Dawn Editorial 29th October 2023

Wrong messaging

PAKISTAN looked set for a release. Pressure had been mounting since the defeat to Afghanistan and the circus back home, with the Pakistan Cricket Board effectively blaming the team’s losses at the World Cup on captain Babar Azam and chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq. While Pakistan were meeting South Africa in Chennai, PCB chief Zaka Ashraf met former captain Sarfraz Ahmed in Lahore. Rumours swirled that a change at the top, at least in the Tests, was on the cards. It was the sort of messaging that wasn’t needed — certainly not at a time when the team was facing a must-win game against the high-flying Proteas. With all that happening, the ‘cornered tigers’, the moniker made famous during Pakistan’s sole ODI World Cup triumph in 1992, seemed to be roaring back and South Africa were choking again. A welcome win to restore belief and revive hopes after three straight losses appeared within grasp: South Africa had their last pair at the crease and 11 runs were required to win. Pakistan would have wrapped it up had the umpire raised his finger on a loud shot for an lbw against Tabraiz Shamsi off Haris Rauf. A review showed the ball just about clipping leg stump. It was agonising. Just when Pakistan needed luck, it deserted them; and when their pace options dried up, Keshav Maharaj swatted away spinner Mohammad Nawaz for the winning boundary. This time, South Africa defied their ‘choker’s’ tag. And Pakistan seemed to have no way back, a spot in the semis looking like a distant dream.

Pakistan had entered the tournament as one of the favourites to lift the title, but failed to live up to the billing. Against South Africa, the bowlers rediscovered their spirit, but Pakistan were let down by their batters, who failed to achieve a stronger total. This is the first time they have lost four straight matches at a World Cup. Team director Mickey Arthur warned against a ‘witch-hunt’ of Babar, Inzamam and the team management, adding that the players had given their all. That, though, hasn’t been enough for a majority of former cricketers, experts and fans in this cricket-mad country. Criticism was due, a post-mortem of the failure a certainty, but PCB’s statement was unwarranted — especially with the team, still mathematically at least, not out of the race for the semis.

Published in Dawn, October 29th, 2023

Gazan apocalypse

WITH Tel Aviv’s troops carrying out land incursions inside Gaza while its jets mercilessly pound the congested Strip, obliterating hospitals, residential buildings and shelters, it is clear that Israel is attempting to foist its ‘final solution’ on the Palestinian people in the name of going after Hamas.

Since Oct 7, when Hamas staged raids inside Israel, over 7,000 Palestinians have been butchered by Israel, nearly half of them children. Tel Aviv has shown no mercy, wiping out entire families, targeting civilian infrastructure, and cutting off food, water, communication links, power and fuel to Gaza — all qualifying as war crimes.

Yet Israel’s powerful friends, including US President Joe Biden, doubt the Palestinian toll; they believe Israeli accounts that Tel Aviv did not bomb the Al-Ahli Hospital, and that it was a misfired Palestinian rocket that caused the atrocity.

In fact, it is the blind support of the West that has emboldened Israel to unleash genocidal force against Palestinian civilians, as it knows it will not have to pay for its crimes.

There is also disingenuous framing of the conflict by Israel and its friends in Western officialdom and media. The fact is that the Arab-Israeli conflict did not begin with the Hamas raid. For decades, Palestinians have faced death, humiliation and the usurpation of their ancestral land on a daily basis.

And, while the targeting of civilians by both sides is condemnable, Oct 7 was the explosive reaction to years of pent-up rage, as Gaza’s people had been living under a siege enforced by Israel long before the latest hostilities broke out.

Whatever spin Tel Aviv and its claque of supporters may be putting on the conflict, people of conscience the world over are demanding an end to the massacre of Palestinians.

The majority of states voted for a Jordanian resolution in the UN General Assembly calling for a truce. Moreover, hundreds of thousands have marched in cities as diverse as London, Sana’a, Baghdad and Paris demanding an end to the slaughter. Many, many Jews have clearly told Israel: ‘not in our name’.

The Middle East stands at the edge of a precipice. If Israel continues its slaughter in Gaza, particularly through an expanded ground invasion, and if the US-led West flexes its military muscle in its support, the whole region can go up in flames.

Tel Aviv needs to immediately end its bloody campaign, while all actors must stand down and allow the grieving people of Gaza to bury their dead. The siege must be broken so that ample supplies of food, water and medicine can reach Gaza.

But if Israel continues its merciless assault, and the West continues to aid it, the Middle East will explode, and the reverberations will be felt across the world.

Published in Dawn, October 29th, 2023

Brute tactics

THE state has to abandon its absolutist approach towards the Baloch, especially the youth. Its thinly disguised hostility for their fundamental freedoms has led to a deep shift in the Baloch mindset, leaving the populace fearful and alienated. Incidents such as the one on Friday, where a Baloch student of Punjab University was arrested from the gate of the New Campus by police and men in plain clothes, aggravate an already fractured relationship between the province and the state. The CCTV footage shows raw brutality by the police — when Fareed Hussain Baloch resisted and tried to escape, he was beaten up and dragged into a private car as security guards looked on. This has sparked mass outrage, with the Baloch Council of PU fearing that he will be implicated in serious, false charges. Sadly, PU has been the venue for a string of similar cases. In 2018, Punjab police handpicked 190 Baloch students embroiled in clashes between student groups, who were then slapped with anti-terrorism charges. Pakhtun students too have faced repeated attacks. These assaults are tantamount to ethnic discrimination and make the government’s overtures of peace, such as Balochistan caretaker home minister’s claim that angry Baloch “should come and play their role in the development of Balochistan”, ring hollow.

Blind abuse and victimisation of Baloch youth is hardly the stuff of applause; it fuels disenfranchisement and mistrust and forces people to choose radicalisation so that many equate identity with separatist forces. For this to change, the government must overcome an acute trust deficit with Balochistan and cease its police state methods. Admittedly, the road to consolidation is long and splintered. However, safeguarding the rights and political claims of Baloch and Pakhtun youth is a good place to start. Their say in development, opportunity and policymaking equals that of anyone else. And traumas must heal or Pakistan will continue to pay a heavy price in the shape of militancy.

Published in Dawn, October 29th, 2023

November 1, 2023

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