The Express Tribune Editorial 2 Sep 2019

Marginalising Muslims in India


If the annexation of Kashmir wasn’t enough to quench Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) hate against Muslims, the Hindu Nationalist government in India has now targeted members of the minority community in the northeastern Assam state by taking away their citizenship. Under the new National Register of Citizens (NRC) scheme, the Modi government has effectively excluded two million people from the list of citizens — most of them happen to be Muslim.
Aimed at pleasing BJP’s co-religionists, Modi plans to replicate the Assam-style disenfranchisement all over India. While those excluded from the citizen’s list will have 120 days to contest the move at hundreds of quasi-judicial bodies known as foreigners’ tribunals, many might end up in detention centers being constructed all over the state or even face possible deportation. And the human rights violations within those contemporary detention camps, some visibly similar to those used by Nazi Germany, will soon be defended as India’s domestic affair. But nothing happened overnight. India, under Modi and his BJP nationalists, has systematically legalized acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing. Since assuming power in 2014, the BJP government has meticulously schemed to oppress the Muslim minority community across India. Earlier this year, the lower house of parliament passed a legislation that granted citizenship to immigrants who moved to India as long as they were not Muslims. Soon after that, the Indian government authorized the annexation of the Muslim-majority Kashmir, which it has forcefully occupied for decades. If not stopped now, the Modi regime will very soon, make religion an eligibility criterion for Indian citizenship which by default will marginalise Muslims. What has happened in Assam and what might follow in the rest of India, leaves members of the minority community one legislation away from being deprived of their citizenship and other basic rights. And since the actions of India’s nationalistic regime indicate its strong desire to preserve the country’s Hindu identity and continue with its drive for Hinduisation at any cost, the fate of millions, most of them among the most vulnerable in the country, remains uncertain.


The trafficking nightmare


A growing problem that currently plagues the country is the menace of human trafficking. According to the Trafficking in Persons Act passed by parliament last year, human trafficking is the acquisition of people by improper means, such as force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them. Its lure for criminals is the high monetary gains it offers- it is the third-largest source of organized crime revenue. According to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), a total of 7,037 human trafficking cases were reported in Pakistan last year, and globally, as in Pakistan, around 80% of those trafficked are women and girls. Several major human trafficking problems affect Pakistan including bonded labour, sex slavery, forced marriages and forced begging. The most pervasive in our country, however, is the issue of bonded labour, in which a worker assumes an initial debt the non-payment of which ultimately pushes them into slavery. Although the FIA has had some success in tackling the problem, a lot more needs to be done to combat it.
Firstly, it is imperative that we raise awareness among the masses about the human trafficking problem with the goal of transforming social norms and behaviour. One such initiative was a television drama serial, aired recently, on the trafficking of women and girls which had a substantial impact on viewers. The media’s role, therefore, is critical in the eradication of human trafficking. Secondly, it is crucial that law enforcement agencies play their role in the safe return, protection, reintegration and rehabilitation of human trafficking survivors. Thirdly, the government must hold its officials accountable and investigate trafficking allegations against them as well- a step international organizations have repeatedly emphasized. And, most important of all, law enforcement agencies must strictly enforce the comprehensive human trafficking laws already on the books as lax law enforcement will simply bring all our anti-human trafficking efforts to naught.


Cut in petrol price

The government announcement on Saturday that it will cut prices of petroleum products came as a welcome respite for consumers long accustomed to being fleeced at the petrol pump. Ministry of Finance, in view of decrease in global oil prices, notified reduction in prices for the month of September, dragging down the rate of petrol by Rs4.59 from Rs117.83 to Rs113.24. The government also slashed diesel price by Rs5.33 per litre, kerosene oil by Rs4.27 and light diesel oil (LDO) by Rs5.63. The new rate of diesel, therefore, will be Rs127.14, that of light diesel oil, Rs91.89, and kerosene oil, Rs99.57 per litre. The government, this time accepted the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority’s recommendations in full.
Starting from September 1, the new rates will remain in force till September 30. The move comes as the Brent oil price in international market on August 30 was recorded at $60.43/barrel, notably lower that what it was on July 30 – at $64/barrel. In April and June, it was hovering around $72/barrel.
The concession to the general public may, in part, be thanks to the Saudi largesse. Since July 2019, Pakistan started receiving monthly oil supplies worth $275 million from Riyadh on deferred payment. This arrangement means Islamabad will get oil facility to the tune of $9.9 billion over the next three years.
The ministry, while making the announcement, said that these prices in terms of rupee parity for petrol are significantly lower than regional markets like India (Rs168.25/litre), Sri Lanka (Rs144.15/litre), Bangladesh (Rs168.79/litre) etc.
Unlike in case of petrol, kerosene oil and LDO, the government has not passed on full relief to the consumers of HSD which is widely used in agriculture and transport sectors and any fluctuation in their prices directly impacts the general public. One wonders why.

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