Dawn Editorial 22 November 2020

Modi’s tirade

THE prime minister of India is at it again. In a series of tweets, Narendra Modi has hurled unsubstantiated allegations against Pakistan. Taking to the micro-blogging site, Mr Modi texted that Indian security forces had “neutralised” four terrorists from Jaish-e-Mohammad and recovered a huge cache of weapons.
His allegation has been rubbished by the Pakistani Foreign Office with the curtness that it merits. A spokesman of the Chinese foreign ministry, speaking hours after the tweets, also reinforced Pakistan’s positive contributions against global terrorism. It comes as little surprise that the Indian leader resorted to such wildly inaccurate allegations, without a shred of proof, in the wake of Pakistan issuing a well-evidenced dossier showing India’s state-sponsored terrorism in this country. The dossier has proof of how Indian intelligence agency RAW has been recruiting agents as well as training and financing them to carry out acts of violence on Pakistani soil. Pakistan has done well to share this evidence with important countries. Mr Modi’s response is weak. It is also clichéd.
However, it portends danger. Mr Modi and his hard-line advisers continue to revel in their belligerence against Pakistan. Such belligerence, they believe, is an extension of their domestic politics, which in turn means that their approach towards Pakistan is linked to the failures and successes of their policies at home. These policies are wrapped in anti-Muslim hysteria and have manifested themselves in acts of horrendous violence against Muslims. This naked fascism pollutes their thinking on Pakistan and is reinforced by their failures in India-held Kashmir.
The Balakot incident in which Indian aircraft intruded into Pakistani territory, and Pakistan’s swift and decisive response by downing two of their fighter planes shortly thereafter contains lessons for both countries. India should have learnt that Pakistan will hit back if its territorial integrity is violated; Pakistan should learn that India under Mr Modi will not refrain from such mischief. These lessons have consequences.
The latest outburst should be of concern to all, and should alert Pakistan to New Delhi’s intentions. Pakistan has successfully fought off the attack by India in the FATF and it is hoped that in a short period of time it will be taken off the grey list. Regrettably, across the border there are all too many signs of intolerance and obscurantism creeping into a society that is governed by a party which has made ‘ethnic cleansing’ a part of state policy. The danger to Pakistan is obvious.
The world must take note of India’s increasing bellicosity as it suffers from a thousand self-inflicted cuts of failures in occupied Kashmir. The contrast couldn’t be starker. Prime Minister Imran Khan has from his first day in office been offering a hand of peace to Mr Modi. The gesture has been repeatedly rebuffed. India should know that the desire for peace does not reflect weakness of resolve on Pakistan’s part.



Spate of murders

THE bloodletting in the name of faith continues, and the silence from official quarters on this needless loss of life is deafening. On Friday, Tahir Ahmed, a 31-year-old Ahmadi doctor was shot dead inside his home in Nankana Sahib, Punjab, by a teenager armed with a pistol. The attacker had knocked on the front door and started firing when the young man opened it. Other members of the family who were gathered there for prayers were also wounded, including his father — who remains critically injured in hospital — and two uncles. This is at least the fourth faith-based murder of members of the Ahmadi community since July. Last month, Prof Dr Naeemuddin Khattak was gunned down in a targeted attack in Peshawar; in August, Meraj Ahmed, a trader was shot dead in the same city; and in July, an American national named Tahir Naseem was slain by a 19-year-old in a Peshawar courtroom. Mr Naseem was an under-trial prisoner accused of committing blasphemy. Also, in September there was a near lynching in the same city; the targets of the mob were rescued by police, though one of them was later charged with having committed blasphemy.
In a country where preachers spewing hate and bigotry can acquire the status of superstars, where shrines are raised to venerate those who commit murder in the name of religion, minorities cannot but live in a perpetual state of fear. Certain minorities even more so. Prejudice against them is so deep, so visceral, that acting on it is celebrated as a virtue by sections of society. As Friday’s killing shows, it pursues them even into the privacy of their homes. However, murder is but the most extreme manifestation of this hatred; every day must doubtless bring with it a myriad indignities, too many to count — in the marketplace, in educational institutions and in the workplace. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that our society has dehumanised the Ahmadi community to a point where they are defined only by their religious belief, rather than being seen as what they are: citizens of Pakistan who have an inalienable right to the protection of the state. But the state has been found sadly wanting, indeed absent. Until every minority community, without exception, has confidence that the state will punish those who incite and commit violence against them, Pakistan cannot be considered a safe place for minorities.



New Zealand tour

THE Pakistan cricket team’s upcoming tour of New Zealand will be a test of skills and nerves for the players, not least for skipper Babar Azam who will be leading the side in Tests for the first time, having replaced Azhar Ali recently. The 35-member national squad, which embarks on its tour on Monday to play three T20s and two Test matches, will immediately be quarantined upon their arrival at Lincoln before the start of the matches from Dec 18. The swashbuckling Babar, who had been leading Pakistan in the ODIs and T20s, has now been saddled with the Test captaincy, a decision that has not gone down well with former players and cricket experts. A good number of them, including former captains Zaheer Abbas and Intikhab Alam, warned the PCB to not overburden the 26-year-old who has been the team’s batting mainstay for over two years now. However, Babar himself appears all set for the challenge and has expressed confidence in his team to give hosts New Zealand a run for their money in all games. The team is a blend of youth and experience and includes a number of uncapped players too, such as Amad Butt, Danish Aziz, Imran Butt and Rohail Nazir who impressed the selectors with their form, technique and temperament. Pakistan enjoyed success against Zimbabwe at home last month and the players appear to be in form after the Pakistan Super League.
Having said that, successive defeats in Tests and T20 games in Australia and England in the past year or so have raised serious questions about the team’s competitive abilities against the world’s best sides, especially during tours abroad. New Zealand is a tough adversary at home. Led by Kane Williamson, they have a sound batting line-up and a battery of fast bowlers who can make life difficult for the Pakistani batsmen. The cricketers, therefore, must ensure that they adapt quickly to playing conditions and practise hard to start the series in a positive frame of mind.


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