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2019 and the Modi Juggernaut

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National Democratic Alliance(NDA)’s loss in 2004 General Elections was unpredicted. But United Progressive Alliance(UPA)’s loss in 2014 was not. People had become frustrated with a decade long rule which they saw as corrupt, spineless and dynastic.

However what were not unpredicted was the sheer scale of UPA’s decimation and the grand scale of BJP’s victory. Under a charismatic and capable Narendra Modi, the tough and resilient Hindu right wing fought the General Elections as a last stand. BJP, a right wing party with a narrow base among the middle class Hindus had never won more than 200 seats in any General Election. Modi set an ambitious target of 272 seats. Well oiled campaign machinery with Modi in the pilot seat ensured a convincing victory with BJP winning over 280 seats in the House (the simple majority is 273 seats). The subsequent elevation of Narendra Modi as the Indian Prime Minister and his right hand man, Amit Shah(both from Gujarat, the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi) enthused a new sense of confidence in the party and its affiliates. Modi set his eyes on having governments in states that had never been ever in the Hindu party’s fold. And he did succeed, mostly.

Today, BJP controls the lower house of the Indian Parliament without the need for any allies. It is well on its way to appoint a BJP-RSS(BJP’s Ideological parent) member as the Fourteenth Indian President and has sufficient numbers to easily appoint India’s next Vice President without breaking a sweat. Thirteen states today have a BJP Government. Another four have a BJP ally in the Government with BJP as a partner. It has a brutal majority in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous and politically important state. In the next two years, before going to the polls, BJP will have seats in the Upper House of the Indian Parliament (though not a majority, not until 2021-

2022 by various projections). The party is in a comfortable position to push key legislations and make hard decisions without any political ramifications. The Demonetization of Indian Currency Notes in November 2016 and the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax in July, 2017 are evidences that the Government is in a position to enforce it policies. But a question remains to  be  asked?  How  did  a  right  wing  with  a  significantly  narrow  base  like  BJP  become  a juggernaut? Was  it  because the opposition  is too  weak or  rudderless? Is  it  becau se of the Narendra Modi factor? Was the public fed up with the policies of the past governments? Is Amit Shah a political maverick? Is the BJP’s campaign machinery unbeatable? Yes and No.

Yes, because every factor has a compounding effect on the scale of BJP’s victory margin. No, because even if a single factor is missing, BJP bows out of the game. BJP can pull in votes here and there but for BJP to be an unstoppable juggernaut as it is, all these factors have to be satisfied. The party’s campaigns in Bihar and Delhi suffered from the lacunae of these factors.

Result, they lost. In Uttar Pradesh, all boxes were ticked. A weak and inefficient opposition, a haphazardly cobbled together coalition to oppose BJP that did more harm than good, Amit Shah’s ticket distribution, RSS’s social engineering outreach and the Modi’s presence ensured that they won over 80% seats in the gigantic House Assembly. To top it all, Modi spent the final three days campaigning in Varanasi, his own constituency in the final phase of the elections. An Indian Prime Minister who gets down in the dirt and does his own heavy lifting is rare and BJP won every single seat in the Prime Minister’s constituency.

The General Election of 2019 is still a year and half away. This is long time in politics. But it would  not  be preposterous to  call the  next  elections  a done deal  for  Narendra  Modi.  The symptoms are all there. The Opposition is still weak and rudderless. Attempts to cobble together a coalition of opposition parties are half hearted, at best and suicidal for some, at worst. The BJP gets stronger on the top by absorbing leaders slighted in other parties and on the bottom by the RSS’s social engineering. Most of all, Modi’s popularity is still intact even after taking grossly unpopular decisions like the DeMo and the GST. The policies of his administration and the work of his party on the ground are trying to string together a rainbow coalition of castes behind him. There have been many hiccups along the way. Protests against beef ban, cattle laws, lynching in the country, alienation of Muslims, flare-ups in Kashmir and much more have had made things look  tricky  for  the present  dispensation.  But,  the  hard  truth  is  that  even these unfortunate incidents only strengthen the party, not hurt it. To begin with, most of Muslims never voted for BJP and are unlikely to do so in the near future. Beef ban has played right into the rhetoric of Hindu right wing which worships the cow as Mother Goddess. Distressed farmers are being placated by loan waivers and BJP’s political machinery is busy making and breaking alliances as the need be so. There are no major allegations against the Government on corruption and the potential leaders of the opposition have been decimated. A feeble voice of protest rises from the Left wing but they have become politically irrelevant and are on their last legs. Modi has become the owner of the narrative and the opposition is often caught unawares of his political actions. Modi is efficient, hardworking and above all, a rags to riches story like his has resonated well with the masses who sick and tired of dynastic rule.

