Evidently, there is no politics in the Bangladesh now. For many years, a kind of controlled politics has been practicing by the ruling party. Opposition politics has been brought into the house. Occasionally there are some government-sanctioned human chains, but no large gatherings are allowed. As a result, the politics of the opposition has been limited to press conferences. COVID 19further limited their politics. Even in this controlled political situation, some surprising things happen from time to time. Most of it is related to social problems. However, even in these incidents, some political issues create surprises. Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its allies, the main opposition parties in the struggle for the caretaker government, have become increasingly frustrated with the government’s wrath and are finally losing local elections under the ruling party. It was far from their dream to win in last two proceeding national elections. In additional to that, the representatives of the civil society have also started talking about the caretaker government system. At a recent virtual roundtable meeting on good governance organized by a well-regarded civil society organization, SHUJAN, constitutional experts, lawyers, teachers, researchers and civil society representatives highlighted the need for a caretaker government. They said that the country’s democracy is being harmed as people turn away from the polls. As democracy takes on a fictional form, extremist groups can emerge. In order to overcome this situation, the caretaker government system has to be brought back and the citizens have to go to the polls. At the same time, they have termed the current Election Commission (EC) as a depoliticization commission. They said that before we saw the military rulers depoliticize EC by seizing power, now the civilian government has also depoliticized the country with the help of the EC. Within a week of their roundtable meeting, the Left Democratic Alliance also called for new elections under a non-partisan caretaker government. The sudden need for a caretaker government in a peaceful political environment of the country is certainly significant and very important for politics.
There is nothing new to say in our country that elections are never fair and acceptable under a party government. Because there is a lack of trust and confidence between the government and the opposition. The system of caretaker government originated mainly due to mistrust and confidence between the political parties. After the mass movement of the nineties and the resignation of the H. M. Ershad, a kind of complication arose as to under whom the new elections would be held. At that time, all the opposition parties, including the two main opposition parties, Awami League (AL)and BNP, came together and decided that the election would be held under a non-party government and not under any political party. It was from this decision that the theory of caretaker government was discovered. It was unanimously decided that the Chief Justice would be the head of the caretaker government. He will form a caretaker government on a small scale to run the government with eminent persons from different fields. The main task of this government will be to arrange a free, fair, neutral and acceptable election within three months. The party that wins the election held under this government will come to power. In that system of caretaker government, the first caretaker government was formed under the leadership of Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed. It was widely assumed before the election that AL was coming to power. AL was also sure that it was coming to power and, accordingly, the party had formed a shadow cabinet. On the other hand, the BNP assumed that it was sitting in the seat of the opposition. The supporters, starting from the leaders and workers of the party, had the same attitude. The issue was that ALwas coming to power and BNP was becoming an opposition party. At the end of the election, AL lost unexpectedly and unimaginably, and the BNP won. For AL, it was like a thunderbolt without clouds. The leaders of the party were outraged and said that the election was rigged. However, the AL’s demand was not met as the election was considered free, fair and neutral at home and abroad. The party finally accepted it and sat in the seat of the opposition. Later, the issue of caretaker government was added by amending the constitution 1996. Since then, elections have been held every five years under a caretaker government. However, whichever party was in power, it also used tactics to get its loyalists to come to the caretaker government. Even then the elections held under the caretaker government were becoming free, fair and acceptable. Voters also choose their favorite party and candidates by voting in a festive atmosphere. Problems arose with the formation of the caretaker government in 2008. Opposition party of then, AL, raised the issue that the ruling BNP alliance had planted a caretaker government with its loyalists. AL started a violent movement including non-cooperation movement around the country claiming that elections cannot be held under this government. At one stage, the government, known as One-Eleven was formed with the intervention of the military. The military began to run the government from behind the scenes with the caretaker government in front. As soon as this government came to power, it started a kind of depoliticization process. The two main political leaders, Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina, were arrested and placed under house arrest. As well as the military-backed caretaker government introduced the reform in politics with some front-line leaders from the two parties, BNP and AL, and created a minus-two formula to eliminate the two leaders, Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina. When the mainstream leaders and activists of AL and BNP put up strong resistance against it, the military-backed caretaker government released two leaders, Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina and finally arranged