Dawn Editorial 18th September 2023

Ram mandir opening

ON the rubble of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, a gleaming new Ram mandir is being built, and is scheduled to be opened publicly in January 2024. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been invited to the opening ceremony, and if past precedent is followed, he will attend. After all, Mr Modi was present at the mandir’s ground-breaking in 2020, observing that the day was as significant as India’s independence day. This hidebound view is understandable — for the Sangh Parivar, the mosque’s demolition and later the construction of the mandir after the Indian supreme court ruled in favour of building the temple, marks the birth of a ‘new’ India. This fabled land of the Sangh’s dreams will be a place where a new Vedic golden age will dawn, where all those outside the ideological fold — especially Muslims and other minorities — will be put in their place. Dangerous signs of what the ‘new’ India will look like are already apparent, with the lynchings of Muslims, the bulldozing of their homes, the questioning of their citizenship status, and the torching of churches. The consecration of the Ram mandir is, in fact, a victory rally for the Sangh, and will mark the fulfilment of a major campaign promise of the BJP. It will also be politically convenient for Mr Modi to attend the temple opening as polls are due in India next year.

The Ram mandir issue illustrates the two-faced nature of the BJP and the Sangh. At the recent Delhi G20 summit, we saw Mr Modi the globalist, aspiring to be the voice of the Global South. But in Ayodhya, we will see Mr Modi the communalist, channelling the pracharak within, and working overtime to build the Bharat of RSS’s dreams. The demolition of the mosque marked the beginning of the end of India’s secular democracy. The consecration of the mandir will be a grim milestone in the country’s transformation into a rashtra.

Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2023

Climate and industry

A NEW Schroders and Cornell University study on the potential impact of extreme heat and flooding on the apparel industry should serve as a wake-up call for Pakistan’s textile industrialists and policymakers. The authors of the study project that extreme heat and floods induced by rapid climate change could result in huge job losses and erase $65bn in apparel export earnings from four Asian countries — Bangladesh, Cambodia, Pakistan and Vietnam — by 2030, as workers struggle under high temperatures and factories shut down. The losses will keep increasing if corrective actions are not taken. These countries account for 18pc of the global apparel exports and employ 10.6m workers in the apparel and footwear factories. The report points out that “Understanding climate-related physical risks to companies in a warming world is critical, but the process is in its infancy with few businesses disclosing enough information and few investors undertaking proper assessments”. Experts claim: “The climate response by the industry is all about mitigation, about emissions and recycling, and little or nothing with respect to flooding and heat.”

These observations are particularly true for Pakistan where textile and apparel exporters are yet to realise the grave implications of global warming for their business and come up with effective strategies to tackle it. At best, a few progressive firms have, in recent years, adopted basic mitigating strategies at the factory level to reduce fossil energy usage, shift to renewable power sources, and set up wastewater treatment plants to cut costs and defuse the environment concerns of their consumers in Western markets rather than prepare themselves for meeting climate change challenges. No effort in this direction has been launched at the wider industry level, although it is crucial to the survival of businesses. Regrettably, our policymakers also remain oblivious to the urgency of building strategies to fight the impact of a warming world on the economy and jobs. In recent years, the country’s economy and exports have received large shocks due to repeated climate-induced flooding and heatwaves that have caused export losses worth billions, and increased poverty and unemployment. With Pakistan among the top 10 countries affected by climate change, it is essential that policymakers, industry and other stakeholders, including factory workers, sit together to formulate climate-resilient strategies to prevent potential job and export losses that the study has predicted.

Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2023

ECP’s ‘bias’

THE pressure is mounting on the ECP, with another major party expressing serious concerns over the political environment.

Over the course of last week, several senior PPP leaders issued strong statements against the “absence of a level playing field” in the run-up to the polls.

The party’s chairman publicly stated that he does not think political parties are free to function or campaign independently, and, on Thursday, the party’s information secretary told the press that the PPP is concerned over the appointment of several PML-N ‘loyalists’ in the interim set-up.

“The concern among party members is that the PML-N is getting a kind of favour in the current caretaker set-ups in the federal and Punjab governments. And it’s no more secret,” she said.

The PTI, too, shared similar objections over the appointment in the caretaker government of several bureaucrats seen as being close to the Sharifs.

The two parties’ concerns reflect rather poorly on the ECP: it is, after all, the commission’s constitutional responsibility to ensure that elections are held in an environment which does not favour or jeopardise any political stakeholder’s interests.

Interestingly, the commission seems to be tacitly acknowledging that the playing field is no longer level. It has written to the caretaker prime minister’s secretary, advising him against inducting “persons of known political allegiance”.

If the caretaker set-up has been infiltrated by politically inclined persons, which the ECP concedes, the fairness of any election conducted by it will invariably be brought into question.

It may be recalled that one of the excuses given by the ECP for not conducting the KP and Punjab elections earlier this year was that future elections held under the governments formed by political parties in these provinces would not be free or fair. The same logic ought to apply to party loyalists.

Not too long ago, it was only the PTI which seemed to have a problem with the manner in which the ECP was conducting itself.

But while the PTI and Mr Khan’s criticism of the commission, its chief commissioner and their alleged ‘bias’ may initially have been a ploy to push them off the various legal actions they were pursuing, it has lately started seeming somewhat justified.

It may be recalled that in failing to challenge the state’s attempts to thwart the PTI, which had wanted early elections in KP, the ECP has already violated the Constitution by failing to adhere to the prescribed 90-day timeline.

It is not only about to repeat that violation again, but it also does not seem committed to the positions it had taken earlier. This is morally and legally indefensible.

The commission must adhere to its constitutional responsibility and immediately address the concerns that are being raised.

Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2023

September 28, 2023

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