The Hindu – In the name of a majority

The NRC in Assam has given us an indication of risks involved in such exercises of inclusion and exclusion

Anupama Roy

Op/Ed, 13 December 2019. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), passed in both Houses this week, promises to give the protection of citizenship to non-Muslims who fled to India to escape religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

While religious persecution is a reasonable ground for protection, the problem with the CAB is that it does not include all communities that suffered religious persecution, and explicitly excludes Muslims who suffered persecution in the specified countries and other non-Muslim majority countries like Myanmar.

This majoritarian notion of religion-based citizenship, although intrinsic to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s idea of India, is not shared by the majority of people in this country. In addition, such a view is alien to the constitutional consensus which emerged in 1950, embodying the idea of a people who committed themselves, and those governing on their behalf, to a constitutional order.

Those in support of the CAB have rallied around the argument that it is non-discriminatory and its objectives are justifiable. In doing so, they have often invoked the moral imperative of correcting a perceived past wrong, in this case the Partition. In the process, the CAB changes completely the idea of equal and inclusive citizenship promised in the Constitution.

Changes in citizenship law

The CAB cannot, however, be seen in isolation. It must be seen in tandem with the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and other changes in the citizenship law, which have preceded it. The Home Minister and the Law Minister have clarified that the CAB and the NRC are distinct, the NRC protects the country against illegal migrants and the CAB protects refugees.

This, however, is incommensurate with the election speeches made by BJP leaders. For instance, speaking in Kolkata earlier this year, Amit Shah had promised an NRC in West Bengal, but only after the passage of the CAB to ensure that no Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain and Christian refugee is denied citizenship for being an illegal immigrant.

In a triumphal note after the passage of the CAB in Lok Sabha, Mr Shah declared that a nationwide NRC would follow soon.

Despite their seemingly disparate and adversarial political imperatives, the CAB and the NRC have become conjoined in their articulation of citizenship. Indeed, the two represent the tendency towards ‘jus sanguinis’ in the citizenship law in India, which commenced in 1986, became definitive in 2003, and has reached its culmination in the contemporary moment.

In 2003, the insertion of the category ‘illegal migrants’ in the provision of citizenship by birth became the hinge from which the NRC and the CAB later emerged.

The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and issue of National Identity Cards) Rules of 2003 made the registration of all citizens of India, issue of national identity cards, the maintenance of a national population register, and the establishment of an NRC by the Central government compulsory.

Under these rules, the Registrar General of Citizen Registration is to collect particulars of individuals and families, including their citizenship status, through a ‘house-to-house enumeration’.

In an exception to the general rule, Assam has followed a different procedure of ‘inviting applications’ with particulars of each family and individual and their citizenship status based on the NRC 1951 and electoral rolls up to the midnight of March 24, 1971.

The purpose of the NRC is to sift out ‘foreigners’ and ‘illegal migrants’, who were referred to at different points as ‘infiltrators’ and ‘aggressors’, and a threat to the territory and people of India.

Exempting minority groups

The second strand emerging from the 2003 amendment has taken the form of the CAB, which exempts ‘minority communities’, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, and Christians, from three countries, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, from the category of ‘illegal migrants’.

The CAB brings the citizenship law in line with exemptions already made in the Passport Act 1920 and Foreigners Act 1946 through executive orders in September 2015 and July 2016. It sets a cut-off date of December 31, 2014 as the date of eligibility of illegal migrants for exemption.

It must be noted that a PIL filed by the Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha pending before the Supreme Court has contested the deviation in the cut-off date set for Assam by the Citizenship Amendment Act 1986, March 24, 1971, from the date specified in Article 6 of the Constitution, i.e., July 19, 1948, which applies to the rest of the country.

The CAB is applicable to entire India, and takes the cut-off date forward by several years.

The claim that the CAB does not violate the Constitution is reflective of the recommendations of the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC). The JPC was advised by constitutional experts to use a broader category, ‘persecuted minorities’, to protect the Bill from the charge of violating the right to equality in Article 14.

The CAB uses the category ‘minority communities’ and goes on to identify them on the ground of religion. The notifications of September 2015 and July 2016, which changed the Passport and Foreigners Acts, had mentioned the term ‘religious persecution’.

