Skip to main content

Pakistan’s vanishing voices(Hindu)

Over the past few days, five Pakistani activists including the poet Salman Haider have gone missing. The incidents have left the rights groups, already under pressure from the military and extremist outfits, alarmed. Nobody has claimed responsibility, and the family members haven’t got any ransom calls. The government says it will find them, but the investigation that started after Haider’s disappearance on January 6 seems to have reached nowhere; since then four more have gone missing. Although the full facts are not available, the perception that the disappearances are somehow linked has gained credence. They were all active social media-based campaigners for human rights and critical of the military and its support for militancy. They challenged the extremist narrative propagated by the fundamentalist groups and promoted the idea of a modern, inclusive Pakistan, largely through Facebook posts and blogs. Haider was known for his strong stand on rights violations in Balochistan.

This is not the first time activists and writers critical of the military-terror complex have come under attack in Pakistan. For years both the security apparatus and militant groups have used force to silence critics. Liberal activist and author Raza Rumi, who had criticised state support for militants, was attacked by an extremist outfit in March 2014. A year later, activist Sabeen Mahmud was shot dead in Karachi after she hosted a debate on Balochistan. This time the victims are social media activists, and it is not hard to see the pattern. In Pakistan where television faces censorship and the print media is under pressure, social media platforms are a thriving space where people express views without fear. Whoever is behind the disappearances is targeting such free debates. This should be a wake-up call to the Pakistani state. Some commentators have already implicated the state, citing the pattern in the disappearances and the military’s track record in dealing with dissent. The Interior Minister has said the government “is not in the business of disappearing people”, but he has the responsibility to find out what happened to the activists. For decades Pakistan tolerated a culture of violence within its society for political and strategic benefits, but this has backfired. Liberal space is shrinking in the wake of challenges from the extremists that benefited from the state’s tolerance of violence. The government has to take bold measures to check these groups and promote free and fearless thinking if it wants the already vulnerable democratic dynamics to survive.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

SC asks Centre to strike a balance on Rohingya issue (.hindu)

Supreme Court orally indicates that the government should not deport Rohingya “now” as the Centre prevails over it to not record any such views in its formal order, citing “international ramifications”.

The Supreme Court on Friday came close to ordering the government not to deport the Rohingya.

It finally settled on merely observing that a balance should be struck between humanitarian concern for the community and the country's national security and economic interests.

The court was hearing a bunch of petitions, one filed by persons within the Rohingya community, against a proposed move to deport over 40,000 Rohingya refugees. A three-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, began by orally indicating that the government should not deport Rohingya “now”, but the government prevailed on the court to not pass any formal order, citing “international ramifications”. With this, the status quo continues even though the court gave the community liberty to approach it in …

Cloud seeding

Demonstrating the function of the flare rack that carries silver iodide for cloud-seeding through an aircraft. 
Water is essential for life on the earth. Precipitation from the skies is the only source for it. India and the rest of Asia are dependent on the monsoons for rains. While the South West Monsoon is the main source for India as a whole, Tamil Nadu and coastal areas of South Andhra Pradesh get the benefit of the North East Monsoon, which is just a less dependable beat on the reversal of the South West Monsoon winds.

India’s criminal wastage: over 10 million works under MGNREGA incomplete or abandoned (hindu)

In the last three and half years, the rate of work completion under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) has drastically declined, leading to wastage of public money and leaving villages more prone to drought. This could also be a reason for people moving out of the programme.

At a time when more than one-third of India’s districts are reeling under a drought-like situation due to deficit rainfall, here comes another bad news. The works started under the MGNREGA—close to 80 per cent related to water conservation, irrigation and land development—are increasingly not being completed or in practice, abandoned.

Going by the data (as on October 12) in the Ministry of Rural Development’s website, which tracks progress of MGNREGA through a comprehensive MIS, 10.4 million works have not been completed since April 2014. In the last three and half years, 39.7 million works were started under the programme. Going by the stipulation under the programme, close to 7…