Dawn Editorial 21st November 2023

After the World Cup

ONCE Australia turned up the heat, the Indian juggernaut came to a stop. Hearts broken, the dream of the Indian nation turned into a nightmare as the biggest game in world cricket came to an end.

India had felt it was their birthright to win their home World Cup at the colossal stadium named after Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his own city and in front of over 120,000 fans. But Australia had other ideas. Skipper Pat Cummins had said he hoped to silence the Ahmedabad crowd and deny India a fairy-tale finish.

His side succeeded in doing just that, romping to a six-wicket victory and emerging as the sport’s dominant force. By the time Cummins held up the trophy as Australia was crowned world champions for the sixth time, the largely pro-India crowd had dispersed.

India had gone unbeaten into the final, having won 10 in a row, while Australia had opened with two defeats before finding its way. In the final, however, it was the Australians who proved to be the better side — a fact not lost on Indian captain Rohit Sharma, who acknowledged his team couldn’t do enough.

Earlier in the tournament, Pakistan failed to reach the semi-finals of a contest which showed One-Day International cricket was alive and kicking. In this age of Twenty20 cricket, Australia and India, as well as beaten semi-finalists New Zealand and South Africa, showed they could adapt to the ebb and flow of ODI cricket.

Despite India’s strong World Cup performance, there is talk of the need for a generational shift there. While Pakistan have younger players, there is a captaincy shift imminent, with Babar Azam having resigned as the team’s all-format captain.

Pakistan could start by working on their one-day outlook; also, while the ODI World Cup is still four years away, they could work towards achieving a stronger 50-over unit by the time they host the Champions Trophy in 2025.

Published in Dawn, November 21st, 2023


Massacre in Gaza

THE generation that witnessed the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis at Auschwitz and other death camps is fading away. But, in the current era, Israel is providing practical demonstrations of the chilling methods used by the Third Reich as it continues its extermination campaign in Gaza.

The sight of little bodies wrapped in tiny shrouds — the outcome of Israel’s slaughter — are enough to move the most stoic of observers. But these images do not move powerful actors in Washington and other Western capitals, or even some rulers of the Muslim world.

They are complicit either through their staunch defence of Israel, or their silence in the midst of a genocidal campaign. As Children’s Day was observed on Monday, Gaza’s children had already buried 5,500 of their young brothers, sisters and friends.

Out of the last five Israeli assaults on Gaza, starting from 2008, the current campaign has resulted in the highest number of children’s casualties, while overall over 13,000 Gazans have been massacred.

Israel has proved it is heartless. After bombing the Al Ahli Hospital and rampaging through the Al Shifa facility in search of Hamas ‘bases’, while displacing countless patients, Tel Aviv has now set its sights on the Indonesian Hospital. In the words of WHO, Al Shifa has been turned into a “death zone”.

In the midst of these atrocities, the word ‘ceasefire’ remains taboo in Washington, London and other Western capitals. Perhaps these states believe Israel is still entitled to its right of ‘self-defence’ by turning Gaza to rubble. But some states are beginning to show a semblance of humanity.

Officials from various Arab and other Muslim states gathered in Beijing on Monday, with the Chinese foreign minister condemning the humanitarian disaster and calling for an immediate end to hostilities.

“Israel’s actions have gone beyond self-defence,” Wang Yi told his Saudi counterpart. Clearly, the Western bloc has lost all credibility by slavishly standing by Israel — even though hundreds of thousands of people in the West have called for an end to the violence — and China has moved in to fill the vacuum.

But unless there are concrete moves — a political and economic boycott of Israel and those that arm Tel Aviv — the children of Palestine will continue to wonder why powerful people in the East and West did nothing as they were being slaughtered.

Published in Dawn, November 21st, 2023


Innocence robbed

S countries marked Children’s Day yesterday to renew their pledge to safeguard the rights of little ones, Pakistan had little to show for its own progress in the area. We continue to fail our most vulnerable citizens year after year. In yet another shameful incident, it was found last week that two teachers at a Chakwal seminary had been torturing and sexually abusing 15 children for weeks. The matter came to light when one of the victims recounted the horrors he endured to his father. This encouraged other victims to speak up. The children were left not only physically, but also emotionally scarred. Punjab’s chief minister has promised swift justice but plugging one hole when half the ship has sunk will do little to redress matters. In the first half of this year alone, 2,227 cases of child abuse were reported. Although, there is no information on how many of these tragedies unfolded at madressahs, history shows us such events have sadly become all too common. In 2021, a Lahore cleric was found to have sexually abused a student for three years. In 2019, a 13-year-old disabled girl was sexually assaulted by a cleric in Multan.

The state needs to take a long, hard look at the madressah as an institution. Why is it that a place whose stated aim is imparting religious education is often viewed through a dark lens? While they must not all be tarred with the same brush, the state should realise that it needs to dig deeper and unearth why such incidents continue to surface year after year. It should realise that the power dynamic between a teacher and a student is a contributing factor. Predators target children because their claims are unfortunately less likely to be believed. Some also use political clout to cover up their crimes. Compounding the problem is the unwillingness of society to pursue the matter, such as in the Chakwal case, with parents of nine victims refusing medical examination of the children. These factors further embolden the perpetrators, allowing such crimes to continue.

The government recently earmarked Rs1.2bn for the registration and regulation of religious schools. While this is a necessary step, it should also institute other changes. The state must enforce strict regulations — and follow through — against any form of abuse, and ensure the mental and physical well-being of students. This includes regular monitoring, a framework for reporting and addressing grievances, and ensuring that madressahs are safe spaces for learning and personal growth. Additionally, understanding and addressing the socioeconomic factors that lead families to opt for madressah education, such as poverty and lack of access to conventional schools, are equally important. There are an estimated 3m students enrolled in madressahs. We must not let them down.

Published in Dawn, November 21st, 2023

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