The consideration of religious persecution for making a distinction among persons, the JPC argued, could not be discriminatory, because the distinction was both intelligible and reasonable, satisfying the standards laid down in the Supreme Court judgment in State of West Bengal vs. Anwar Ali Sarkarhabib (1952) to affirm adherence to Article 14.

Test of reasonableness

The JPC appears, however, to have overlooked the substantive conditions that the Supreme Court laid down in the same verdict. These require that the criteria of intelligibility of the differentia and the reasonableness of classification, must satisfy both grounds of protection guaranteed by Article 14, i.e., protection against discrimination and protection against the arbitrary exercise of state power.

In 2009, the Delhi High Court judgement in Naz Foundation vs Government of NCT of Delhi referred to “a catena of decisions” to lay down a further test of reasonableness, requiring that the objective for such classification in any law must also be subjected to judicial scrutiny.

The restraint on state arbitrariness, according to the judgment, was to come from constitutional morality, which as B R Ambdkar declared in the Constituent Assembly, was the responsibility of the state to protect.

It remains a puzzle as to why the government wishes to change the citizenship law to address the problem of refugees. The JPC refers to standard operating procedures for addressing the concerns of refugees from neighbouring countries.

In the case of refugees from the erstwhile West Pakistan who deposed before the JPC in favour of a CAB, the standard operating procedure was the grant of long-term visas leading to citizenship.

One wonders how these refugees will benefit from a law which will put them through an arduous process of proving religious persecution. Immediately after Partition, ‘displaced persons’ constituted an administrative category, and citizenship files of 1950s tell us how district officials expedited their citizenship in the process of preparation of electoral rolls.

The focus in the recent parliamentary debates, for various reasons, was the eastern borders. States in the region have resisted the CAB, and simultaneously asked for an NRC. West Bengal has been an exception. The reality of imposing a national order of things, through a CAB and an NRC, in non-national spaces will unfold in future but Assam has given us adequate evidence of the risks involved.

It can only be hoped that the judiciary and civil society are able to restore constitutional and democratic politics through an exercise of counter-majoritarian power in a context where electoral gains have determined political choices.

Anupama Roy teaches at the Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/in-the-name-of-a-majority/article30289562.ece?homepage=true

BBC News – Citizenship Amendment Bill: Are India’s claims about minorities in other countries true?

Reality Check team BBC News

New Delhi – India, 12 December 2019. The Indian government has introduced a controversial bill offering citizenship to illegal immigrants from three neighbouring countries if they belong to non-Muslim minority groups.

Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who have entered India illegally can apply for citizenship if they can prove they originate from Muslim-majority Pakistan, Bangladesh or Afghanistan.

The government argues that minorities in those countries are dwindling, and that they face persecution on the grounds of their faith.

The legislation has been criticised as discriminatory in India because it excludes Muslims seeking citizenship as well.

So what is the situation facing non-Muslims in those three neighbouring states?

How many non-Muslims?

Amit Shah, India’s Home Minister, says Pakistan’s non-Muslim population has dwindled dramatically since 1951. This follows the mass exodus of non-Muslims from Pakistan after partition in 1947 and the flight of Muslims from India to Pakistan.

Mr Shah cited a remaining minority population in Pakistan of 23% in 1951, and he says this has shrunk over the decades due to persecution.

But Mr Shah’s figures need to be challenged as he appears to have combined the data for what is now the state of Pakistan (formerly west Pakistan) with what is now Bangladesh (formerly east Pakistan).

Census data for 1998 shows that the Hindu population of Pakistan (which was formerly west Pakistan) had not really changed significantly from its 1951 level of around 1.5 to 2%.

But the data also suggests that the Hindu population of Bangladesh did fall, from around 22% or 23% in 1951 to around 8% in 2011.

There are other non-Muslim religious minorities in Pakistan and Bangladesh, such as Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Parsis. And in Pakistan, there are also Ahmadis, who were declared non-Muslim by the government in the 1970s, and are estimated to be around four million strong, making them the largest religious minority in the country.

