Dawn Editorial 5th June 2024

A sobering election?

IT is likely to be a bittersweet victory for the BJP and its ideological cohorts in the Sangh Parivar as India finishes counting the votes from its massive electoral exercise.

While Narendra Modi is poised to form his third consecutive government, electoral trends at the time of writing indicate that the BJP and its allies will be nowhere near translating their boastful claims of winning 400 seats in the Lok Sabha into reality.

The projections predict a simple, albeit thin, majority for the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance. The INDIA grouping, led by Congress, has made surprising gains, with a likely tally of around 200 seats. It should be remembered that in 2019, Congress was walloped; in fact, India’s grand old party has spent the last decade in the political wilderness, as the BJP played up the Hindutva card, tearing apart the political structure built by Nehru and Gandhi. But the latest results indicate that things may be changing.

For the BJP, Muslim-baiting and communal rhetoric appear to have backfired, even in its political heartland or ‘Hindi belt’. Instead of praising the glory of a new Hindu rashtra, Indian voters were more concerned about pressing issues, such as jobs and the cost of living.

The Ram Mandir, inaugurated by Mr Modi in January, may have been a grand spectacle, but tens of millions of voters were clearly not swayed by this dangerous mixing of politics, mythology and communalism. Mr Modi’s hounding of India’s Muslims — the anti-Muslim rhetoric was particularly pronounced during the poll campaign — has failed to translate into electoral dividends for the Sangh this time around.

It is hoped that the sobering election results lead to a dialling down of the inflammatory rhetoric against Muslims, and that the toxic communalism that has been promoted in India for political gains over the last decade is discarded.

Coming to relations with Pakistan, from 2019 onwards, bilateral ties have been at their lowest in decades under Mr Modi’s watch. India’s unilateral decision to annex held Kashmir has perhaps been the biggest obstacle standing in the way of better ties. Moreover, Mr Modi and his ministers have also used provocative language aimed at Pakistan, including during the election campaign, which has hardly served the cause of peace.

Once the dust settles in Delhi and the BJP forms the next government, we hope that Narendra Modi reviews his foreign policy. India should reach out to Pakistan, and the state should respond positively to any Indian overtures. Naturally, rebuilding trust will take time, but long-term peace in South Asia is impossible without better Pakistan-India ties.

India cannot skirt around the Kashmir question; both sides should at least start talking, even if they agree to disagree. Let India’s incoming government start afresh with Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2024

Lower inflation

AS anticipated, the dramatic drop in May’s inflation figures to 11.8pc — the lowest in 30 months — has provided enough ammunition to critics of the State Bank’s tight monetary policy stance to more forcefully call for lowering the year-old policy rate of 22pc. They argue that real interest rates are now above 1,000 bps on a forward-looking basis and that SBP must start reversing its stance. They also contend that rate cuts would mitigate the financial ‘stress’ on corporate borrowers and help slash our burgeoning domestic debt payments. However, this argument does not take into account the more compelling realities that favour the continuation of a tighter policy stance for now.

For starters, real rates stay negative on an annual basis as the average 11-month CPI inflation still remains as high as 24.52pc — down from 29.16pc a year ago though — despite a faster-than-anticipated drop in May’s inflation rates due to a high base effect, and falling food and fuel prices. Additionally, commercial banks’ non-performing loan portfolio, which is under 8pc — below its historic average — underlines that businesses are not feeling any unbearable stress on account of high inflation and record-high interest rates. Nor is there any evidence to show that the availability of cheaper money will drive up private investment in the current political-economic environment. Fears that a rate reduction will drive up imports leading to the evaporation of our meagre international reserves, thus putting pressure on the exchange rate, and increasing inflation also abound. Will the SBP bow to political pressure and cut rates, especially when inflation is projected to surpass the proposed target of 12pc for the next fiscal year because of economic stabilisation measures such as increases in the consumption tax, petroleum levy and power prices to meet the goals of the next IMF programme? We will know once the next monetary policy is announced on Monday.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2024

Out of time

TODAY, on World Environment Day, we must confront a sobering truth: an alarming 40pc of the planet’s land is degraded, putting our very survival at peril. This year, the day is centred on land restoration, desertification, and drought resilience. Globally, efforts towards land restoration and combating desertification are encouraging, but the path ahead is daunting. The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030) aims to revive ecosystems worldwide. However, with droughts increasing by 29pc since 2000 and projections that, by 2050, droughts may affect over three-quarters of the world’s population, urgent action is required. For Pakistan, these challenges are particularly acute. With more than 60pc of its land classified as rangeland and a mere 4.8pc forest cover, Pakistan is highly susceptible to desertification. The consequences are dire: loss of soil fertility, reduced farm output, and severe impacts on food security and livelihoods. The Indus delta, for instance, has shrunk dramatically due to poor water management and rising salinity, exacerbating matters.

The government must make the issue a top priority. First off, reforestation and afforestation initiatives, which not only enhance biodiversity but also help in carbon sequestration, are essential. The Green Pakistan Initiative and similar programmes should be expanded and rigorously monitored. In addition, sustainable farm practices must be promoted. The use of drip irrigation, adoption of drought-resistant crop varieties, and soil conservation techniques are crucial. Agroforestry and conservation agriculture can mitigate land degradation and enhance climate resilience. Moreover, with Pakistan identified by the UN as among the countries facing drought emergencies, water management needs urgent reform. Our use should be efficient and we must develop infrastructure for rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharge. Policies should focus on reducing wastage in agriculture, which accounts for the bulk of water use in the country. A major component in combating desertification is community involvement. Empowering local communities with knowledge and resources to adopt sustainable practices can foster a culture of conservation. Incentives for farmers to practise soil conservation and water-saving techniques are vital. Pakistan must also strengthen its legislation to protect natural resources. Strict enforcement of laws against illegal logging, land conversion, and overgrazing is necessary to curb further degradation. We must commit to protecting our land because we are running out of time.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2024

June 13, 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

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