss the usage of banned munitions by Indian troops and reports of Indian government’s efforts to scrap the special status of Indian held Kashmir from the Indian constitution. The intensity of the situation demands that the government also reach out to the political leadership of the country to create a consensus on the policy to tackle the provoking and jingoistic steps of the Hindu nationalist government in New Delhi. Government after government has done so in times of crises and it helps build the morale of negotiators and troops. Since the Hindu nationalist Bharti Janata Party came to power, it has tried in one way or another to up the game in the scenic valley to keep it drenched in blood. Over the past few years, besides using deadly pellet guns on unarmed civilians and leaving scores of people blind or maimed, it has increased ceasefire and airspace violations along the Line of Control.
Besides building a consensus on the domestic front, the government should also take its case to international stakeholders and reach out to United Nations Secretary General António Guterres, OIC, European Union and the US to play their role in stopping blatant murder of innocent civilians in Kashmir. Diplomats stationed in Pakistan should be shown the evidence of Indian artillery using cluster ammunition. This is a clear violation of the Geneva Convention and international humanitarian laws as the use of cluster ammunition is prohibited because of its severe impact on non-combatants. Also, the recent military buildup in the already heavily militarised Indian held Kashmir, besides Indian warning to civilians to stock up food and fuel, is worrisome. Such steps have forced tourists to abandon their trips and leave the valley depriving the local population of their only source of livelihood.
Recent actions by the Indian government are not really surprising. By ordering tourists to leave it can control information, leaving little room for the media and the general public across the world to know the facts. Also, sane quarters in the BJP and India should question the Modi government’s policies in Kashmir. The recent back-to-back statements by US President Donald Trump, offering mediation, should be enough for the Modi government to understand that its missteps are being watched over the world over.


Cracks in the opposition


The failure of a sure-to-succeed no-confidence move against the Senate chairman by the joint opposition has revealed cracks in the alliance, another big success of the government. The defection of 14 senators in the secret ballot has driven a wedge between two main parties – the Pakistan People’s Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-N — as either side is accusing the other of foul play. Accusations of playing dirty first appeared in private discussions before hitting the airwaves and print spaces leaving an irreparable breach between the two parties. A better approach would have been to formulate a strategy to unearth the defectors and their movers and backers. If both parties think that secret balloting is fanning horse trading, they should move parliament to do away with this condition. The ruling party of the day, which itself has lost a couple of Senate seats in the past in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, should also support the move. In this regard, PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has announced seeking amendments to the parliamentary rules and constitution to abolish secret ballot during votes in parliament. Such initiatives were also part of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s manifesto.
In 2018, after PTI lost Senate elections, it dug into the incidents of sale and purchase of its MPAs and chucked the guilty out of its ranks. The step gained massive public approval, which was later reflected in the general elections. Now, both PPP and PML-N also have set up bodies to find the ‘sold senators’ and should promptly expel them from their ranks. They may lose senators and of course, majority in the Senate, but in the long run the practice will make the trade of members a thing of past. They should also focus on exposing the elements involved in the massive defections. As he has said that two people from PTI contacted their senators, Mr Bhutto-Zardari should explain why they remained silent in the first place. Intriguingly, not even one of the senators that sold out has come out in the open so far to explain the reason for favouring the incumbent Senate Chairman Sadiq Sinjrani.
A divided opposition suits the government both inside and outside parliament. It is up to opposition parties how they facilitate or frustrate the government’s plans.

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