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February 4, 2011

Alif

“Liberal Fascists”
IRFAN SIDDIQUI writes in Jang on the recent assassination of Salmaan Taseer, the governor of the Punjab, condemning those who misuse the teachings of the Quran and the Prophet to violate the laws of the land. He expresses regret over the assassination of the governor, and states that the assassin must be punished in accordance with the laws of the state.

However, he points out, Mr Taseer’s murder cannot be considered in isolation of the larger, rather sensitive debate over blasphemy laws in Pakistan. The writer criticises Mr Taseer for stirring up a hornet’s nest by categorising the state’s blasphemy laws as “black laws”, and for fighting for the cause of Asia Bibi (a Pakistani Christian sentenced to death for blasphemy). Mr Siddiqui argues that thousands languish in jails in Pakistan—many of whom have never had their guilt proven—so why did Mr Taseer choose to fight only for Asia Bibi? He also questions why the governor kept raking up the issue, despite the fact that several TV channels and media personalities were clamouring for the chief justice of the Lahore High Court to take suo moto notice and reverse the sentence.

The writer opines that Mr Taseer had surrounded himself with “liberal fascists” and did not realise that he had embarked on a dangerous path. Mr Siddiqui concludes by saying that while the assassination is unpardonable, the issue of the war on Islam must be regarded in a holistic sense, where the flames of hatred are fanned by “liberal fascists” and “traitors” such as Salman Rushdie and Taslima Nasrin, with active encouragement from the West.

Tunisian ripples
Said Nasheed writes in Lebanon’s as-Safir about the recent events in Tunisia, commenting on the wider implications of the “revolution” on the countries in the region. He points out that Tunisia, when compared to other nations in the region, may have boasted positive socio-economic indicators, but they were not a sufficient guarantee for the overall robust health of the nation. To elaborate, Mr Nasheed recounts Brazilian President Lula da Silva’s comment to economic advisers that he did not grasp “the language of numbers”, but understood sufficiently that citizens needed three meals a day.

Mr Nasheed points to four myths that have been invalidated by the uprising in Tunisia. First, that all revolutions in the Middle East will ultimately be Islamic in nature, implying that the hope for a modern, democratic revolution in the region is low. Second, that true economic development of all sections of Arab society could occur without political or constitutional reforms—an illusion, Mr Nasheed points out, harboured by some elites in the region. Third, that “tyrants” will continue to hold on to power by appeasing the West; and fourth, that Arabs were incapable of bringing about change in their societies through an indigenous revolution. Mr Nasheed celebrates what he calls the first democratic Arab revolution, and points out that this will be a source of considerable unease in the corridors of power in other Arab capitals.

Keep going
In its January 9 editorial, Nawa-i-waqt criticises Pakistan’s acceptance of S M Krishna’s invitation for talks. It opines that India has evaded attempts to resolve the Kashmir issue for over 63 years, and that these talks will not result in any breakthrough. It draws readers’ attention to the recent Secretary-level talks in Delhi and Lahore, which failed because of India’s “rigid stance on Kashmir”.

The editorial argues that India deflects pressure on Kashmir by bringing up the issue of terrorism, with focus on the Mumbai attacks. Nawa-i-waqt states that Pakistan has already assisted India and provided it with information pertinent to its investigation, but asks what India has done in its investigation of the Samjhauta Express blast. It argues that India has turned a blind eye to Hindu extremism, quoting Indian Member of Parliament Rahul Gandhi that Hindu extremism is a more dangerous threat than the Taliban or al-Qaeda to corroborate its claim.

The editorial stresses that bilateral talks and back-channel diplomacy are useless tools—and states that Pakistan’s leaders must apply pressure on India for a referendum on Kashmir at the United Nations. It suggests that Islamabad use every international platform available to urge world leaders to coerce India into agreeing to a referendum. It concludes that if India continues to deny Kashmiris their right to self-determination, then Pakistan must make it clear to the world that it did not acquire the atom bomb to “stow away in a showcase”.

Changing tactics
An editorial in the Oman Daily discusses Israel’s decision to complain to the United Nations (UN) on rocket attacks against Israeli cities from the Gaza Strip. Oman Daily opines that Israel’s appeal is odd, given that the country has repeatedly failed to implement or respect the UN’s decisions with regard to Palestine. The editorial puts forth that these recent moves by Israel are a means to register its position with the media, prepare the grounds for a military assault on the Gaza Strip, and deflect pressure from the United States on resuming direct negotiations with the Palestinians.

The paper points out that while Hamas has clearly indicated its willingness for a truce, Israel has continued to conduct air raids on the Qassam Brigades (the military wing of Hamas). Israel’s escalation is part of a plan to resist pressure from the United States in the short-term on direct negotiations, and wait for Obama’s second term in office, where, as a weaker president, he would be incapable of pressuring Israel to make progress on the Palestine issue. The editorial concludes by warning of a period of instability in the region.

Rohan Joshi is a fellow at the Takshashila Institution and blogs at The Filter Coffee


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