Needless to say, unless Modi falters on his own, the Opposition can do nothing about defeating him in 2019. One and a half year may seem like a long time in politics but for the opposition, time, it appears, has run out and they are helpless in front of Modi and his political juggernaut.

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South Asia

The Making of Modern Maldives: A Look at Maumoon Gayoom

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Authors: Srimal Fernando and Pooja Singh

Former Maldivian President Maumoon Gayoom occupies an important place in Maldivian political history largely because he guided this equatorial island nation to unprecedented levels of economic growth and also through tough times when democracy was challenged. Gayoom has a national as well as international reputation that made his name familiar to the rest of the South Asian countries. It was after his return from Nigeria’s Ahmadu Bello University as a lecturer, Gayoom commenced his political journey as a close aid of prime minister Ahmed Zaki in mid-70’s and later as a cabinet minister under Ibrahim Nasir. Gayoom’s leadership embarked on a more reformist approach in the first two terms during his presidency. He was able to take credit for the rise of the tourism sector and an increase in the fish productivity. In Male, as well as in the rest of the Maldivian islands, building of small fisheries harbors were accelerated under the rapid development programs initiated under his presidency. When one looks at the Maldivian foreign policy, Maumoon was credited as one of the key founders of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in 1985. Hence, he raised global awareness on climate change on the international arena. In this context, especially the awareness on small island nations facing rise in sea water levels which affects the livelihood of the islanders was a key theme which brought international attention. On the development side, the Hulhulemale reclamation project and the upgrading of roads and other infrastructure initiatives that he implemented are highly credited for by the Maldivians. In fact, the people’s president who visits the islands regularly was named as “A Man for All Islands” by the famous author in his book about Gayoom’s biography.

Early in his administration, former president introduced socio-economic experiments in reawakening the islands. His administration accelerated the economic growth in the twenty Atolls from Northern Haa Atoll to Southern Seenu Atoll instilling a degree of optimism and enthusiasm among the Maldivians. Yet another economic achievement in the tourism sector was the increase of luxury resorts from two in 1978 to hundred by 2008. Gayoom’s career is most relevant due to his performance and for changing the country’s political system to a multi-party democratic system where the power is vested on the citizens.

Another milestone during his tenure was to expand the average income of Maldivians from US$ 377 in 1978 to US$3,654 in 2008. However, towards the end of his presidency, the first signs of irreconcilable difficulties with the Maldivian opposition led by Mohamed Nasheed, the leader of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) started emerging in 2000. The Maldivian pro-democracy movement started in Male in 2003 and then moved to other Islands. As a result, Maldives adopted a multi-party political system and in 2008. In the same year the presidential campaign came to a climax where in the second phase of the presidential elections, the confident president had felt a constant sense of uncertainty since most of the opposition presidential candidates supported Mohamed Nasheed, the leader of the Maldivian Democratic Party. Gayoom lost the election and Nasheed the opposition leader assumed presidency.  The courageous former president Gayoom transferred the presidential powers to the newly elected president smoothly.

In fact, the reformist former president Gayoom formed the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party and later, he was one of the key founders of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) where his half-brother, Yameen Abdul Gayoom shared powers within the party. Hence, Qasim Ibrahim, a former finance minister under Nasheed’s government and also close confidant of president Gayoom led the Jumhooree Party (JP) which combined with PPM in 2013 presidential elections.