the election. In the election held on 29 December 2008, the AL won two-thirds of the seats and secured an absolute majority. The BNP got only 36 seats. As soon as the AL came to power, it took initiative to cancel the caretaker government. Its argument was that democracy would not be institutionalized if elections are held with an unelected government. Democracy must be established through elections held under a party government. The party cited the example of elections held under party governments in various countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom and India. However, the opposition political parties and the civil society did not believe that the election would not be fair under the party government. Due to their opposition, the ruling coalition government formed a committee to seek the views of civil society people, including opposition political parties. Representatives of the main opposition BNP and other political parties and civil society voted in favor of the caretaker government. The Supreme Court of the country ruled against the caretaker government presumably under the influence of the ruling entity but simultaneously it suggested that the next term election could be held under a caretaker government. Following the court decision, caretaker government was dismissed absolutely by the 16thamendment to the Constitution referring to Supreme Court’s verdict. As AL had the absolute majority in the parliament, no parliamentary debate needed to form a decision. It seemed that the decision was already taken outside the parliament. After the abolition of the caretaker government, the election was held on 5 January 2014 under the ruling party amidst strong agitation of the 20-party alliance. The election was unprecedented in history. Before the election, the candidates of the ruling grand alliance were elected unopposed in 154 seats. Most polling stations were empty on polling day. Experts call the election a “vote without a vote”. The election became a matter of question at home and abroad. The ruling party was in the process of justifying it by labeling itas the election to prevent constitutional crisis. Leaders from AL also widely called it an election to uphold the Constitution and said that another acceptable election would be held soon with the participation of all parties. Once the election was over, the government took a firm stand to suppress the opposition movement and chose the path of repression-torture. Thousands of leaders and activists, including top opposition leaders, were arrested and prosecuted. AL government successfully suppressed the postelection movement by oppression, mass-arrest and forced disappearance. Later, all local level elections, including by-elections under the ruling party, were held unilaterally. Although the opposition BNP-led United Front participated in the national elections on December 30, 2018, it was held in a fancy process. The night before the election, ballot boxes were filled in favor of the ruling party AL. The ruling alliance won an absolute majority in the election, while the BNP-led United Front won only 6 seats. Opposition groups called the election a “vote rigging”. Though the election was questioned at home and abroad, the ruling party did not listen to it.
The fact that free, fair, neutral and acceptable elections are not possible under the ruling party in our country has been proved since the abolition of the caretaker government system. Voters have turned away. Even many of the leaders, activists and supporters of the ruling party do not go to the polling stations. They already know that the candidate of the ruling party will be the winner. From the country’s opposition political parties to civil society representatives and conscious citizens, everyone believes that the questionable election under the party government is a threat to democracy as well as pushing the country towards depoliticization. If this situation continues, extremist groups may rise in the country, which will not be good for anyone.
Farmers’ Protest: A Case for Policy Communications
This article aims to develop the case of strategic communications over policy matters to ensure better implementation. The on-going farmers’ protests in India are examined and the different government communications as a response are studied. Lastly, the conceptual framework of policy communications is also explained.
Public Policy communications are an effective tool utilized by agencies of the government to inform, educate and in turn achieve the objectives of the policy. In most developing countries, policy communication is viewed as anchors of a transparent and positive work agenda. As the link between the government and its citizen, effective communication is crucial for the successful implementation of the public policy.  Motivating, persuading and information- sharing are the basic functions of an effective communication strategy, Hence, as an essential prerequisite for execution of public policy, communication has transpired an important role in all aspects of development policy.
Iris Marion Young, a contemporary political theorist, in her book on Inclusion and Democracy, emphasizes that inclusive political communication is key to the legitimacy and success of democracy. She argues: “Law and policy are democratically legitimate to the extent that they address problems identified through broad public discussion with remedies that respond to reasonably reflective and undominated public opinion. The associational activity of civil society functions to identify problems, interests, and needs in the society; public spheres take up these problems, communicate them to others, give them urgency, and put pressures on state institutions to institute measures to address them. Young then also concludes that, “The democratic legitimacy of public policy, moreover, depends partly on the state institutions being sensitive to that communication process. The moral force of the processes of public communication and its relations to policy, then, rests in part on a requirement that such communication be both inclusive and critically self-conscious. 
