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Indian Press (19 May 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Islamabad’s Self-Goal: New Age Islam's Selection, 19 May 2017

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

19 May 2017

Islamabad’s Self-Goal

By Husain Haqqani

Telangana Muslim Reservation Bill Could End Up Justifying Appeasement Charges

By Khalid Anis Ansari

China Turning Pak into Its ‘Colony’

By Kamlendra Kanwar

The Courts and Matters Of Faith

By Peter Ronald Desouza

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


Islamabad’s Self-Goal

By Husain Haqqani

 May 19, 2017

When Pakistan’s intelligence services arrested Kulbhushan Jadhav, they thought they had found the smoking gun that would help them make the case against India for orchestrating terrorism, especially in insurgency-stricken Balochistan. So far, the only significant outcome of the sequence of events involving Jadhav is the worsening of India-Pakistan ties.

The international community, which has become accustomed to South Asian histrionics, does not seem too moved by the debate over whether Jadhav is a spy or not and whether India or Pakistan is right in this latest of their periodic spats.

Jadhav’s arrest was followed by a video-taped confession and an unannounced trial by a military court resulting in a death sentence. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has now stayed the execution while it hears India’s plea that Pakistan violated the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations by denying Jadhav consular access, saying that India’s assertion is “plausible”.

The ICJ’s preliminary ruling is a snub to Pakistan, which is arguing that the ICJ lacks jurisdiction. Pakistan rests its case on Article (vi) of the May 21, 2008 Agreement on Consular Access between India and Pakistan, which states that “in case of arrest, detention or sentence made on political or security grounds, each side may examine the case on its merits.”

Precedent indicates that the ICJ does not interpret bilateral agreements in a manner that supersedes obligations of states under international treaties. The ICJ is likely to find Pakistan in violation of the Vienna Convention over denial of consular access even in its final verdict, even if it does not go further in its ruling.

Pakistan could ignore the ICJ’s injunction, as some hyper-nationalists are already suggesting, but doing so would come at a price in international goodwill. As it is, Pakistan’s standing in the comity of nations is not very high at the moment. Refusing to implement the decision of the international court on grounds of sovereignty might get applause at home, but will not improve Pakistan’s relations with a world already sceptical of Pakistan’s policies.

Notwithstanding the final outcome of the ICJ proceedings, it is unlikely that Pakistan’s real goal in the Jadhav matter will be achieved. That goal is to convince the world that India is as much to blame, if not more, for terrorism on Pakistani soil as Pakistan is for terrorism in India and beyond.

The military men who make such decisions in Pakistan are trained as soldiers, not lawyers or politicians. Their simple mind does not understand that international support for a nation depends on its political and economic clout, not its ability to produce uncorroborated confessional statements of spies or would-be terrorists.

Currently, India is the bigger trading partner of all major countries than Pakistan, many of whom also look at it as a destination or source of investment. Such interests act as a deterrent to most global actors supporting Pakistan’s claim of being pushed around by India with the help of “spies” or “terrorism enablers” that Pakistan arrests and sentences.

The rest of the world already knows that India and Pakistan spy on each other. It is not much of a secret, nor is the claim by both sides that the other supports insurgencies inside its territory, and hanging someone just to prove that point is rather unnecessary.

In any case, assuming Pakistan’s assertions on the Jadhav case are all correct, a single spy distributing money to would-be secessionists or insurrectionists is not the same as running training camps for jihadi groups for three decades.

Most of the countries Pakistan is hoping to convince of Indian perfidy have, over the years, documented Pakistan’s support for groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad, recognised all over the world as terrorist groups. Pakistan does not help its case by allowing these groups to operate under new names after banning them. Nor is it helped by the public activities and media appearances of the leaders of such groups.

What, then, does Pakistan’s military-intelligence complex hope to achieve by prolonging the confrontation over one individual Indian, spy or not? It is probably meant to heighten the sentiment in Pakistan, carefully nurtured over the years by its establishment, that India remains Pakistan’s “eternal enemy”. It will likely also deter civilian leaders, mainly Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, from any new initiative to mend fences with India.

Media frenzy about the arrest and sentencing of a spy will keep the pot of neighbourly enmity boiling, even if it is largely ignored outside South Asia. Pakistan’s hyper-nationalist narrative already positions the country as the target of a global conspiracy and portrays its nuclear-armed military and intelligence agency as the only bulwarks against annihilation.

Jadhav’s conviction for espionage helps the Pakistani establishment advance its case to Pakistanis of a besieged Pakistan that would be at India’s mercy were it not for the military and the ISI.