Unfortunately, in 2012 the overthrow of president Nasheed one of New Delhi’s closest allies in South Asia shocked the diplomatic circles on both sides of Asia as well as in the west. It took more than five years for Gayoom’s PPM party under the presidency of Yameen to return to power. However, due to widespread corruption and authoritative rules under Yameen’s presidency, many of the opposition party members such as former Maldivian president Nasheed, Jumhooree Party leader Qasim Ibrahim and many other political leaders who opposed the undemocratic rule were prisoned through unlawful means.

During the darkest period of the Maldivian politics from 2017 to September 2018, the lone voice of the public opposition belonged to a few opposition leaders such as, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih cannot be forgotten. In the same period, former president Gayoom, Nasheed and several opposition members created a united opposition to unseat president Yameen and his majority party rule through democratic non-violent means. One of the major reasons for this change by Gayoom in Yameen’s leadership was the widespread corruption and the authoritative rule. Finally, president Yameen prisoned former president Gayoom and his son, Faris Maumoon. This was one of the main reasons where large number of Gayoom supporters broke away from PPM led by president Yameen. This reason influenced the 23rd September 2018 presidential elections where opposition common candidate Ibrahim Solih saw a massive victory margin against president Yameen.

One could argue that, Gayoom, the president who guided Maldives to economic prosperity was the same charismatic leader who guided the South Asian Island nation towards democratic maturity. Maumoon Gayoom has been the most unpredictable political influencer in the modern political making of Maldives.

*Pooja Singh, a scholar of Masters in Diplomacy, Law, Business at Jindal School of International Affairs, India.

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INGO’s Nefarious Designs in the Garb of Development / Social Work

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In a developing country like Pakistan where governments have not paid due attention to raise the standard of living of the common people, initiatives by non-governmental and civil society have assumed special significance. Over the past many years, dozens of international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) have been performing the central role in promoting social welfare in the country. INGOs in Pakistan mostly work for utilizing the foreign funds they receive through the projects of foreign governments or Donor agencies. In the country like Pakistan where the government finds it challenging to deal with the many socio-economic problems faced by its populace, the role of INGOs in contributing to solve and support government policies to address these problems becomes vital. The INGOs have been working in Pakistan since late 1980s in the fields of education, medicine, social development, etc. They also operate as think tanks, survey teams, gallop polls agents and advisers to local administration to tackle social and education issues. It is widely believed that some of INGOs play nefarious role of weakening the ideological, social, political and economic foundations of Pakistan and creating split in the society. They even perform duties of spy agents for their masters and pass on ground intelligence and assessment regarding the societal trends and the exploitable vulnerabilities of deprived portion of society. Under the guise of development / social work, they often pretend themselves as the friends and well-wishers of the neglected classes, and silently keep on injecting poison by carrying out subversive activities to subvert the minds of down trodden class of society through stoking their socio-economic-ethnic and sectarian sensibilities.

Media that is perceived to be heavily funded by USA, Israel and India, not only reinforce their subversive activities by supporting the cause of anti-state elements but also degrade the law enforcement agencies and the government in power. Some of INGOs have supposedly a big hand in the instability of Pakistan. Having achieved considerable success in FATA, KP and Karachi, their focus has now shifted to interior Sindh, GilgitBaltistan (GB) and AJK where ethnic emotions and their deprivations are being stirred. These INGOs are also active in private education institutions particularly the elite schools, colleges and universities where teachers and professors are not only being cultivated but minds of the students are poisoned as well. They promote secularism and liberalism to demonize Islam with view to distract the youth from the righteous path of Islam. Some of the INGOs were found having connections with Indian High Commission Islamabad while some attempted to collect the data during general elections possibly to influence the results.