In Afghanistan, non-Muslim groups include Hindus, Sikhs, Bahais and Christians, and make up less than 0.3% of the population. In 2018, there were just 700 Sikhs and Hindus left in Afghanistan as families had been leaving because of the conflict there, according to a report for the US State Department.

What’s the official status of non-Muslims?

The Indian government’s citizenship bill states: “The constitutions of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh provide for a specific state religion. As a result, many persons belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities have faced persecution on grounds of religion in those countries”.

It’s true that the state religion of Pakistan is Islam. Afghanistan is also an Islamic state.

In Bangladesh the situation is more complicated. The country came into being in 1971 with a secular constitution, but in 1988 Islam was made the official state religion.

A lengthy legal battle to get that reversed ended in 2016 when Bangladesh’s top court ruled that Islam should remain the state religion.

However, all these countries have constitutional provisions stating that non-Muslims have rights and are free to practise their faith. And individual Hindus have risen to prominent positions in both Pakistan and Bangladesh, notably as chief justices in the two countries.

Do the minorities face discrimination?

In practice, non-Muslim minorities do face discrimination and persecution.

What are Pakistan’s blasphemy laws?

Human rights group Amnesty International has pointed to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which it says “are vaguely formulated and arbitrarily enforced by the police and judiciary in a way which amounts to harassment and persecution of religious minorities”.

Pakistani Hindus who moved to India in recent years told the BBC they face social and religious discrimination, with a particular issue being the targeting of Hindu girls in Sindh province.

But it’s also true that Ahmadis, who are not covered by India’s citizenship bill, face discrimination for their beliefs as they are regarded as heretical by the Muslim majority.

And the majority of blasphemy cases up to 2018 had been filed against other Muslims and Ahmadis, not against Christians or Hindus.

In Bangladesh, there are various reasons for the decline in the proportion of Hindus over the years. The better-off Hindu population have had their homes and businesses targeted, sometimes in attempts to get them to leave so their land or assets can be taken over. Hindus have also been the targets of attacks by religious militants.

The Bangladesh government has rejected India’s claims about minorities being targeted. Foreign Minister Abdul Monem told the BBC: “We don’t have examples of minorities being persecuted in this country.”

According to UN data, the number of refugees in India went up by 17% between 2016-19. As of August this year, the biggest numbers registered with the UN were actually from Tibet and Sri Lanka.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-50720273

Dawn – India under Modi is moving systematically with a supremacist agenda, says PM Imran Khan

Islamabad Capital Teritority – Pakistan, 12 December 2019. Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Thursday that India, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has been moving systematically with a Hindu supremacist agenda.

The prime minister was referencing the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill passed by India’s upper house amid protests on Wednesday.

The bill will let the Indian government grant citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants who entered India from three neighbouring countries before 2015, but not if they are Muslim.

Modi’s government, re-elected in May and under pressure over a slowing economy, says Muslims from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan are excluded from the legislation because they do not face discrimination in those countries.

Taking to Twitter, Prime Minister Imran stated that the bill was the latest of Modi’s attempts to promulgate his supremacist agenda, “starting with illegal annexation and continuing siege of IOJK [Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir].

Then stripping 2 million Indian Muslim in Assam of citizenship, setting up internment camps; now the passage of Citizenship Amendment Law; all this accompanied by mob lynchings of Muslims and other minorities in India”.

He warned that bowing down to a “genocidal supremacist agenda”, propagated by Nazi Germany, had once before lead to World War II.

“Modi’s Hindu supremacist agenda, accompanied by threats to Pakistan under a nuclear overhang, will lead to massive bloodshed and far-reaching consequences for the world,” he warned. “As in Nazi Germany, in Modi’s India dissent has been marginalised and the world must step in before it is too late to counter this Hindu supremacist agenda of Modi’s India [that is] threatening bloodshed and war.”

The Citizenship Amendment Bill, seeks to grant Indian nationality to Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Parsis and Sikhs who fled Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh “because of religious persecution” before 2015. It does not, however, extend to Rohingya Muslim refugees who fled persecution in Myanmar.

Home Minister Amit Shah said it was not anti-Muslim because it did not affect the existing path to citizenship available to all communities.