Farm Laws and its Passage
In September, three contentious farms laws were passed by the Parliament, that were first introduced as Ordinances in the month of June. The three laws, that have now generated massive nationwide protests are, The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act. While the government claims that the new laws introduce much need reforms in the agriculture market, will lift trade restrictions, reduce corruption and finally liberalize the agricultural market. Farmers, on the other hand, fear that these bills will undermine the APMC (Agriculture Produce Market Committee) regulated ‘mandi’ system, erode the government guaranteed MSP (Minimum Support price) and make farmers vulnerable to the market forces.
In the Upper House of the Parliament Rajya Sabha, two out of three farm related legislations were passed by voice vote amidst strong protests by the Opposition. Chaos broke out on the floor of the house as parliamentary proceedings were subverted to pass the bills according to the Opposition. Demands of referring the bills to a Parliamentary Committee were also ignored by the government in this hasty passage. This move alone had garnered a lot of negative press, as to view examinations of the bills by the Select committee as defeat, is a dangerous trend for democracy
Farmers’ Protests and the Communication Gap
Farmer Unions have been protesting the farm laws for months now. Soon after the acts were passed, massive protests engulfed Punjab. For nearly two months, these protests largely remained local with invitations extended from the Centre to overcome the discord to the protesting farmers were declined. Meanwhile, protestors in Punjab disrupted rail traffic which led to claims of shortage of coal at the thermal plant as no goods trains entered Punjab for one and a half month. On November 13th, 32 farm unions were invited by Centre and the first round of talks were held between three central ministers and the farmers. As the discussions remained inconclusive, mostly protestors from Punjab, Haryana along with protestors form Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand gathered at the Delhi border. Thousands of farmers reached border points from Punjab and Haryana amidst the usage of water cannons and tear gas. Hence, the three contentious farm laws have been vehemently protested by the farmers of Punjab and Haryana, in a nationwide protest since 14th December 2020. Subsequently, the government has held 8 rounds of discussion with leaders from the Farm Unions, with agreements only being formed on 2 of the 4 demands put by the farmers.
While commentating for the Farm laws and the political backlash, Ashok Gulati, an Indian agricultural economist in his article for the Indian Express wrote “I feel there is a gross communication failure on the part of the central government to explain to farmers what these laws are, and how they are intended to benefit them. This communication gap was fully exploited by some political parties and social activists, who themselves are facing an existentialist threat and believe that the Narendra Modi government can do no good for this country. A massive misinformation campaign was launched, saying that these laws are a sell- out to corporate houses, will abolish the MSP system, dismantle APMC mandis, and even capture farmers’ lands. Nothing can be further from the truth.” 
Since the outbreak of massive protests, the government and its ministries have made multiple attempts to communicate and explain polices that are ‘misunderstood’ by the farmers. Communication mostly has been one-way and has focused on bringing out success stories over the benefits of the farm laws. The government has also highlighted farm unions from across the country that are in support of these reforms.
The following are the central communication campaigns undertaken by the Centre to explain these reforms:
November 29 Mann Ki Baat
Speaking of the farm laws, Prime Minister Modi said the farm reform laws have broken the shackles of the farmers and also provided new opportunities to them. In his address to the nation through his monthly radio programme, he said, “”New dimensions are being added to agriculture and its related activities in India. The agricultural reforms in the past few days have also now opened new doors of possibilities for our farmers. The demands that have been made by farmers for years, that every political party, at some point or the other made the promise to fulfil, those demands have been met.”
December 17 Letter to Farmers
In an open letter addressing the farmers, the Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar wrote, “I am from a farming family. I have grown up seeing, understanding the challenges of farming. I have seen the distress of untimely rain, the happiness of timely monsoon. These were parts of my growing up. I have also seen the week-long wait to sell crops,”. “As the agriculture minister of the country, my duty is to dispel farmers’ misconceptions, to make every farmer of this country tension-free. It is my duty to expose the conspiracy being hatched to create a wall between the farmers and the Centre,” he wrote in Hindi.
