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The Express Tribune Editorial 2 June 2020

Modi’s media ploy

New Delhi continues with its efforts to use Pakistan as a bogeyman to divert attention from its human rights abuses in Kashmir and general mismanagement of the Indian economy and state. After nine months of torturing people with the lockdown in Occupied Kashmir and ravaging the economy and society with one of the worst-managed Covid-19 responses in the world, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi turned to his security forces to give him a way to change the news cycle. With its actions on the Line of Actual Control, the Indian Army incompetently handed him a choice between sparking World War Three or publicly begging for mercy from the Chinese.
Modi is many things — mostly terrible — but he is not a fool. He knows India cannot win a war with China. But he also knows he cannot show weakness, or his Hindutva base will eat him alive. Most democratic parties cannot handle the political fallout of foreign policy humiliation. For fascist parties, it is a death knell. Thus, it would appear that he is trying to rig the news cycle by accusing Pakistani embassy officials of espionage. While the compliant Indian media keeps parroting the government’s version of events — we came across only one major Indian publication that referenced the Pakistani Foreign Office’s response to the charges — Modi has time to quietly make peace with China on Beijing’s terms without being tarred and feathered by his own people.
Speaking of feathers, India already tried to divert attention to Pakistan with another ludicrous spy pigeon story. When this was lambasted even by their own media, some popular Indian propaganda news channels tried and failed at blaming Pakistan for the locust crisis hitting both countries. Even the FO noted the curious circumstances of the expulsion of embassy staffers. “The Indian action has been accompanied by a negative pre-planned and orchestrated media campaign, which is a part of persistent anti-Pakistan propaganda,” said a Foreign Office statement.
By the time the focus shifts back to the real story along the border, the Indian government will divert attention to some other talking point. Probably its continuing failure to handle Covid-19.


Dire consequences

Anew report by Amnesty International, the London-based rights group, slams Ethiopian security forces over grave violations of human rights, during operations in Amhara and Oromia. The long list of violations includes extrajudicial executions, mass detentions, and torture. All of this happened on Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s watch, who took office in 2018. The very next year, Ahmed also received the coveted Nobel Peace Prize for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea.
While the prime minister can take credit for ending hostilities with neighbouring Eritrea, a longtime foe, he cannot deny that his term in office has been plagued by ethnic conflict and the unlawful displacement of thousands amid a deteriorating security situation in the country. Ahmed’s biggest failure is his inability to make changes to the way the Centre functions. He walked into office slamming the preceding government over authoritarian practices. But little has changed since he took office. The prime minister has not been able to modify the character of the regime and the current abuses, to a great extent, mirror the violations seen under the previous administrations.
The Amnesty report serves as a warning to the world about a situation that has the potential to morph into a humanitarian crisis. The Ethiopian leader does not have many options and Ethiopia as a nation cannot afford to take any chances. The only way forward is to end the extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests, forced evictions, and destruction of property owned by opposition supporters. Prime Minister Ahmed will have to take measures to ensure the security forces function within limits. He can only do that if he ends the culture of impunity, and by removing elements from the security forces that are responsible for human rights violations. Failing to do so would have dire consequences for Ethiopia.


No-exam promotion

It is a world without society in the wake of the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic and the consequent lockdown necessitated by it. Forced by the necessity of protecting themselves from the contagion people have been confined to their homes, in most of the world, for most of the time, for nearly three months. This stifling isolation from society is affecting all spheres of life, including education. All provincial governments and the federal government had cancelled matriculation and intermediate examinations for this year and most of them had announced promotion to the next classes.
Now the boards of examination in Sindh have announced a new policy governing examinations and promotions. The policy announced for Sindh is not much different from the one earlier announced by the Centre for the boards of examinations under its jurisdiction. Under the new policy for Sindh, all regular and private students of grade 1X and X will be directly promoted to grade X and X1, respectively, without taking examination, and there will be no special examinations for students of grade 1X and X1. Students who are to appear in board examinations in 2020 will be promoted on the basis of their performance in the previous year.
Certain rules will govern the award of marks for those appearing in the 2021 board examinations. Special examinations will, however, be conducted for those unwilling to avail the facility of promotion. These examinations would be held between September and November provided the tide of the pandemic turned by then. For this, students will have to inform the relevant boards by July 1. The new policy will not be applicable to the boards which had conducted exams before imposition of the lockdown.
The Sindh government has allowed private schools to reopen from June 1, but teachers will provide education online. Online education does not seem to be a workable idea considering the slow speed of internet. Education through TV too might be hindered by prolonged power outages.
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