Amnesty India, however, said the legislation legitimised discrimination on the basis of religion and stood in clear violation of the India’s constitution and international human rights law.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1521876/india-under-modi-is-moving-systematically-with-a-supremacist-agenda-says-pm-imran

The Indian Express – Panjab expo: Their visas rejected for last 2 years, Pakistan traders say they won’t participate

This time, exhibitors from Afghanistan, Turkey, Thailand and Egypt are also participating in PITEX. States like Jharkhand, J&K, Madhya Pradesh and the North-Eastern states will also be part of the event.

Kamaldeep Singh Brar

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 12 December 2019. Discouraged by their visas being rejected for the last two years, Pakistani traders have not sent any names for participation in the Punjab International Trade Expo (PITEX), 2019, which is set to begin in Amritsar on Thursday.

“In the past we had participation of more than 150 traders in this annual international trade festival. We organise PITEX in Amritsar to encourage trade between East and West Punjab. But our efforts are falling apart since the last two years as the Ministry of External Affairs does not give visa to Pakistani traders,” R S Sachdeva, mentor, Punjab State Chapter, PHDCCI, told The Indian Express.

The 14th edition of PITEX is being organised here by the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PHDCCI).

“This year too we had sent an invitation to Pakistan traders. But they replied that they will not apply for visa as they might be rejected again. They were discouraged as MEA didn’t approve any visa for last two years. It is the first time they have decided not to apply due to expected response of MEA,” said Sachdeva.

He further said, “On one side the Kartarpur Corridor has been opened and Pakistan government has set-up a market alongside gurdwara where devotees love to shop. But the same traders cannot sell their goods by crossing the border.

We have asked Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh to send a fresh note to the Union government to allow Punjab trade with Pakistan in a changed scenario after the opening of Kartarpur Corridor. Punjab has great trading opportunities with Pakistan. Punjab and Indian government must think about exploring these.”

However, Pakistani products will also be on display and for sale during the event. Five traders have been attending the event as they have SAARC visas.

This time, exhibitors from Afghanistan, Turkey, Thailand and Egypt are also participating in PITEX. States like Jharkhand, J&K, Madhya Pradesh and the North-Eastern states will also be part of the event.

Sachdeva said, “PITEX will be inaugurated on December 12 by Punjab Industries and Commerce Minister Sunder Sham Arora. Apart from leading corporates, PITEX will see participation from PSIEC, GMADA, Punjab Agro Industry Corporation, PEDA, Milkfed, Markfed, amongst others. A number of central government departments are also participating.”

Karan Gilhotra, chairman, Punjab State Chapter, PHDCCI, said there will be a session on ‘Tourism: Fuelling growth and goodwill’ which will be attended by the tour, travel and hospitality industry. Over 400 stalls have been set up in over 20,000 sq mts. Organisers said that there were around 3 lakh visitors last year and this year number is expected to cross 3.5 lakh.

Punjab expo: Their visas rejected for last 2 years, Pak traders say they won’t participate

The Print – Over 1,000 scientists oppose citizenship bill, say it violates spirit of Constitution

Read full text of statement signed by more than 1,000 scientists & scholars who say they find it troubling that bill uses    religion as a criterion to determine citizenship.

Bengaluru -Karnataka – India, 09 December 2019. In a statement circulated online, more than 1,000 Indian scientists and scholars from the country and abroad have released a statement opposing the Citizenship Amendment Bill tabled Lok Sabha by the Narendra Modi government Monday.

The 2019 bill, which was approved by the Union cabinet on 4 December, seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan if they faced religious persecution there.

In the statement, the scientists have argued that the “use of religion as a criterion for citizenship” would be a “radical break” with the idea of independent, post-colonial India. The bill is a proposed amendment to the Citizenship Act 1955 and would reduce the residence period in India from 11 years to six years to obtain citizenship.

Drafted over the weekend, tT. These include scientists and research scholars from institutions such as various IITs, the International Centre for Theoretical Sciences (ICTS, Bengaluru), Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR, Mumbai), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Indian Statistical Institute, and different IISERs as well as international institutes such as Harvard University, University of Chicago, University of Toronto, Nikhef Amsterdam, and Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics.

