Dawn Editorial 5th February 2024

Muslims in India

POST-Ram temple India is another country where a new religious edifice has become a flashpoint as social injustices rise. Days after its consecration, the BJP government, determined to make Muslims, their heritage and history invisible, looked away as Hindutva groups and mobs unleashed atrocities against the community across ‘saffron Bharat’. Once again, the turmoil reached ancient mosques — the same week an Indian court allowed Hindus to perform rituals inside the disputed 17th-century Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi that was built by the Mughals; Hindu litigants claim it replaced a Shiva temple. Subsequently, the 13th-century Akhunji mosque, madressah and graveyard in Delhi’s historic Mehrauli area were wiped out in the dead of the night, leaving the muezzin homeless. While authorities say it was an ‘illegal structure’, top Muslim leaders have urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to halt mosque versus temple disputes. These atrocities are a sign of the times: the far-right narrative of many old mosques being temples that were destroyed by Muslim monarchs, despite historians refuting it due to scarce material evidence, is louder and more potent. Hence, in a landscape marked by Hindutva war cries, the breakneck speed of the sociocultural homogenisation under RSS-BJP rule begs a question: has the opening of the temple in Ayodhya declared war on Muslims?

As Mr Modi stokes communal fires to clinch a third term in power and level Jawaharlal Nehru’s score, his India is the antithesis of the Nehruvian vision — a modern, non-aligned nation centred on secularism, social justice and democracy. But, radical Hindutva forces have either altered this vision beyond recognition or abandoned it. Although the UN has been approached by Pakistan to take action for the protection of Islamic sites in India, the BJP appears resolute about blurring the lines between politics and religion, weaponising history and monuments and reducing Muslims to what they eat and wear. The fresh wave of saffron violence is not without a message: Mr Modi’s India will be built on the debris of communal harmony. There are stages to the erasure of Muslim inheritance and culture — neglect, oppress and destroy — translating into serious consequences for decades of diversity and pluralism. The bigger blow for Indian Muslims is that institutions and the security apparatus are letting them down, thereby endorsing the chants of a Hindu ‘rashtra’ and acts of majoritarian abuse.

Published in Dawn, February 5th, 2024

Economic rhetoric

ON Thursday, voters will elect a new government tasked with managing one of the country’s worst-ever economic crises: growth shrank, inflation soared to record highs, the rupee weakened rapidly, and foreign reserves dwindled in the last two years.

However, the ‘economic programmes’ articulated by the three major contenders for power — the PML-N, PTI and PPP — in their respective election manifestos show that none has an actionable short- to long-term strategy to tackle the daunting economic challenges.

More crucially, no party talks of how they intend to accomplish the immediate task of approaching the IMF for another larger and longer funding programme — critical to economic revival — once the current $3bn facility expires in mid-April, to avoid the prospect of default.

Rather than giving the party’s roadmap for achieving macroeconomic and other targets in their manifestos, and outlining economic objectives, priorities and policy intentions, each party has made frivolous promises instead.

For example, the PML-N, whose leadership likes to harp on the party’s ‘development narrative’ and building a network of motorways and roads, has pledged to create 10m jobs, enhance wages to match inflation and cut electricity bills by 20-30pc. How? They don’t explain.

Likewise, the PPP has promised to double salaries, and provide free electricity up to 300 units and subsidies to alleviate the impact of inflation on voters, as well as generate employment opportunities for young labour market entrants.

Though the PTI has avoided populist commitments, its economic plan, like those of the PML-N and PPP, is also heavy on rhetoric, hardly giving concrete strategies to achieve the macroeconomic goals its manifesto defines.

Elections are the best time for political parties to send their message to the voters and rally support around their socioeconomic priorities. However, in Pakistan, parties usually avoid providing quantitative, evidence-based policy targets with a detailed overview of how and when they intend to implement their economic promises.

A PIDE study of past election manifestos of the major parties shows that these documents did not contain concrete plans and largely comprised empty promises, with no homework done vis-à-vis future goals.

While the PML-N is seeking votes for its promise of delivering ‘speedy development’, PTI is staking its claims on the basis of its ‘economic performance’ during the Covid pandemic, and PPP on its social welfare agenda. That means these parties do not have any ready economic policy blueprints to work on if voted into power.

Both the PML-N and PTI may have given some abstract macroeconomic, export and other targets and priorities in their new manifestos, but do not offer any specifics or practical strategies to achieve these goals if elected to power. Little wonder these parties are unable to consistently pursue their economic policies even through a single budget cycle.

Published in Dawn, February 5th, 2024

Questionable results

THE performance of many of the country’s public education boards is sub-par, thanks to corruption and inefficiency. Those who resort to unfair means are ‘rewarded’ with high marks, while many of these institutions examine what the student has memorised, not what they have learnt. In an ongoing controversy, thousands of students who took the first-year Intermediate exam from the Karachi board last year have complained that their results are flawed; a significant number have failed. Adding weight to their contention is the fact that an inquiry committee has unearthed evidence of result tampering in the 2022 Inter exam. The committee, appointed by the caretaker Sindh chief minister, has found that answer scripts were replaced “to benefit favourite candidates”. This may be just the tip of the iceberg. Adding to the crisis is the fact that the Karachi Inter board, along with other institutions in Sindh, has been running without chairpersons, exam controllers, etc, after the CM sent these officials home.

Such controversies concerning public boards are frequent. Because of politicisation, and lack of professionalism and transparency, these boards do not enjoy a good reputation. That is why those parents who can afford it opt for foreign examination systems, or private local boards. But the vast majority have no choice but to educate their wards through the public system. Experts say that the marking is subjective, while in many cases those grading the exams are not trained for the job. There are solutions — more transparency, automation, changing the pattern of papers — and some local boards, such as the federal board, as well as boards in Punjab and KP, have shown improvement. However, Sindh lags behind. It is professional educationists who should run the boards, while subject specialists should design exam papers, and find more objective ways of grading. Stuffing the boards with inept and corrupt individuals will destroy the future of our children.

Published in Dawn, February 5th, 2024


February 19, 2024

About The CSS Point

The CSS Point is the Pakistan 1st Free Online platform for all CSS aspirants. We provide FREE Books, Notes and Current Affairs Magazines for all CSS Aspirants.

The CSS Point - The Best Place for All CSS Aspirants

April 2024
Template Design © The CSS Point. All rights reserved.