In an open letter written as an reply to Prime Minister Modi and the Agricultural Minister, the farmer unions such as the All-India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee called their statements “factless” and also that the Centre has zero empathy for the farmers.
December 27 Mann Ki Baat
During the December 27th Mann Ki Baat, Prime Minister Modi paid his tribute to several revered Sikh personalities, including the sons of Guru Gobind Singh for their sacrifices. Meanwhile, protesting farmers banged utensils during the radio show to stage their protest. Yogendra Yadav, the Swaraj India chief had said, “On December 27 when the Prime Minister gives his Mann Ki Baat radio address, farmers will say ‘we are tired of listening to your Mann ki Baat, when will you listen to our Mann ki Baat?’ So we will bang utensils so that the noise of his Mann ki Baat doesn’t reach us,”.
Putting Farmers First
In “Putting Farmers First”, a 100-page e-booklet released by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the government asserted that the three farm laws passed in September were result of “two decades of consultation”. The booklet lists measures taken by the government since 2014 to make agricultural profitable and also says “While farmers have made India extremely productive with their sweat and toil, the issue of profitability was always being sidelined because reforms in agriculture and agricultural markets never got priority,”. The government says that the booklet clear the air and mentions the “truth” of has mentioned “what will happen” and “what will not happen” for farmers.
Though efforts have been invested to bridge the communication gap, there are no indications of them being effective on ground. The messages constructed under these campaigns include sweeping generalizations and don’t included critical reasoning. If the messages are being received and understood well by the intended audiences, is difficult to measure. However, it is safe to say that there have been no real breakthroughs on ground. Perhaps the issue is no longer just a communication gap but also a trust deficit. Amidst the farmers’ protests a booklet on ‘PM Modi and his Government’s special relationship with Sikhs’ was also released on the occasion of Guru Nanak Jayanti. This could be a move to appease the community and earn some social capital over it.
While the government has refused to repeal the three farm laws, both the sides have engaged in several rounds of discussion now. After six rounds of talks between the government and the farmer unions, the Centre agreed to meet two of the four demands raised by the leaders of the union. The government represented by the Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Railways Minister Piyush Goyal and MoS Commerce and Industry Som Prakash settled to exclude farmers from the penal provisions of the Commission for the Air Quality Management (CAQM) in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance 2020. The other is non pursual of the draft Electricity Amendment Bill 2020.
On the two out of the four demands being accepted, Hannan Mollah, general secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha and working group member of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination committee, said: “The talks took place in a somewhat conducive atmosphere. The government had a conciliatory approach today…They were agreeable to discussing how to make the MSP system better but did not commit to give a legal framework. There was some one percent flexibility on part of the government.”
For a holistic understanding of policy communications, it is essential to understand its conceptual framework too. Public policies can generally be categorized as preferred policies and non-preferred policies based on their attributes. Non-preferred policies are those that often suffer conflict and delay in their adoption and implementation. Conflict among concerned parties generally arise with the government’s intention to instigate the fast adoption of the non-preferred public policy. The government imposes their will on the citizens and force them to adopt non-preferred polices, without proper communication over the need and consultation with concerned parties. Hence, citizens become hesitant or show resistance in adopting these policies. 
According to the psychological reactance theory, if the individual is compelled by authority to follow advice, adopt recommendations or make changes, it leads to psychological discontentment. The individual feels that their flexibility is under threat and they are being deprived of personal discretion.
Hence, the three farm reforms fit well in the non-preferred policy category. These reforms though discussed and recommended from across the political spectrum suffered inaction in formulation. However, the current top-down implementation of these reforms with no consultation with the stakeholders has led to trust deficit and hostility. The lack of policy deliberations outside and inside the Parliament during its passage and insufficient policy communications have only exacerbated matters. It is important to note that the general environment of distrust with plenty of fake news leaves citizens angry. As citizens fear change and globalization, it is crucial that media spaces are well utilized by government to mount complete and coherent arguments. After eighth rounds of deliberations, the farmers have only warned to intensify their protests with a show of strength through tractor march on Republic Day. Even the intervention of court to resolve the deadlock has been met with suspicion from the farmers. The recent Supreme Court stay order is now being viewed as a dangerous precedent that blurs lines between the legislature, executive and judiciary. The move of setting up of an expert committee has not been welcomed by the protesting farmer unions.
