Dawn Editorial August 18, 2019

UNSC meeting on IHK

A CLOSED-DOOR, single-point agenda meeting that excludes the parties to the dispute from the deliberations, allows much room for interpretation — at least until matters become clearer.
Read: UNSC Kashmir moot gives lie to Indian claim
Notwithstanding the premature gloating from across the border, there are some positive takeaways from Friday’s UN Security Council meeting on India-held Jammu & Kashmir.
For one, this was a rare event, the very first such gathering to exclusively discuss the disputed area. By doing so, the global body has indicated that the revocation of India-held Kashmir’s status is not India’s ‘internal matter’ as the latter would have the world believe, but a development with dire implications for the region and beyond. In fact, what little has emerged from those privy to the discussion is that the UNSC is concerned over the situation spiralling out of control. Several diplomats at the meeting said as much in remarks to the media later, with the Chinese envoy asking Pakistan and India to “refrain from taking any unilateral action that might further aggravate the tension there since the situation is already very tense and very dangerous”.
Nevertheless, calls for restraint — while eminently pragmatic given that IHK has long been a bone of contention between two nuclear-armed neighbours — fall far short of a robust response, although China was comparatively more forceful than other countries in its support for Pakistan’s position. And while joint statements are not expected from informal consultations such as the one on Friday, the participants refrained from calling an emergency session, something that Pakistan had wanted. The UNSC members are correct in urging Pakistan and India to resolve the dispute in a peaceful manner. However, for the world to accept India’s stance that this be done bilaterally would be to deny the facts on the ground, including the obduracy with which Pakistan’s repeated attempts at talks have been rebuffed, especially under the Modi government.
The apathy is deeply disappointing though not unexpected.
As Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said in a press conference last week, the international community — in thrall to its financial interests — is unlikely to come out with guns blazing against India’s revocation of Article 370. So it has proved, at least thus far.
As for Pakistan, it has not over the years laid the diplomatic groundwork that could sustain its position on IHK when push came to shove — such as now. Instead, flawed, myopic policies that clear-sighted politicians and opinion makers repeatedly warned against, compromised its standing in the world and gave India space to discredit the Kashmiri freedom struggle. As matters stand, it can be argued that Pakistan should have taken the time to engage with the international community and build up more pressure on the diplomatic front before asking for a UNSC emergency meeting. Nevertheless, the only way ahead is to continue to press for a just hearing on IHK from the world.



Kuchlak attacks

BALOCHISTAN faces multiple security challenges. While violence against the Shia Hazara has come down from where it was several years ago, when members of the community were massacred in the hundreds, the Hazara still do not have complete freedom of movement and security of life even in the provincial capital Quetta. Elsewhere, the secessionist Baloch insurgency is in a low phase, but the militants remain active. However, it is difficult to say who was responsible for the two attacks on Friday and Saturday in Kuchlak, located on the outskirts of Quetta. Both attacks claimed the lives of prayer leaders. In Friday’s attack that targeted a mosque, at least four people lost their lives. Perhaps the most high-profile victim was mosque imam Hafiz Hamdullah, said to be a brother of Afghan Taliban supremo Mullah Haibatullah.
While both attacks must be strongly condemned, they do raise several questions. If it is indeed proven that amongst those who died on Friday was a close relative of the Taliban chief, we must ask what the man was doing just a few kilometres outside Quetta. Rumours have swirled for years of a so-called Quetta Shura of the Afghan Taliban operating out of Balochistan, though the state has denied that Afghan fighters found sanctuary on Pakistani soil. While the dynamics of the Afghan war may well be changing as the Americans try to woo the Taliban, Pakistan, for its own security, must ensure that no foreign militant outfits are using its soil as a refuge. Moreover, if investigations reveal that foreign intelligence was behind the Kuchlak attacks, then the state must explain how hostile forces were able to carry out an act of terrorism with relative ease on Pakistani soil. Balochistan, as indicated above, is prone to instability, which is why the security establishment must ensure that no hostile actors are able to exploit vulnerable areas. Whether it is foreign militants finding refuge in far-flung areas, or intelligence agencies of hostile states operating inside Pakistan, in both cases the state and the security establishment must maintain extra vigilance to prevent militants from using this country as a base against others, and to ensure internal security. These are times of tension, especially on the eastern border; there is no excuse for security lapses that can lead to loss of life in the country.



Sexual assault cases

FORTY-FIVE girls preyed upon in the space of two years in a living, bustling town — for the umpteenth time, another abduction-and-assault case, reported from Rawalpindi, has unveiled the demons that lurk unchecked in our midst. The alleged perpetrators are a man, with knowledge of IT, and his wife of two years. The two would reportedly lure young girls to their home where the man would rape the hostages and his wife film the act. It took a courageous student to break the silence earlier this month and set the police in pursuit of the husband-wife team. The investigators are as yet unsure of the motive. After the man’s confession, the police effort to get more victims to record their statements has hit a blank. They say they do not have the technology to analyse laptops and other gadgets that have been used. The police lacking the required equipment in this day and age, and having to call the FIA for help, is simply absurd.
It is a rather sad reflection on our primary line of defence against all and any kind of crime. A force so lacking in resources can hardly inspire feelings of security among those the police are charged with protecting. Not just that, it seems that whereas the absence of new tools to perform police functions is generally a worrisome issue, the force is fast forgetting something which it once was quite good at: monitoring what went around in a neighbourhood through its officials and net of informers. It was the 45th girl who spoke up and brought the serial crime to an end in this case. There would have been more victims had she not broken the silence. Those on watch and guard duties seemingly had no way of seeing anything suspicious going on. This is a very scary picture. We have had Kasur earlier and now we have Rawalpindi’s name being flashed across TV screens. How many more such episodes will it take to get the officials to shed their apathy?


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