It is notable that INGOs started pouring into Pakistan after 1988 when Pakistan became dependent upon IMF, World Bank and US aid to run the governmental affairs. The International Donor Agencies that are considered to be funded and used by intelligence agencies started funding in Pakistan in order to cultivate more people in the garb of economic and social development projects.  After 9/11, when the US sanctions under Pressler Amendment were lifted and foreign aid started to flow in, the rate of influx of INGOs increased. A big number came when $7.5 billion worth Kerry Lugar Bill was signed in 2009. The amount required to be spent on development, military and media was spread over years. Then Pakistan Ambassador in Washington Hussain Haqqani had played a role in inserting anti-military establishment clauses after the approval of the initial agreement. He is also said to be helped CIA in the induction of Black Water and CIA contractors, spies and INGOs into Pakistan between 2008 and 2011, which enabled CIA to deploy Raymond Davis and other operators and to launch the helicopters assault in Abbottabad on May 2, 2011. The INGOs were cleverly deployed in the restive combat zones under the garb of rehabilitating the affected people. During the natural disasters of 2005 and 2010, the influx of INGOs has increased manifold in the garb of humanitarian assistance.

The INGOs are operating in Pakistan unregistered for the last 30 years. They operated freely after obtaining NOCs, and without registering and notifying their areas of work, mandate and source of funding. Their shady activities were ignored due to American and Western media pressure. The last PML-N government decided to curb their activities of unregistered INGOs. A crackdown was launched in January 2015 after it was learnt that several of INGOs were engaged in anti-Pakistan agenda. 140 NGOs were operating in Punjab out of which 7 were reported to be involved in unlawful activities. In June 2015, the then Interior Minister ChNisar Ali stated that several INGOs were backed by USA, Israel and India. “There are several NGOs operating in Pakistan without any specific agenda. They were doing something which was against Pakistan’s interest.” He alleged that most of them were taking part in “anti-Pakistan” activities.

A new policy was framed in November 2015 by the Interior Ministry and all INGOs were asked to re-apply and get re-registered. Notices have been served to 18 INGOs whose registration has not been approved, and told to quit Pakistan within 60 days. They will be given a chance to re-apply after six months from their respective countries of origin. The said INGOs do indeed participate in very useful activities whenever they remain true to their mandate so it’s basically giving them half a year to replace their “hybrid war operatives” with the “useful humanitarian operatives”. As no proper law or system in Pakistan existed to ban these INGOs, therefore, the recent scrutiny will help Pakistan to adopt a comprehensive policy. It is added that Director Social Welfare has been directed to prepare the data bank of all NGOs in order to ensure their regular monitoring.  Categorization of NGOs is to be done through data bank. SOPs for registration of NGOs are also being streamlined and reviewed so that only clean and genuine organization could qualify for registration. It is mention that Pakistan is not the only country that has banned INGOs from working against its national interest. India, China and Russia are other examples in the region.

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Paiqham-e-Pakistan Curbs Sectarian Narratives and Violence

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Muharram is the first month of Islamic calendar and the holiest in four sacred months, in which fighting is prohibited. The conflicts, conspiracies and crises created by sectarian and religious extremist outfits and the violence associated with this month have impeded peace in the Muslim world. The menace of sectarianism is widely attributed to be a result of regional rivalry among Muslim states, including proxies in Pakistan for influence and hostile countries sponsorship of terrorism. Reportedly, millions of dollars of funding to fundamentalist networks come from abroad and evil minded selfish people act abhorrently for their-vested interests and play with lives of many innocent Pakistanis.

Sporadic sectarian unrest in Pakistan is part of anti-Pakistan designs of inimical secret agencies like RAW and its international partners. These hostile elements manipulated sectarian differences between Riyadh and Tehran and exploited them for destabilizing Pakistan. Nevertheless, whoever is behind this, they are trying to destabilize Pakistan by dividing its people, in different groups, manipulating the mind of several with lavish offers and implanting prejudicial opinions about various religious and sectarian communities. Unfortunate is the fact that most of the sectarian violence/ hatred is carried out in the name of Islam.

Although terror-related sectarian incidents, have already minimized in Pakistan in the past few years, but the historic national consensus in the form of Paigham-e-Pakistan (PeP) has significantly eliminated the shadows of sectarian violence during Muharram. Pakistan’s government had launched PeP, the national narrative on extremism, sectarianism and terrorism on January 16, 2018, comprised of 22points Fatwa (religious decree). Heads of Itte had Tanzeem-ul-Madaris and leading Muftis from all sects had prepared the fatwa and issued a unanimous declaration in order to strengthen the ties among different sects and agreed on addressing the sectarian conflict and grievances. The historic Fatwa was endorsed by more than 6000, religious scholars of all schools of thought from across the country, including renowned international scholars like Imam-e-Kaaba, Grand Mufti of Egypt and Grand Mufti Thailand. The collective Fatwa clearly stated that “sectarian, hatred, armed sectarian conflict and imposing one’s ideology on others by force is clear violation of the injunctions of the Shariah and tended to create disorder on earth”.