Already, social media — widely manipulated by the ISI’s ‘M’ (for media) Wing and extensive activism from retired military officers — is advancing conspiracy theories about civilian collusion with India. Sharif’s government is alleged to have compromised Pakistan’s “principled stance” on the Jadhav case by appearing before the ICJ instead of going ahead and carrying out Jadhav’s sentence.

If the objective of Pakistan’s establishment is to keep India-Pakistan hatred alive, the truth about who Kulbhushan Jadhav is and what he was doing when he was picked up is hardly relevant. The desire to internationalise the India-Pakistan conflict, however, seems hardly likely to be fulfilled any time soon.

Source: indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/kulbhushan-jadhavhearing-icj-death-sentence-stay-pakistan-india-relations-4662790/


Telangana Muslim Reservation Bill Could End Up Justifying Appeasement Charges

By Khalid Anis Ansari

May 19, 2017

The recent bill passed by the TRS government in Telangana that increased the quota for OBC (Pasmanda) Muslims and STs must be critically evaluated. Indian Muslims are differentiated into various caste groups. Historically, the high caste ashrafs, once the ruling class, conceived Muslims as a “nation” and mobilised for self-determination through the Muslim League. The 1946 elections, dubbed as the consensus on Pakistan, in which the Muslim League won handsomely, was marked by a restricted electorate and nearly 85 per cent of the population was excluded. Mostly, propertied and educated Muslims, the high caste Ashraf, voted for Pakistan; the vote of subordinated Muslim caste groups wasn’t even put to test.

In fact, lower caste Muslim organisations like the Momin Conference were actively contesting the two-nation theory. It is due to the tragedy of the Partition that Muslims lost reservations in independent India that they enjoyed pre-1947. One cannot demand a separate nation and reservations together.

It is because of their experience of being a ruling class, the positive endorsement of a separate nation-state, the sociological fact of being higher caste and adequate representation in public employment that the ashrafs do not qualify as a socially backward class entitled to reservations under articles 16 (4) and 15 (4) of the Constitution. This position is affirmed by the Mandal (Indra Sawney) judgment (1992) and also by various government reports including the Sachar Committee Report (2006). Since religion had already become a suspect category due to Partition, ideologues of the Pasmanda movement — a social movement of backward, Dalit and Adivasi Muslims — consistently challenged reservations for Muslims and preferred that similarly placed lower caste groups across religious communities be clubbed together. For instance, in Bihar, the OBC list is subdivided into Annexure I (Most Backward Classes) and Annexure II (Backward Classes) with most subordinated caste Muslims recognised in the MBC category with other Hindu castes. The Bihar formula works well, without triggering communal polarisation.

In Telangana, while OBC-A and OBC-B included Muslim scavengers (mehtars) and cotton carders (dudekula) with other Hindu backward castes, the OBC-E exclusively recognised 14 Muslim caste groups. In OBC-E, except for the ambiguity of sheikhs, most forward ashraf castes were appropriately excluded. What the recent bill has done is to increase the OBC-E quota from 4 per cent to 12 per cent and the ST quota from 6 per cent to 10 per cent, thereby taking the quantum of reservations in the state to 62 per cent. In all likelihood, the revised quota will be struck down since it exceeds the Supreme Court ceiling of 50 per cent for reservations and confronts the dismal possibility of being placed within the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution due to an unfavourable government at the Centre. Also, the OBC-E group includes around a 6 per cent Muslim population segment. In that case the existing 4 per cent quota for OBC-E was reasonable.

While the TRS government credits itself for having realised a key promise in its manifesto by chalking out a 12 per cent quota for Muslims, the BJP suggests that religion-based reservations may lead to another Pakistan. The timing of PM Modi’s statement concerning Pasmanda Muslims in Orissa (April 15) and the passing of the bill by the TRS government (April 16) is intriguing. The bill will again feed into the hegemonic secular-communal or majority-minority duopolies.

This drama could have been avoided had the Andhra Pradesh government followed the Bihar formula in 2004, when it first introduced the OBC-E category exclusively for Muslim caste groups. Broadly, this bill seems a short-term ruse by the TRS government to galvanise the Muslim vote bank. It will pave the way for communal rhetoric from which the BJP could benefit in the long run. Indeed, if one chalks out a 12 per cent quota for the 6 per cent Muslim population segment, then the charge of “Muslim appeasement” doesn’t appear off the mark. The bill appears unjust in its arithmetic and with the potential to ignite dangerous communal populism.

Source: ndianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/a-dangerous-arithmetic-trs-govt-telangana-obc-muslim-reservation-bill4662815/


China Turning Pak into Its ‘Colony’

By Kamlendra Kanwar

May 18, 2017

AS for the Sharif government, it has kept the detailed plans under wraps for fear that questions would be asked by the media and the people which it would be hard put to answer in the limited elbow room it enjoys, hemmed in as it is by the army on one side and the Chinese government on the other.

