Dawn Editorials 21st May 2023

Nadra’s masterstroke

IN insecure times, Nadra’s effort to leave little to chance should garner appreciation. The authority recently announced its NSOR platform, which provides a text message verification service that will help citizens and organisations track sex offenders. As reported, Nadra’s chief claimed the measure will shield women and children from physical and sexual violence as house help, personnel in educational institutions, mosques and workplaces can be verified. The database will also bolster ways to identify and locate reprobates. Understandably, this imparts a sense of reassurance and protection, and silences riled quarters that believe security is far from a priority for the government.

Still, the move does raise ethical queries. Such as, where safeguarding a vast section of society is vital, is it forcing those who have served their sentence to live more dangerously? Many states have programmes in place to ensure adequately monitored, safe reentry of released individuals into society. These include carrying out polygraph tests at the onset of post-release management and then intermittently to confirm compliance. The information is shared with law enforcers, lawyers and social workers to facilitate ex-offender integration, whereby employment and social compulsions are possible. The US has ‘community correctional officers’ tasked with unscheduled home visits for an extra layer of care. However, socialisation processes are proportional to the gravity of crime; for example, serial offenders or those charged with child abuse should not be set free and monitored within the ambit of regular reformatory models as they require entirely controlled environments. The idea is to avoid creation of social pariahs; alienation is impetus for crime. Moreover, women ex-convicts face abandonment by their families, and require abiding assistance. The path from prison to community is not smooth. However, it mustn’t be mired in challenges for services such as NSOR to be effective. The concept of safety excludes isolation.

Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2023

Srinagar G20 boycott

INDIA’S efforts to normalise its dubious annexation of held Kashmir have suffered a serious blow as a number of G20 countries have either refused to attend a tourism moot scheduled to begin in Srinagar on Monday, or have yet to commit to attending the event.

China has taken the lead in boycotting the event in the occupied region as its foreign ministry spokesperson said that his country “is firmly opposed to holding … meetings in disputed territory”. Moreover, Indian media has reported that Turkiye and Saudi Arabia, both G20 members, have yet to confirm participation while Egypt, which is not a member of the bloc but was invited as a guest, has also not yet registered for the event.

It is heartening to note that these nations have taken a brave step in solidarity with the oppressed people of held Kashmir. While Srinagar may be a picturesque locale for a tourism conference, the suffocating footprint of India’s occupation, and the blood of countless Kashmiris spilled by Indian forces, means that all conscientious nations should stay away from what is still internationally recognised as a disputed territory.

Reports from the occupied territory indicate that India is pulling out all the stops to ‘sanitise’ the situation. According to Mehbooba Mufti, former chief minister of IHK, India has unleashed “unprecedented … arrests, raids, surveillance and persecution” ahead of the G20 moot.

As the UN special rapporteur on minority rights recently noted, by organising the meeting in Srinagar, India sought to normalise “brutal and repressive denial” of rights of Kashmiri Muslims, while adding that the G20 was “unwittingly providing a veneer of support” to India’s violations of human rights in the disputed region.

India’s rulers arrogantly consider Kashmir to be a non-issue on the international agenda after they annexed the region in 2019. However, when powerful members of the G20 object to this normalisation of occupation, many in New Delhi will have a rude awakening.

While it is true that the international order is mainly governed by realpolitik and the absence of ethical guidelines, some global players are still willing to raise a voice for oppressed peoples around the world. What is particularly unfortunate is that G20’s Western members — who have been crying hoarse over Russia’s occupation of Ukraine — have gladly given their stamp of approval to India’s occupation of Kashmir.

Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2023

A homecoming?

WITH the Lahore High Court opening the door to parliament for the PTI, could we finally see politics return to the floor of the National Assembly and away from the streets? One certainly hopes so. The long-drawn and bitterly contested stand-off over a timeline for elections has triggered violent reactions and counter-reactions between the citizenry and the state. Innocent citizens have been hurt, economically and otherwise, due to the unending political free-for-all over these past few months. Those who pushed the fight out of parliament and into the public domain must be held accountable one day. For now, it is important that they take a step back and let the fight be moved back to where it should always have been fought. It may be tempting to point the finger at the PTI leadership for escalating matters towards a showdown between the citizenry and state, but the role of this government can also not be ignored.

Earlier this year, when PTI lawmakers decided to withdraw their resignations from the National Assembly, they should have been allowed to return. Instead, the NA Speaker did what he had refused to do for the better part of a year: he immediately accepted the resignations en masse, without individually verifying them. The government had described this glaring U-turn as a ‘masterstroke’. What followed was a public agitation movement that culminated in the events of May 9. Thousands of PTI supporters have since been picked up by police. It is feared that juveniles are among those being detained by the state. Rights activists have pointed out that many arrests seem purely arbitrary and questioned why detainees are not being produced before a magistrate, as is their legal right.

Political battles cannot always be fought on the streets. The results speak for themselves The state faces a fresh wave of hatred and discontent from the citizenry; the PTI finds itself cornered; and the PDM and its allied parties have lost whatever moral high ground they had. The PTI’s return to parliament may just be what is needed to allow the system to breathe. The party is eagerly planning its parliamentary strategy; the government must welcome the challenge. Lastly, it is disappointing to note that Imran Khan’s disdain for parliament seems not to have changed one bit. He has said he will not be returning with his party to the Assembly because the forum has “lost its political and legislative relevance”. That may or may not be true, but isn’t it also his responsibility, as a former prime minister and elected representative of the people, to work to restore it from within? It is high time that he started to rethink the attitudes that led him and his government into trouble in the first place.

Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2023

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