A major boost to the efforts of inter-sect harmony came when leading scholars from all sects unified for PeP to show sectarian harmony which had been unseen in the past. This initiative is the best tool to deal with extremism, sectarianism and intolerance in the society and a way forward for the country to march on the path of peace and prosperity as it is a methodology to unite all religious institutions and scholars. PeP initiative is in fact a true representation of the Holy Quran, Sunnah and social principles of Islamic Shariah, which can guarantee a safe and peaceful future for our next generations by ridding the society out of hatred and prejudices. Promotion of this initiative is the national and religious obligation of the Ulema and every individual regardless of association to sects and religious groups. Being Muslims, it is our national and religious responsibility to strive for setting up a peaceful and exemplary society which is free of extremism, sectarianism and terrorism. Religious scholars and Ulema from all schools of thought should play active role to mark this holy month of Muharram peacefully and in a befitting manner for spreading the message of Ahl-e-Bait (RA) as this message promotes peace and harmony among humanity.

In term of religious belief and practice; there are more similarities than difference among all sects and this reality, rationally demands from the proponents of all sect to prefer commonalities by ignoring minute differences. Those who ignore this reality must know that sectarian sensitivities will not be allowed to create ferocity, unrest and disorder in the country. This entails application of stringent measures and full control over sectarian groups to avoid conflicts and spread of religious hatred. It is of particular attention that Islam stresses upon forgiveness, kindness and sanctity of human life above all. Muslims must .know about the conspiracies being hatched by their enemy to divide them into sects and they have to remain vigilant to foil these nefarious designs. The Muslim Ummah particularly Pakistanis must stand united and shun their sectarian differences for the glory of Islam curbing the menace of anti-Islam and anti-Pakistan conspiracies.

The holy month of Muharram teaches the whole humanity religious harmony and peace, so following the proverb “don’t quit your faith and don’t interfere in others faith”, we must mark this holy month peacefully, respectfully and with befitting manners. During Muharram-ul-Haram, every Muslim regardless of sect and creed regards and pays tribute to the martyrs of Karbala. Moreover, people also arrange eateries for the procession which truly depicts brotherhood that Islam preaches. Most importantly, afterthe launch of PeP, the religious leaders and members of peace committees are actively involved in promoting religious/ sectarian harmony and utilize all their capabilities for maintaining the environment of brotherhood, accommodation .and tolerance. Different projects are under way including training programs-to help eradicate the extremism and sectarian violence at national level. Determinant efforts have been made to familiarize the students studying at Universities and Madaris with the philosophy of PeP initiative by disseminating the message of peace and sectarian harmony. Awareness among people has been nurtured through Seminars and Conferences across country to create sense of social responsibility and encourage them to keep a watchful eye on sectarian and anti-social elements. We need to understand the conspiracy against our country and try our best to be united for making the country a haven of peace.

Islam is the religion of peace as it teaches unity, harmony, brotherhood and tolerance in the society and tells its followers to respect the rights of not only Muslims but Non-Muslims as well. The right hour has come that religious clerics, political and religious parties including media persons and the intellectuals should play an effective role in creating religious tolerance and enlightenment amongst all religious factions particularly those of Sunnis and Shias, convincing them to live in harmony and peace adopting the principle of mutual co-existence. Every person of the society should come forward to play a pivotal role to save the country from the flames of sectarian violence by promoting religious and sectarian harmony. Ulema must, exercise tolerance and forge harmony by desisting from delivering controversial and provocative speeches to help maintain peace during Muharram-ul-Haram. The delicate-peace is crucial for the country and we should rise above all sorts of personal interests fulfilling our responsibilities towards our country and refrain from issuing ‘Fatwas’ on the basis of difference of opinion.

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