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The Express Tribune Editorial 2 January 2020

Licence to kill?


The start of every New Year is filled with a lot of joy and happiness but also met with much sorrow and regret. Every year countless incidents of deaths are caused by celebratory firings across the country. Similar is the case this year. Till now, one person has died in Rawalpindi while around 14 have been injured in Karachi from stray bullets and the reports keep on coming.
There has been much debate about civilians owning firearms and the need for gun control. However in a country like Pakistan where lawlessness is on the rise, the issue has barely been raised by the authorities.
The law here permits citizens to own private fully-automatic, semi-automatic and handheld guns under license and many claim it is their right to own one for the purpose of self-defence. Let’s be honest, you don’t need a fully automatic weapon for self-defence, unless you plan on going on a killing spree or merely want one for personal pleasure. Such weapons should only be confined to the battlefield. At most, a handgun should suffice and its use solely restricted for self-defence because owning one increases the possibility of fatal incidents and risks the lives of others. The fact is that arms and ammunitions were made for a specific: to kill. It is ironic to see such machines being used for celebratory purposes.
Apart from regulating the use and ownership of firearms, something also needs to be done about the circulation of illegal firearms as well. It is about time the government introduces or amends laws to enforce greater gun control. This will not only help prevent such unwanted incidents but also help curb crime in the country. The government needs to work on a year-long resolution to bring about the necessary changes. Those who do own guns must exercise refrain from excessive use of firearms during celebrations this year.


Kashmir lockdown

As the lockdown in Kashmir enters its 150th day, India has scrapped a 37-year-old law that permitted the return of Kashmiris who fled to Pakistan between 1947-1954. The people that fled were overwhelmingly Muslim.
The scrapped law is among the 152 that have been revoked since the Kashmir lockdown began. Although the Jammu and Kashmir Grant of Permit for Resettlement in the State Act, adopted in 1982, was never operational, it provided some hope for Kashmiri Muslims to return to their homes, even if a resolution to the broader dispute did not favour Pakistan. The irony of revocation, of course, is that India’s ruling party has been raving about how Kashmiri Hindu Pandits would be able to return home due to the legal changes following the lockdown.
Along with the Citizenship Amendment Act, which allows “oppressed” non-Muslims to immigrate to India more easily, this move makes it even more transparent that the only people Narendra Modi and the BJP care about are Hindus. Also notable is that many of the affected Muslims are from Jammu, where British historian Alex von Tunzelmann records that almost half a million people including nearly the entire Muslim population of Jammu, was displaced. But no, Modi only cares about displaced Hindus.
Reports are coming in that the economic slowdown is also forcing Kashmiri businessmen to leave the region in search of better prospects.
The internet shutdown has only been nominally reduced. Broadband internet services are available on a limited basis at some government offices, and from January 1, at government-run hospitals. It was big news that text messaging was also restored on mobile phones on New Year’s Day.The internet shutdown has been devastating to the local economy, even though Kashmiris were promised unparalleled development after the law was changed.
Local traders say handicraft exports, a significant local trade, are down 62%. The action against Kashmir has led to losses in tourism, health care, education and in the communications industries.
The state economy has lost over $1.5 billion according to some estimates, while several tech and internet-dependent companies have closed.
Meanwhile, local political leaders are still being detained, while national leaders from the Congress and other Indian opposition parties are being barred from entering. It is telling that the only outside group allowed into Kashmir was a handpicked lot of extreme-right European politicians on a tour sponsored by a little-known NGO that was itself later found to be part of a pro-BJP propaganda network.
The local media is also still muzzled, with no reporting on the lockdown, and opinion pages featuring articles on Macbeth, nature, and Ayurveda, rather than the political and human rights violations of the last five months. The rare pieces mentioning the lockdown always have an outright pro-government slant.
Most of the world acknowledges that Hitler and the Nazis stood on the wrong side of history, but not the RSS. The group, which claims to be the world’s biggest NGO, is arguably the greatest success story of fascist ideology in history. While the Nazis only ruled over about 100 million people at the regime’s peak, the RSS, through the BJP — its political wing — has been ruling over more than a billion people for five uninterrupted years. And while previous BJP governments also had right-wing policies, the Modi era has been the first time that fascism has become state policy. India continues down a path where for Muslims, merely existing will be a crime.
Some in India are fighting back, but only time will tell if they can course-correct their country before it is too late.
In the meantime, the hopes of Kashmir rest in the hands of the Supreme Court of India. With hearings of challenges to the scrapping of autonomy still on going, will India’s top court stand on the right side of history and revoke Modi’s power grab?


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