The course this conflictual discourse will only be evident in the coming months but one thing is clear, commitment to policy communications is quintessential at all stages of policy matters.
-  ADB (2011) Public Communication Policy 2011: Disclosure and Exchange of In- formation. SBN
- 978-92-9092-483-8, Publication Stock No. RPT114096.
-  YOUNG, I. M. 2000. Inclusion and democracy. Oxford University Press.33, 647 – 673.
-  An Expert Explains: The arguments for and against the three central farm laws
-  Kang, I., Lee, G., Park, C. and Shin, M. (2013) Tailored and Targeted Communication Strategies for Encouraging Voluntary Adoption of Non-Preferred Public Policy. Technological Forecasting & Social Change, 80, 24-37.
Hambantota: The Growing Nightmare For India
Authors: G Nitin &Juhi*
China’s inroads in the Indian Ocean Region has alarmed India. Particularly since the controversial Hambantota Port in Sri Lanka was given on a 99 year old. Should India watch the fate unfold or take decisive action to protect its vital trade and security interests?
The new global order has seen the rise of a new form of diplomacy – Debt Trap Diplomacy – a practice of funding expensive projects in the host country to a point of pushing the host country into debt, to gain political or economic concessions. China has been practicing this under the Belt and Road Initiative or One Belt One Road strategy, and many countries have effectively plunged themselves into massive amounts of debt. Of the many countries that have faced the brunt of asking Chinese for loans has been Sri Lanka. From the perspective of its larger neighbour, India, this is a worrisome proposition. India has vital stakes in the region, spanning trade, energy and security interests and Chinese presence has heightened tensions. Sri Lanka’s gravitation towards China in recent years has further fueled New Delhi’s anxieties.
India has had deep seated ties with Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon. After the ethnic war broke out between the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamils on the island state, India offered help owing to two factors – firstly it was impelled by its domestic concerns of Tamil Separatists reigniting their campaign; secondly it wanted to prevent other large powers from exploiting the power vacuum. After Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination by the LTTE suicide bomber in 1991, although India was forced to keep a hands off policy, it wasn’t entirely in India’s interests to stay away from the civil war. Meanwhile China was strengthening its relations with Sri Lanka while it opened up defence company NORINCO in Sri Lanka to provide arms to the Sri Lankan Army. By the final stages of the war, while India was forced on moral and political grounds to cut off the supply of offensive weapons, the Chinese happily provided Sri Lankans with the desired weaponry and later on support in the international fora over human rights violations and war crimes. Mahinda Rajapaksa, the then President had an obvious reason to tilt towards China, that further helped him strengthen his base in the country. The massive economic costs that Sri Lanka incurred during the civil war pushed Rajpaksa to find International partners to develop Sri Lanka’s most important economic assets, it’s ports. While Rajapaksa clearly had an option of developing its existing ports – Colombo and Trincomalee, he chose to develop an economically wasteful port to bolster his support in his home constituency by developing Hambantota Port.
While India refused to invest in an economic dud, the Chinese stepped in to finance a port that was predicted to handle a minuscule amount of the marine traffic compared to Colombo Port. Upon realising their inability to pay the debt, the Sri Lankan government, as a consequence of scant marine traffic, had to give the port on a 99 year old lease to Chinese State owned company in 2017.
Scholars have underscored this policy of developing Chinese projects as aimed at encirclement of India, spanning Xiamen in the north, connecting Gwadar port under the ambitious China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in Pakistan, Kerung – Kathmandu on the north-east front, China Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) and rail and road bridges in Bangladesh in the east, and Hambantota in Sri Lanka in the south. While some emphasise that China is ramping its efforts to safeguard its vital economic interests that lay in the vital sea lanes of communications (SLOCs), China has evidently ratcheted up its military foothold in the region that has been the domain of its South Asian rival, India, thereby posing a threat to India’s economic and security concerns.
