Dawn Editorial 6 March 2021

India ranking

WHILE India has often tooted its own horn as the ‘world’s largest democracy’ — being supported in this endeavour by its allies and commercial partners across the globe despite evidence to the contrary — voices are finally being raised about its descent into communalism. As per US-based rights watchdog Freedom House, India under Narendra Modi’s watch has dropped from ‘free’ to ‘partly free’ status. The Hindutva-infused dispensation in New Delhi is “driving India itself towards authoritarianism” says the watchdog’s report, while adding that “the ruling Hindu nationalist movement also encouraged the scapegoating of Muslims” with reference to the spread of Covid-19 in the country last year, which was blamed on Muslims. To observers of India, none of this is new, as under BJP rule that country has begun the dangerous transformation into a Hindu rashtra, where other religions/cultures are to be pushed to the margins or excluded from national life in order to create a ‘pure’ polity. Indeed, the BJP has transformed its ideological shibboleths into state policy by introducing discriminatory citizenship laws designed to disenfranchise India’s Muslims, along with letting murderous bands of cow vigilantes go unpunished. Moreover, New Delhi’s brutal campaign in India-held Kashmir has seriously tarnished its claims of being a democracy.
The transformation from a secular republic into an exclusivist rashtra began in earnest in 1992, when the Babri Masjid was torn down by a mob of Hindu zealots to make way for a Ram mandir. Ironically, yesterday’s extremists are India’s principal policymakers today, hence the recognition by right-thinking people and organisations worldwide that India has become a difficult place to live for its minorities. While the shock troops of Hindutva will renounce the report as ‘intervention’ in India’s internal affairs and try and justify the hate-filled campaigns undertaken by the BJP, the fact is that New Delhi can no longer hide the grotesque wrongs that are being committed against India’s Muslims and other minority communities under the BJP/RSS combine. More international actors should have the courage to call a spade a spade.



Vote of confidence

PRIME MINISTER Imran Khan’s decision to take a vote of confidence from parliament today is a bizarre move with a fairly obvious outcome. It will mark the first time a prime minister has undertaken such an exercise after the passage of the 18th Amendment.
Prior to this, the law required every prime minister to take a vote of confidence from the Assembly within 30 days of being elected — a vote that Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif and other prime ministers of the past had to seek after their election.
Since 2010, however, the law does not require such a practice. In fact, according to clause 7 of Article 91 of the Constitution, the president “shall not exercise his powers under this clause unless he is satisfied that the prime minister does not command the confidence of the majority” in the Assembly. Does the president feel this is the case? There appears to be confusion about whether the government even followed the correct procedure to call such a session.
This entire effort appears to be a remedial attempt by Mr Khan to put salve on the wounds inflicted on his party’s morale by the stunning upset on the Islamabad Senate seat. Yousuf Raza Gilani’s victory over Hafeez Sheikh has shaken Mr Khan, whose video message a day earlier was clearly a morale-boosting endeavour. Since his message, multiple senior members of his party, including serving federal ministers, have posted on social media that they “stand behind the prime minister”.
The Senate shock jolted him and the party to such an extent that the latter feels compelled to publicly affirm its faith in the prime minister. The confidence vote, too, is an indication of this mistrust. Unfortunately for Mr Khan, despite taking such a measure, the reality that there are people in his party who defected and voted for his rivals will not change. It would have been better if the prime minister left the subject of a no-confidence motion to the opposition, and then consolidated his position.
Instead of focusing his energy on a show of bravado, Mr Khan ought to reflect on the future of legislative business. The way to prove his strength in parliament is by getting bills passed — something that has proved to be a challenge time and again.
Neither the government nor the opposition have shown signs that they are ready to de-escalate tensions. The opposition has made the impulsive decision to boycott Assembly proceedings, apparently due to reservations that the correct process was not followed. It would have been better if the opposition had attended the session and recorded its protest, as parliament is the right forum for this discussion.
The days ahead will be challenging and fraught with high political drama. The government must adopt a mature approach and develop a pragmatic strategy for a way forward.



PSL disaster

RAPID escalation in the number of coronavirus cases has led to the postponement of the Pakistan Super League’s sixth edition, sparking anger and disappointment among millions of fans, besides causing heavy monetary losses. The league’s first leg, which was being played in Karachi, came to an abrupt halt amid reports of at least nine players and officials falling victim to the virus over the past three days. The bio-secure bubble was not foolproof to begin with, and SOPs were abandoned as players mingled freely with guests at team hotels while cricket officials and family members of franchise owners frequented the dugouts exacerbating the situation. Such scenes were enough to set alarm bells ringing. But it was a while before the Pakistan Cricket Board was rudely jolted out of its slumber. By that time it was too late. The catastrophic end to PSL-6 was yet again due to the gross mismanagement of the PCB; as the governing body for Pakistani cricket, it is expected to have the required skills to prevent such a crisis or at least limit its fallout. It was only last December that the PCB oversaw similar chaos during the team’s New Zealand tour. It should have ensured that no stone was left unturned in the implementation of strict Covid-19 protocols for its flagship event whose standing and popularity have been severely hit by the abrupt postponement. Unfortunately, it has not learned from its mistakes. The PCB was also found wanting when it came to setting terms for the franchises that were leniently dealt with, even though their players and staff flouted SOPs. Ridiculously short three-day quarantine periods were mandated for international players, which is laughable in the midst of the pandemic.
Nevertheless, some quarters have questioned the postponement of the entire event, pointing out that a curtailed version of the PSL would have been preferable and that extended breaks between matches, the observance of strict measures and far fewer numbers of fans in the stadium could still have provided some enjoyment to the cricket-hungry public. Another window of opportunity for the PSL’s sixth edition to complete its remaining matches this year seems unlikely, mainly due to the packed schedule of the players in 2021. However, if prospects improve in the coming months, the PCB would be well advised to make the event a worthwhile spectacle by putting in its best efforts to keep its appeal intact.

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