For India, the thought of China at its doorstep is far from comforting. There is the added shock that whatever little chance there was of wresting from Pakistan the control of Pak-occupied Indian territory in Kashmir at some stage would evaporate with the Chinese having a stake in the region. Indeed, India can only pin its hopes on the opposition of Balochis and of people in Gilgit-Baltistan turning acute. But the China-Pak reprisals would be brutal and ferocious.

There is no mistaking the fact that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor with One Belt One Road as its flagship, may virtually convert Pakistan into an economic colony of China. But so blinded is Nawaz Sharif led Pakistan by the short-term benefits that would accrue to Pakistan from a tight strategic embrace of its ally that it is oblivious to the compromises he is making on Pakistan’s sovereignty.

The grandiose plan would provide China connectivity from Xinjiang to the Arabian Sea at Gwadar in Balochistan. The range and scope of the plan is breathtaking, showing a deep penetration into Pakistan’s economic life. This could have several implications for India too.

The fallout for India could be that it would bring China menacingly close to our borders in the east and west. It would be a virtual ring-fence of India.

According to the perspective plan leaked by Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, much to the Sharif government’s chagrin, thousands of acres of Pakistani agricultural land will be leased to Chinese enterprises for projects ranging from seed germination to irrigation technology. A full system of monitoring and surveillance will be built from Peshawar to Karachi, with 24-hour video recordings on roads and busy marketplaces for law and order.

As per the CPEC, those entering agriculture must make the most of ‘free capital and loans’ from the Chinese ministries as well as China Development Bank. The report further states that China, according to the plan, has shown great interest in textiles too. Additionally, the plan also talks about a long belt of coastal enjoyment and many recreational activities and places like cruise homeports, yacht wharfs, theatres, golf courses, spas, hot spring hotels, etc. A national fibre optic backbone will be used not only for internet traffic but also terrestrial distribution of broadcast TV, which will cooperate with Chinese media in popularising China’s culture. Indeed, it would be a multi-pronged Chinese hegemony from economy to culture.

Itching to break away from US influence, Pakistan is looking upon the Chinese embrace as a godsend but it would realize later that it has mortgaged its sovereignty to the Chinese. However, then it may be too late. The army, which has power but no responsibility in Pakistan’s scheme of things has been pushing for the CPEC but if and when something goes wrong, it would conveniently pin all blame on the civilian government of Nawaz Sharif.

As for the Sharif government, it has kept the detailed plans under wraps for fear that questions would be asked by the media and the people which it would be hard put to answer in the limited elbow room it enjoys, hemmed in as it is by the army on one side and the Chinese government on the other.

For India, the thought of China at its doorstep is far from comforting. There is the added shock that whatever little chance there was of wresting from Pakistan the control of Pak-occupied Indian territory in Kashmir at some stage would evaporate with the Chinese having a stake in the region. Indeed, India can only pin its hopes on the opposition of Balochis and of people in Gilgit-Baltistan turning acute. But the China-Pak reprisals would be brutal and ferocious.

It remains to be seen whether India’s access to the seas would be hampered through that route. If India works in tandem with the US, Japan and Australia the freedom of navigation can be hoped for, but US President Donald Trump is on his own ‘trip’ and there is no knowing whether he would be willing to take on the China-Pak axis.

As it is, it was disconcerting that the US chose to be represented at the Beijing summit that deliberated on the ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative of China which would develop as a veritable stepping stone to Chinese hegemony in the region. A mature US president would have exercised utmost caution.

The CPEC plan envisages a deep and broad-based penetration of most sectors of Pakistan’s economy as well as its society by Chinese enterprises and culture. The leaked Dawn report concluded, “In the areas of interest contained in the plan, it appears access to the full supply chain of the agrarian economy is a top priority for the Chinese.”

After that, the capacity of the textile spinning sector to serve the raw material needs of Xinjiang, and the garment and value added sector to absorb Chinese technology is another priority. One shudders to think what impact these measures would have on Pakistan and the negative fallout it would inevitably have on India.

India cannot but be wary of Chinese designs but there is precious little that this country can do without the backing of the US, Russia, Japan and Australia. Of these countries, Japan could be relied upon to some extent especially until Abe is at the helm there but understandably, self-interest drives all nations and it would be crucial how the Japanese see their future in the current context.

The Russians stood by India through thick and thin but now they seem to see merit in tilting towards China and Pakistan. It would indeed be a major challenge for India to wean them away through deals that may be irresistible.