Signatories also include directors of major research institutions, such as Rajesh Gopakumar of ICTS, Sandip Trivedi of TIFR, and Atish Dabholkar of International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Italy.

We are a group of Indian scientists and scholars

We are issuing this statement in our personal capacity as concerned citizens to express our dismay at the reported plans to table the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 in the parliament. We do not have access to the exact text of the current version of the Bill.

Our statement is based on media reports and the text of the previous version of the Bill that was passed by the Lok Sabha in January 2019. Nevertheless, we feel compelled to issue this statement already at this point of time in view of the reports that the Bill may be tabled in parliament early next week and may be taken up for voting in both houses soon after.

We understand that the Bill seeks to grant citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The stated intent of the Bill is to provide refuge to persecuted minorities from neighbouring countries.

While we support this laudable objective, we find it deeply troubling that the Bill uses religion as a legal criterion for determining Indian citizenship.

The idea of India that emerged from the independence movement, and as enshrined in our constitution, is that of a country that aspires to treat people of all faiths equally. The use of religion as a criterion for citizenship in the proposed bill would mark a radical break with this history and would be inconsistent with the basic structure of the constitution.

We fear, in particular, that the careful exclusion of Muslims from the ambit of the Bill will greatly strain the pluralistic fabric of the country.

We note that article 14 of the Indian constitution prohibits the State from denying “to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.” While it is the job of legal experts to determine whether this draft bill violates the letter of the constitution, it seems certain to us that it violates its spirit.

For the reasons mentioned above, we call for the immediate withdrawal of this bill and as its replacement request for appropriate legislation that will address the concerns of refugees and minorities in a non-discriminatory manner.

Over 1,000 scientists oppose citizenship bill, say it violates spirit of Constitution

Sikh24.com – SGPC seeks passports from Sikhs aspirant of celebrating Vaisakhi in Pakistan

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 07 December 2019. The apex Sikh body Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhik Committee has sought passports from the Sikhs aspirant of celebrating next year’s Vaisakhi at Gurdwara Sri Panja Sahib (Pakistan). Notably, the Sikh jatha from India will depart from India to celebrate Vaisakhi in April-2020.

Sharing the development with media, SGPC secretary Manjit Singh Bath informed that the aspirant Sikh devotees can submit their passports at SGPC’s headquarters in Amritsar Sahib by 30 December. “A proof of identity, either Aadhar Card or Voter Card, passport size fresh photographs along with a recommendation letter from the concerned SGPC constituency will also be required,” he added.

SGPC seeks passports from Sikhs aspirant of celebrating Vaisakhi in Pakistan

The News – Saudi Shura council members meet PM and president, assure support on Kashmir

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 06 December 2019. Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Arif Alvi met with the Saudi Shura Council members on Friday, where in the meeting with the latter, the KSA delegation reiterated support for Pakistan on the Kashmir issue.

Saudi Shura Council Chairman Dr Abdullah Bin Mohammed Bin Ibrahim Al-Sheikh met with the president in Islamabad. Dr Al-Sheikh said that efforts are underway to enhance parliamentary cooperation between the two countries.

During the meeting with the top government officials, matters of mutual interest between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were discussed. The president said that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have brotherly relations and share common stance on regional and international issues.

He also said that 2.3 million Pakistanis settled in the Kingdom are contributing to the socio-economic development of Saudi Arabia.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/579516-pm-imran-president-meet-saudi-shura-council-members

The Tribune – SGPC raagis to perform kirtan at Kartarpur

Committee to send them on rotational basis; also to complete their official formalities

Tribune News Service

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 04 December 2019. In a first, the Indian Sikh ‘raagis’ would recite gurbani kirtan at the Gurdwara located across the border regularly on a rotational basis. The SGPC has prepared a list of ‘raagi’ jathas (group of sacred hymn singers) to be deputed at Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan.

Under the plan, the first ‘raagi’ jatha will leave on December 16 morning through the Kartarpur corridor from Dera Baba Nanak and return after offering their day-long services at the Gurdwara. There has been upsurge in the flow of pilgrims who visit the Gurdwara through the corridor but several shortcomings in arrangements were also observed.

It was felt that more number of ‘raagis’ were required to continue the regular gurbani kirtan at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, Kartarpur.

