Dawn Editorial 11th February 2024

New PCB chief

AS soon as Punjab CM Mohsin Naqvi became cricket chief, the first elected Pakistan Cricket Board chairman in 14 months, the rumour mill began to churn. A return for Babar Azam as national team captain was one of the first things we heard, underscoring the inclination of new PCB chiefs to undo their predecessor’s decisions. Babar had been removed as all-format captain by Zaka Ashraf, who was PCB’s interim management committee head, following the team’s sub-par performance at the ODI World Cup. Shan Masood and Shaheen Shah Afridi were appointed Test and Twenty20 captains but Babar could well become ODI captain, if not reinstated across all formats. There could also be a change in the team management. Cricket hasn’t done well: a 3-0 Test series whitewash in Australia, followed by a 4-1 T20 drubbing in New Zealand. But issues pertaining to the team may be one of the last things on Mr Naqvi’s agenda. The upcoming season of the Pakistan Super League, the PCB’s financial driver, is set to begin on Feb 17. As the fallout from the general elections continues, there is a possibility of the event being delayed. Mr Naqvi will have to use his political nous to ensure the PSL takes place according to schedule, with international commitments to follow ahead of the Twenty20 World Cup in June.

Mr Naqvi’s term is for three years, during which Pakistan is to host the 2025 Champions Trophy. Not only does the PCB have to prepare the venues and facilities for the eight-team tournament. it also has to continue talking to the International Cricket Council to ensure that India plays in Pakistan in the tournament after the national side went to the former country for the World Cup. But will Mr Naqvi last that long? PCB heads have almost always had the blessings of the government of the day, and the final poll outcome will determine how long he stays.

Published in Dawn, February 11th, 2024

Communal frenzy

AS a general election looms in India in the next few months, with the strong likelihood of another BJP government coming to power at the centre, Indian Muslims are dreading the future. After all, the signs are dark. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decade-long rule has hardly been a time of safety and prosperity for India’s Muslims, it is clear that matters are about to get much worse. Five people were killed during clashes with police in the northern state of Uttarakhand on Friday, after a madressah was bulldozed a day earlier. Authorities in the BJP-ruled state say the structure was ‘illegal’. According to some media reports all those killed were Muslim. Also last week, Uttarakhand passed the Uniform Civil Code, a controversial move that overrides religious laws pertaining to marriage, divorce and inheritance. And late in January, federal authorities in New Delhi demolished a centuries-old mosque in the historic Mehrauli area, again under the guise of an ‘anti-encroachment’ operation. While Muslims have been targeted throughout the BJP’s rule, particularly in states governed by the party, harassment and violence have picked up in the aftermath of last month’s opening of the Ram temple built on the ruins of the Babri Masjid. Evidently, the BJP wants to fulfil the dream of the RSS, its ideological parent, and ensure that the Muslim history and culture of India is wiped out, and the Muslim community itself is given two choices: conversion to Hinduism, or perpetual serfdom in the Hindu rashtra.

The madness to ‘reclaim’ mosques, demolish them and turn them into temples is tantamount to playing with fire. Mosques in Varanasi and Mathura are already in the sights of Hindu zealots. If these actions are allowed to continue, communal frenzy may erupt in India. In addition, the plan to enforce a uniform legal code nationally is a bad one. The BJP is not doing it out of any sympathy for Muslims, especially the community’s women. Rather, this devious move is meant to erase Muslim cultural and religious practices, and eventually one day expunge the Muslim identity from the ‘pure’ land of Bharat. The Sangh Parivar’s programme for India is a dangerous one, as it combines ancient mythology with 20th-century fascism in a lethal cocktail. If allowed to proceed, it will prove devastating for India’s Muslims as well as other minority communities.

Published in Dawn, February 11th, 2024

More uncertainty

IT appears that a coalition government is in the offing, as no single party has enough seats to form a government.

After his ‘victory speech’ some days ago, PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif said his was the single largest party, and called on other political leaders to initiate discussions and negotiate a way forward. Soon after, there were reports that PPP’s Asif Ali Zardari and PML-N’s Shehbaz Sharif held a meeting, an indication that the two leaders, despite their differences in recent months, are attempting to chart a way forward.

Of course, the role of parties such as MQM-P and other smaller parties, is key as they too will lend support to reach the magic number of seats. The PML-N is optimistic that two dozen or more independents will join their ranks, and is banking on its relationship with different parties to show a victorious front.

As the numbers game plays out, the country once again finds itself in a familiar place — one that is steeped in political uncertainty. In recent months, the PPP and PML-N have had an acrimonious relationship. The PML-N is annoyed that PPP distanced itself from the PDM government’s decisions, and that it was left to face the brunt of the public’s wrath over increasing inflation. Its key members also do not trust Mr Zardari.

Similarly, the PPP has been vocal in its criticism of the N-League, with its chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari taking potshots at Mr Nawaz Sharif during his campaign, and even telling this newspaper in an interview that he was “disappointed” in the former prime minister.

With these misgivings, how will this motley crew sit together in parliament? Whose agenda will take priority? And how will they bring the stability, reforms and leadership the country so badly needs? More importantly, did the public really turn up in large numbers to vote to be ruled by PDM 2.0?

As the wheeling and dealing proceeds, two things are clear: one, that however the PML-N cobbles this coalition together, its ‘victory’ will be more bitter than sweet. Without the outcome it had hoped for, it is now left to perform that uneasy dance of give and take for political survival. This is certainly not the fantasy Mr Sharif harboured when he returned to Pakistan after four years abroad.

The second is that such a government is always vulnerable to outside forces. As we saw previously, the PTI-led coalition government was held together by an external glue, and its days were numbered when that glue did not stick. Forming such a post-election alliance is not unique to Pakistan, as other countries witness similar events and end up having weak governments. But in our case, the vulnerability to external forces further complicates an already fragile democratic process.

Published in Dawn, February 11th, 2024


February 20, 2024

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