But there is a downside to the hunky dory picture that Pakistan is painting for its people. Apart from a real fear of Chinese colonisation, the security situation in Balochistan, where Gwadar is located, is worsening, with “Islamic State” (IS) claiming two large-scale attacks in the past few weeks. Recently, the group attacked a Sufi shrine in the Lasbela district of the volatile Balochistan province, killing at least 50 worshippers. Insurgency in Balochistan is also gaining momentum with Gilgit-Baltistan resenting the colonization by the Chinese. All in all, it truly is a scenario that is pregnant with grim forebodings.

Source: freepressjournal.in/analysis/kamlendra-kanwar-china-turning-pak-into-its-colony/1069769


The Courts and Matters of Faith

By Peter Ronald deSouza

 May 18, 2017

We need to make a distinction between matters of conscience and matters of faith

There is an uncanny similarity of argument between the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) on controversies that have to do with belief. This is illustrated best in their respective positions on the Ram Setu and the triple talaq debates.

In 2005, on the Ram Setu issue, the RSS stated that their opposition to the UPA government’s plan to dredge a canal between Rameswaram, off the coast of Tamil Nadu, and the islands of Mannar, near Sri Lanka, was a “matter of faith and hence required no substantiation”.

Twelve years later the counsel for the AIMPLB has offered a similar argument in the Supreme Court when making his client’s case on the practice of triple Talaq. A Constitution Bench of five justices is to decide on whether the practice of divorce by triple talaq is consistent with the protections guaranteed to individuals by the Indian Constitution. In opposition to pleas that the practice be considered unconstitutional, the AIMPLB counsel stated that triple Talaq “is a matter of faith. Hence there is no question of constitutional morality and equity”.

This argument that matters of faith be given special status needs to be assessed. Why should matters of faith be given immunity from scrutiny?

Three responses can be offered to this question. Let me, on grounds of brevity, refer to them as (i) the special status of faith, (ii) the issue of validity, and (iii) ethical codes in modern democracies.

Special Status of Faith

At the outset we must acknowledge that faith, as religious belief, must have special status in any constitutional order. It constitutes the core of an individual’s sense of self and is the basis of a believer’s conscience.

Belief is a matter of personal choice and no external authority, whether state, cultural community, or religious congregation, can tell an individual what her beliefs should be. To do so is to violate the individual’s freedom of conscience guaranteed by most constitutional systems and human rights covenants. But on matters of faith, an important distinction has to be made.

All ‘matters of conscience’ are ‘matters of faith’, but not all ‘matters of faith’ are ‘matters of conscience’. It is only matters of conscience that are protected by the freedom-granting provisions of the Constitution. Matters of conscience are individual-centric. They have an ethical core that guides the choices that an individual makes.

They endow the world with meaning and give the individual purpose. In contrast, the ‘matters of faith’ which the RSS and the AIMPLB are referring to — while they may look similar to ‘matters of conscience’ — are not so for they are group, not individual, centric. They have a component that is based on evidence, whether this is textual, historical, or empirical. In other words, the belief is contingent on the evidence. For example it would take the following form: ‘we believe X because it is said so in our holy book’.

It is the ‘because of’ component that demands analytical and scientific scrutiny of the matters of faith. Does the holy book actually say so? Did Lord Ram really build the Setu?

Further, when matters of faith have harmful social consequences, they must be subject to scrutiny since the Constitution guarantees the individual protection from harm.

This is the basis of all social reform in our history.

When the AIMPLB says that triple Talaq has evolved in the last 1400 years, it has inadvertently conceded that the practice is not cast in stone. Let the court’s intervention be part of that evolution.

The Issue of Validity

The many advances in linguistics, cultural anthropology, gender studies and, of course, the natural sciences can make the probing of the ‘because of’ component of the belief very exciting. For example, a textual analysis of a holy book using a study of old and new grammar, or the etymology of the word, or its placement in a sentence are all ways of arriving at the meaning of the statement.

Textual analysis has advanced considerably and hence is available to determine the validity of the interpretation being offered by scriptural authority. The many schools of Islamic jurisprudence are testimony to this plurality of interpretations.

To that can be added the modern tools of linguistic analysis, gender studies, human rights jurisprudence, and cultural anthropology. The validity of triple Talaq must be subject to textual interpretation. Similarly with the Ram Setu claim. It too must be scrutinised by modern science.

Ethical Codes in Democracies

The most difficult issue in this debate is how to respond to the situation where, after scrutiny, the matter of faith is found to be valid but considered by many in need of change such that it conforms to the contemporary ethics of human rights.

When the counsel for the AIMPLB says that there is “no question of constitutional morality and equity” in matters of faith, he is building a wall, a fashion these days, behind which the orthodox will police their community. Such a wall must not be built. It has no place in a constitutional democracy.

Source: thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/the-courts-and-matters-of-faith/article18491993.ece


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