Sikhs in Pakistan are in micro-minority and consequently there has been shortage of professional ‘raagis’ compared to the number of Sikh Gurdwaras located in the Muslim-dominated country.

SGPC chief secretary Dr Roop Singh said for the day-long continuous flow of gurbani kirtan, the apex body had offered services of its ‘raagis’ at Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib.

For the first day, Bhai Shaukeen Singh-led ‘raagi’ jatha would reach the Gurdwara on 16 December through the dedicated terminal and return the same evening. The following day, Bhai Gurmel Singh would take his jatha.

Though the duties would be designated by the SGPC, these jathas would go like the ordinary pilgrims, after furnishing their antecedents online and paying the service fee of $20 each. All this would be arranged by the SGPC well in advance.

The SGPC had earlier appealed to the Centre to take up the issue at the diplomatic level with its Pakistani counterparts so that special permission could be granted to the SGPC to send its ‘raagi’ jathas and sewadaars under a special category.

Now, the SGPC has decided to offer the service instantly through the ordinary channel. Dr Roop Singh said the plan of providing service of ‘raagis’ was offered in the backdrop of the feedback received from the devotees.

“The devotees who paid obeisance at Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib observed the shortage of ‘raagis’ which posed as a hindrance and cumbersome for a handful of Pakistani raagis in continuing with the gurbani kirtan the whole day at the Gurdwara.

We decided to send our jathas on our own through the available channel. They will go like other pilgrims and return after offering their services the same evening,” he said.

Golden Temple’s [Harmandr Sahib] additional manager Rajinder Singh Rubi said at present there were more than 70 ‘raagi’ jathas associated with the shrine. “We plan that the instruments like harmonium, table and other allied items that were required in reciting gurbani kirtan should be donated at Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib,” he said.

https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/sgpc-raagis-to-perform-kirtan-at-kartarpur/870142.html

Dawn – Mob besieges Dawn offices in Islamabad

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 03 December 2019. A few dozen unidentified people on Monday staged a protest outside Dawn offices over publication of a news report regarding the ethnicity of the London Bridge attacker who stabbed two persons to death last week.

The charged mob, carrying banners and chanting slogans against the newspaper, remained outside the office building for nearly three hours, besieging the premises and making the staffers hostage.

They prevented the employees from entering or leaving the building and demanded a written apology. Some of the protesters also misbehaved with the newspaper as well as Dawn TV employees when they arrived at the office.

Security guards at the media house had to lock the gates to prevent the protesters from entering the premises before police and officers of the capital administration arrived.

After lengthy negotiations with the newspaper management in the presence of an assistant commissioner, the protesters finally agreed to disperse after hurling warnings.

Meanwhile, the incident was widely condemned by leaders of various political parties, parliamentarians and journalist bodies.

Chairman of the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights Mustafa Nawaz Kokhar has also taken notice of the besieging of Dawn offices by the unidentified persons and directed the inspector general of police Islamabad to submit a report on the issue to the committee by December 6. He had also sought details of the action taken by the police against those who had besieged the media house.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in a statement condemned the incident, saying that “no one should be allowed to attack media outlets in the name of protest”.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari demanded “action against the crowd which attacked the newspaper office and vowed to side with the journalist fraternity”.

PML-N Information Secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb called for a high-level investigation into the incident to identify and punish the perpetrators.

In a statement, Ms Aurangzeb said it was imperative to set a precedent by awarding strict punishment to those who attacked the newspaper office so that it should act as a deterrent in future.

“Such actions are unacceptable in any civilised society,” she said, pledging that the people, politicians and media will join hands in the fight against such elements.

National Party (NP) Punjab president Ayub Malik termed it as an “attack on media freedom”. He also called for strict action against the “unidentified persons” for holding the newspaper employees hostage. He asked the government to identify the people with the help of video footages available on social media.

Meanwhile, office-bearers of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and the National Press Club (NPC) also condemned the incident.

Newly-elected president of the PFUJ-Afzal Butt Group Shehzada Zulfiqar and secretary general Nasir Zaidi demanded an inquiry.

The incident, they said, was an eye opener for the government and must not be ignored.

