Editorial: Troubling developments in India-Pak relations
India’s defence minister, Mr AK Antony, has accused Pakistan of backing the terrorists who have recently bombed the cities of India. Pakistan has already accused India of funding terrorists and insurgents in Balochistan and FATA. India has just started making noises about Pakistan fishing again in the troubled waters of Kashmir. Pakistan accuses India, similarly, of turning off the Chenab waters that belong to Pakistan under a treaty arrangement.
There is a danger here of lurching back into the old postures of hostility that one thought were being replaced by a new interest in normalisation and bilateral trade. Both sides are tentative and erring on the side of exaggeration in anticipation of what might happen instead of what must not happen. It is therefore ominous that Pakistan’s army chief, General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani, has visited the Line of Actual Contact and Control in the Northern Areas and referred to the “national consensus” on Kashmir in Pakistan.
While the Indian press has been cautious in its opinion, India’s defence minister has predictably tried to shake off responsibility by saying: “Terrorists have sanctuaries in neighbouring countries that are used as bases to carry out attacks in India”. The reference was clearly to Bangladesh and Pakistan. He added: “A large number of non-state armed groups have sanctuaries in our neighbouring states who use these bases and resources to carry out acts of terrorism across India”. He also made a reference to “nuclear weapons proliferation” as a signal for India to remain vigilant. But this time the finger was pointed at Pakistan.
The Pakistani press highlighted the story on the Chenab waters but was editorially cautious. Our commissioner under the Waters Treaty has always preferred alarmism to missing out on breaches, and this time too he has warned that India may be blocking Chenab waters in violation of the Treaty. But the federal secretary for Water and Power has been commendably non-alarmist, saying that all rivers are running low and Chenab too could be low for both India and Pakistan, and that a determination of the actual storage at Baglihar hydel project in Kashmir will clear up the facts in a day or two. But one still fears that Urdu editorials, pointing to famine next year because of India’s “act of blocking waters”, may whip up completely undue passions.
The Indian prime minister, Mr Manmohan Singh, is a low-profile head of the government. He is not the kind of person who will assert himself to actively change the paradigm of Indo-Pak relations and their historical triggers of tension, but he may allow a big change if someone else initiates the move from within India. His defence minister is clearly not a man to break old patterns and give the government in Pakistan a chance to come into its own and implement what is clearly a policy of reconciliation with India. On our side, now that the PMLN is out of the ruling coalition, the article in the Charter of Democracy committing the PPP government to rapid normalisation of relations with India “without prejudice to outstanding disputes” will be more acceptable to the JUI and ANP.
Pakistan is in the cross-hairs of terrorism and it doesn’t control its own territory enough to put an end to terrorist activity inside Pakistan or in its neighbourhood. It can’t rebut accusations coming in from various parts of the world that its tribal areas are training and sending out suicide-bombers. Even in Bangladesh the terrorists now threatening Dhaka and New Delhi have a background of Afghan jihad and have allegedly mostly received their training in Pakistan. But what has happened in the past can no longer be made the basis of today’s lack of trust and alarmism. India and Pakistan need to consult together and move towards a coordinated plan to face up to the challenge of terrorism.
Pakistan’s newly elected PPP government has to seek support at the international level to approach India for further normalisation and implementation of its new trade policy. India is a slow-mover when it comes to radical changes of state behaviour. Its position of a status quo power has ingrained in it the habit of sitting pretty even when it should be leading a new regional initiative. Therefore it is no surprise that new thinking within the framework of SAARC has mostly come from the small South Asian states and not India. However, India may today be face to face with a new era of internal instability at the hands of Indian Muslims who are increasingly turning to violence and don’t mind aping the strategy and tactics of Al Qaeda.
Pakistan must undertake a major diplomatic effort to counteract the national mood of seeking out two undefeatable enemies to sharpen the instinct of jihad among its population. The media must stop propagating the view to the common man in Pakistan that the only way we can react is by fighting wars with the United States at the global level and India at the regional level. *
Second Editorial: Rape, police and piety in Karachi
According to Karachi’s Additional Police Surgeon (APS), Dr Zulfiqar Siyal, a hundred women are raped every 24 hours in Karachi city alone, and a majority of them are working women. Speaking at a discussion arranged by Aurat Foundation in Karachi, he said: “But very few rape survivors have the courage to come forward in search of justice”.
If the working woman could help it she would not come out of her home. The religious programmes on TV blare out the message every day that a woman should not leave home without hijab and should not work where there are men around. This is supposed to be the shariah. Men who think working women are fair game have the message of the cleric in their mind telling them the woman is in violation of the edicts of Islam. After all the feigned piety pouring out of the TV channels, it is proven beyond doubt that religion doesn’t help to prevent the incidence of rape. The administrative reason is the growing lack of the state’s capacity to patrol its cities for crime. Many parts of Karachi are no-go areas and till lately some were controlled by dacoits. Big cities have big crime but big cities should also have big police. *