Dawn Editorial 28 August 2019

PM on Kashmir

IN his televised address to the nation on Monday, there was plenty of justified rage against Indian atrocities in India-held Kashmir from Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Some of his suggestions included weekly demonstrations to express solidarity with the people of the held region, as well as a promise to take world leaders into confidence about the situation in IHK. It was important for the prime minister to highlight this critical issue, especially when there is an eerie silence from the world community where the sufferings of the Kashmiris are concerned.
And while these suggestions may be worth pursuing, the question is: will they be enough to influence international opinion and make the world act to hold India accountable for the violence it has unleashed in IHK?
The fact is that a coherent policy is needed to tackle this issue and raise it at the international level. The unfortunate truth is that we have not succeeded on the international front to convince the world to take action against Indian barbarity in Kashmir. In fact, some of our closest Muslim ‘brothers’ have chosen to garland Narendra Modi, even in the aftermath of the decision earlier this month to scrap IHK’s autonomy.
Meanwhile Donald Trump, who had earlier offered to play negotiator between Pakistan and India, now with Modi by his side at the G7 summit, told a press conference that “I think they [Pakistan and India] can do it themselves”. India has even managed to deflect international criticism despite the fact that its human rights abuses in IHK have been highlighted in the international media. Though this is partly due to Pakistan’s inability to project the Kashmir cause positively in the international arena, it is also due to India’s economic prowess. Sadly, in a world governed by realpolitik instead of scruples, might is right and the cries of the weak are often smothered by the strong.
Be that as it may, Pakistan should have pre-empted the Indian move, especially when the BJP had pledged to do away with Kashmiri autonomy in the run-up to India’s general elections earlier this year. Pakistan’s response has been reactive where it should have been proactive. Of course previous governments have been equally ineffective in projecting the Kashmir cause. But if the prime minister wants to change the status quo, there must be a robust and cohesive policy to counter India’s belligerent attitude in IHK and convince the international community that violence against Kashmiris is unacceptable.
Holding rallies in the country will not be enough; our best diplomatic hands need to be mobilised to brief global capitals of the situation in IHK, so that the world — specifically those states who claim to be champions of human rights — can convince India to back off in the held region. The voice of Kashmiris needs to echo around the world, and their fundamental rights must be defended.



CPEC authority

IT is a little puzzling to hear repeated mentions from government officials about their intention to create what they have termed a “CPEC authority”. Presumably, this means some sort of body to oversee all CPEC-related work for the government, but it is hard to understand how this can be done without creating a massive parallel bureaucracy that significantly usurps powers from the provincial governments as well as the regulators. For example, would the so-called CPEC authority perform only functions related to coordination, or would it be empowered to make decisions on matters ranging from corporate governance, gas allocations, PSDP releases, power tariffs, custom duties and trade? Thus far, the repeated mentions of such an authority from government officials are scant on detail, but it is important that all this is known before the matter is taken any further.
If a parallel bureaucracy is being contemplated, one which is empowered to make final decisions on all matters related to and arising from CPEC-related investments, then an obvious question becomes unavoidable. Would this not amount to special treatment for one class of investor? What about those investors, whether foreign or domestic, who are not in any way directly connected to CPEC and therefore not eligible for treatment at the window of the CPEC authority? Does this mean that one class of investor will receive white-gloved treatment whereas the others will have to queue up and fend for themselves? It would be wholly unacceptable for such a standard to be developed. The second obvious question that the matter begs is how, and to what extent, the government has adapted and reformed the contours of CPEC considering the nature of the criticisms leveled at the former government as it advanced the venture. For one, greater transparency remains a pressing priority, with the latest discussions on a CPEC authority being the best example of how decisions are being deliberated upon in private, with very little idea of what exactly is in the works. More disclosure is now critical before the government decides to advance this idea further. Long before any such proposal is finalised — should it come to that — it should be discussed in parliament and given an adequate public airing before it is sent to the federal cabinet. There is a long history in this country of decision-making with short-term horizons in mind, and this risks becoming the latest example on that timeline.



From English to Urdu

THE Punjab government recently announced that, come March 2020, the medium of teaching at government primary schools will switch from English to Urdu, reversing a system introduced by the Shahbaz Sharif setup a decade ago. The details of the survey this decision was based on have now come to light, confirming just how difficult it is for young learners to deal with the ‘alien’ language. The survey was conducted in 22 districts, all of which favoured a shift to Urdu. Experts have spoken in support of a move away from English, arguing that imposing a mode of instruction in a second or foreign language on students in their early developmental years hampers their conceptual understanding and cognitive development. Even in higher education, teachers often resort to lecturing in their mother tongue if not proficient enough in English. The emphasis here, though, is on ‘mother tongue’, which may or may not be Urdu.
The survey presupposes Urdu as the mother tongue of both teachers and students, as it helps build an easy case against a more intimidating, more ‘foreign’ instruction in English. Yet, in an age of awareness and eager assertion of ethnic identities and the right to speak native languages, it is remarkable how Urdu — the national language of Pakistan — is conveniently passed off as a kind of universal mother tongue of all Pakistanis. This may be far from the truth in the case of the areas surveyed. Indeed, such a casual assumption about the mother tongue of the majority in historically more sensitive parts of the country may well have been a source of controversy. The debate does ultimately remind us of our inability to promote our multilingualism by developing national languages to a level where they may automatically serve as medium of instruction, and how it has made us lag behind in achieving universal basic literacy. This is where even the more privileged Urdu will struggle as it is set to replace English as the medium of primary level learning in Punjab.
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