Dawn Editorial 24 October 2019

Kashmir reactions

DESPITE New Delhi’s tough-looking posture regarding its activities in India-held Kashmir, it is quite apparent that international reactions to the Modi government’s brutal tactics in the region are beginning to hurt.
For one, it is clear that India’s ill-advised move of annexing occupied Kashmir by changing its constitutional status has not altered the status quo internationally; much of the world still considers Kashmir a disputed territory, exposing India’s fiction that the troubles in IHK are an ‘internal matter’.
The other day, US Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells reiterated Washington’s position in a briefing giving to a Congressional panel, saying that the US considers the LoC “a de facto line separating two parts of Kashmir”.
Elsewhere, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has stood by his criticism of India’s tactics in IHK at the UN General Assembly in September. The veteran leader’s forthright comments have drawn the ire of Indian trade bodies, with one concern calling for a ban on the import of Malaysian palm oil.
Moreover, Turkish President Recep Erdogan’s raising of the Kashmir issue — also at the UNGA — has reportedly made Narendra Modi postpone a forthcoming visit to Ankara.
The fact is that due to India’s size and economic potential, it has bullied smaller and less powerful states into toeing its line. However, now that stronger states are challenging its actions and calling out the atrocious human rights situation in IHK, New Delhi is showing visible discomfort.
Indeed, all the spin in the world cannot change the situation on the ground in occupied Kashmir.
The region’s people have been suffering under a suffocating lockdown for over two months, and people of conscience around the world are expressing their disapproval of these brutish actions. Even the Indian drama of carrying out strikes against ‘terror launch pads’ on this side of the LoC has been exposed, as envoys from various states were given a tour of the affected areas on Tuesday, clearly showing that the victims of India’s ceasefire violations were innocent civilians.
Indeed, it is to the government’s credit that human rights violations in occupied Kashmir are now being discussed at world forums.
Pakistan’s diplomats have apprised key world capitals of the situation in the occupied region, and the result is that states and individuals are speaking out against the violence in IHK and calling for justice for Kashmiris.
From hereon, the Indian state can do one of two things. Either it can continue to sulk and break off or downgrade ties with all those that criticise its horrible behaviour in IHK. (This may not be a workable policy, especially if more and more states start calling for justice to be done in Kashmir.) Or New Delhi can adopt the path of dialogue and statesmanship, end the siege of Kashmir, and work with Pakistan and the Kashmiris for a long-term solution.


After Asma

THE Asma Jahangir Conference in Lahore last weekend was a spirited attempt at highlighting some of the causes that the champion human rights campaigner had stood for in her lifetime. Supremacy and efficacy of civilian rule, faith in democracy, the influence of elite power groups in the country and rule of law and freedom of expression were some of the themes the event was woven around, and it must have been a source of encouragement for those struggling for the implementation of human rights to see a positive response from the public. The attendance was encouraging and there was clear appreciation for those who went about their duty of advising a progressive interpretation of the laws and principles, both written and unwritten, while taking the caravan forward. The conference was very much in sync with the reason-based approach with which Ms Jahangir pursued her targets right up to her sudden death in February 2018, and the country could do with more such events, especially at this particular moment in time. For instance, there have been issues of censorship that the media as a whole has had to increasingly contend with. And while there have always been sensitive questions asked about it, the fear of a lopsided division of powers has been most strongly felt in recent times as institutions are no longer reluctant to hide their controversial role in the scheme of things. The response to this necessitates a coming together of people — common folk, intellectuals, human rights defenders, etc.
Indeed, such events can go a long way towards establishing solid institutions — both at the government and private level — that can help shape policies and reasonable attitudes that are vital to the forward journey of a people. And hopefully, they can also encourage and bring to the fore individuals who are brave enough to take a leading role in any campaign or movement that involves the firm assertion of the fundamental and human rights of every citizen of this country — individuals who have the will and patience to harness energy and ideas in a meaningful journey towards a set objective. Leaders such as Asma Jahangir, who is so dearly missed every time the truth becomes a bit too difficult to handle, are needed to speak on behalf of the millions who continue to suffer the excesses of a callous state.


Wildlife conservation

Ministry of Climate Change’s decision to compile a red data list for threatened or endangered wildlife and plant species is a good first step towards protecting rare flora and fauna in the country. Besides providing a framework for wildlife conservation efforts, this list will also help battle illegal wildlife trade. According to the IUCN, at least four ecosystems in Pakistan are among the world’s most biologically outstanding ecoregions. Pakistan is home to an estimated 174 species of mammals, 177 species of reptiles and 668 species of birds. Out of these, about 50 species of mammals and 27 of birds are considered endangered, while 17 species of insects are also under the threat of extinction. For the compilation of this red data list of plants, animals and other organisms, the climate change ministry will collaborate with international organisations working on ecosystem preservation and wildlife conservation. Though the list will be Pakistan-specific, it will be based on internationally recognised guidelines used to evaluate the extinction risk. According to the WWF’s Living Planet Index report of 2018, populations of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles have declined by at least 64pc in the Indo-Pacific region — which includes Pakistan — between 1970 and 2014. The report also points out that the rampant illegal wildlife trade has badly damaged the country’s biodiversity, and it has termed smuggling of freshwater turtles and pangolins as a major cause for concern. Furthermore, unchecked deforestation over the years has caused many animals, such as the leopard, to lose their habitat.
In Pakistan, conservation efforts had been stymied by the lack of credible data and information. However, this list, by providing data about the range, population size, habitat and ecology of and threats to endangered species of animals, birds, insects and plants will be able to identify and provide an outline for effective conservation efforts in the country. The list might also prove helpful in improving regulation of hunting permits granted by the provincial wildlife departments. The data can be used to increase awareness among local communities to help preserve the natural habitats of threatened species.

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