NPC President Shakil Qarar, in a statement, said working journalists would not allow curbs on press freedom, and asked the government to take steps for the protection of media persons.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1520079/mob-besieges-dawn-offices-in-islamabad

The Asian Age – Here’s why the Chinese model is unsuitable for Pakistan’s government

The second feature is the absence of rule of law, rather than its unequivocal application.

Umair Javed

Op/Ed, 04 December 2019. Every few months or so, the demand for a ‘presidential system’ of government in Pakistan makes an appearance on various social media sites. This happens most prominently on Twitter, where a number of users share similarly worded tweets, all using the same hashtag.

On its own, there’s nothing wrong with the demand for a constitutional redesign. Political systems are, theoretically, not set in stone, and neither are constitutions.

Parties in a number of countries have contested for power on platforms that seek to change electoral systems, voting formulae, power-sharing arrangements between different social groups, and relations between the executive, legislature, and the judiciary.

If anything, initiating a public conversation on institutional redesign is certainly more practical and preferable than cheerleading for ad hoc interventions by a particular organ of the state.

The most recent chorus of presidential fetishism is also slightly different from previous iterations on at least two counts. One is its frequency, which seems to be picking up pace since this government took office in July 2018.

It appears an ever-increasing number of people from one side of the partisan divide believe that the lack of executive authority with the Prime Minister’s Office, the reliance on largely incompetent ministers, and the cumbersome legislative procedures required to push through ‘change’, are holding the country back.

The second change is the citation of two countries as case studies worthy of emulation, China and Turkey. While the infatuation with Erdogan has been around for a while, the systemic embrace of Turkey is relatively new.

What’s also interesting is that believers in the ‘China model’ seem to be increasing in proportion to the country’s enhanced footprint on Pakistan’s economic and strategic decision-making. The drawing room logic is some variant of ‘if their system allows them to build a motorway at lightning speed, it’s surely worth importing’.

Less facetiously, high growth rates, ‘strict rule of law’, zero-tolerance for corruption, and the overall welfare success of this developmental model are usually cited as reasons for systemic emulation.

This is curious because China’s actually existing political system (what drives its well-publicised growth story) is considerably under-discussed in mainstream political conversations across Pakistan.

The print and electronic media doesn’t report on China’s domestic politics, and it rarely reveals any insight into what drives economic growth. There’s a recurring caricature of strong leadership, mythical levels of anti-corruption, and decisiveness, in drawing rooms, WhatsApp groups, and TV studios alike, but that’s where the depth of it ends.

Leaving aside the moral and functional desirability of parliamentary democracy in ethnically fractured societies, and China’s own authoritarian behaviour with minority groups, it is worth clarifying some important features of China’s political economy before embracing it as an ideal.

In an excellent new book on the past, present, and future of economic systems, titled Capitalism, Alone, Branko Milanovic draws a sharp contrast between two ideal types of capitalism that have shown relative durability. Liberal meritocratic capitalism, exemplified by the US, and increasingly characterised by plutocratic levels of inequality and disparity.

And political capitalism, exemplified by China, which stands as the only present-day alternative to organising politics and economics in a particular configuration, since the implosion of communism (or state socialism).

China’s political capitalism, according to Milanovic, rests ironically on certain pillars some of which seem to be at odds with its popular caricature in the Pakistani imagination.

Tracing the current system back to Deng’s reform period, Milanovic argues that political capitalism exhibits two main features: The first is a highly skilled, technocratically efficient, and meritocratically recruited bureaucracy.

This bureaucracy (which is clearly the primary beneficiary of the system) has as its main duty to realise high economic growth and implement policies that allow this goal to be achieved. Growth is ultimately needed for the legitimisation of continued bureaucratic and party rule.

The second feature is the absence of rule of law, rather than its unequivocal application. This, Milanovic argues, is necessary to ensure that the interests of businessmen (and the private sector in general) are never in a position to become primary drivers of government behaviour.

Instead, the state retains authority and autonomy precisely because it can choose to apply the law to whomever and wherever it wishes.

By arrangement with Dawn

https://www.asianage.com/opinion/columnists/041219/heres-why-the-chinese-model-is-unsuitable-for-pakistans-govt.html