For China, securing its trading interests via naval dominance in strategic points across the Indian ocean is imperative. This has been dubbed by some analysts as “string of pearls.” Its Achilles’ heel, the Malacca Strait, through which over 80 per cent of its oil imports are transported, remains prone to piracy and terrorism. Having Hambantota in its ambit is a tactic of guarding its interests in the region. Hambantota’s strategic position, that lies at the crossroads of trade channels across the Indian Ocean makes it an important ‘pearl’ in Beijing’s long term interest. China’s domestic concerns for strengthening its economy aside, its hawkish ambitions signal a doom for India’s interests in the region, as China gears to encircle India with its military might in the region.
First implication is that with the development of such projects, that are solely handled and undertaken by Chinese (state owned) companies and workmen, there is a growing fear of colonialism of sorts. Scholars have identified this pattern with European Colonialism where an outside power increased its strength over a sovereign. This can be problematic in the eyes of International law. Although Colombo may try its best to classify this deal as an opportunity for increasing job prospects for the natives, there is no way jobs can be created when Chinese labour will be the sole workmen on these projects.
Second concern is regarding the growing Chinese naval presence in the region. Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has been docking its ships along major sea routes in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), fomenting suspicion. For India, the IOR holds significant value, as vast pipelines and trade networks take place in the region that are a catalyst in India’s domestic growth. The Sri Lankan government has reaffirmed that the Chinese presence in the port city is purely commercial, however Chinese have dismissed this account stating the military presence was also a part of the agreement. Given Chinese presence at pivotal points across the region, China gains easy access to India’s security apparatus and intelligence collection and in case of a crisis, India remains engulfed from all sides. The recent incident at Galwan Valley has exemplified India’s concerns in the border regions, as Beijing shows reluctance in resolving the border dispute through dialogue.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government in 2019 decided to reevaluate the 99 year lease, however Rajapaksa’s affinity with the Chinese would imply glossing over the issue for other gains. India is exercising restraint in not antagonising Sri Lanka in a bid to keep it from drifting towards the Chinese. At best, India generously disburses funds and loans, and engages in developmental projects in order to remain in Colombo’s best books. Post war reconstruction in Sri Lanka was a courtesy of India’s Humanitarian and Recovery Projects amounting to US$112 millon. India took up a Housing Project worth US$270 million and provided Line of Credit for important infrastructure projects such as the Southern Railway Corridor from Colombo to Matara, Pillai-Jaffna railway track, 500MW Coal-Based Power Plant in Sampur. Hambantota’s strategic position in the Indian Ocean Region, which makes it an important node in maritime trade and surveillance, coupled with Sri Lanka’s proximity to the Indian peninsula is enough reason for India to fear Chinese presence on the Island State. It won’t be surprising to see a repeat of the 2014 incident of Chinese Submarine docking on Colombo port, this time, however, on a much bigger scale.
Indian Ocean Region metamorphosed from a relatively peaceful region to a hotly contested region with India and China vying for greater influence. For a region that contains 36 littoral and 14 adjacent states; having a vast oil trade and abundant natural resources, establishing greater control is of paramount importance to India. With a burgeoning population and greater influence in global trade, India’s vital economic and security interest lay in the Indian Ocean Region. With Hambantota being at the crossroads of this marine traffic, it occupies a significant position and thus raises India’s security concerns.
In the aftermath of the Galwan Valley clash, keeping the Chinese away from India’s backyard has become a priority. Consequently, India has been rapidly enhancing its naval assets and bolstering alliances with regional allies such as Vietnam and Japan. Additionally, the revival of the Quad is perceived as another positive sign in bolstering the anti-China collation in the region. Notwithstanding progress on these fronts, being in Colombo’s good books remains a priority. Any fallout with Colombo will result in pushing the country deeper into China’s orbit. For Sri Lanka which had been devastated by civil war, reconstruction is of prime importance and this is a suitable opportunity for India to gain a foothold in the region. The most affected regions in the country have been the erstwhile stronghold of LTTE in the north that remains one of the most underdeveloped regions. India’s significant influence among the Tamils in the North can be used to its advantage in securing infrastructure projects in the region.
At the same time, India must make its no-nonsense attitude towards Colombo clear that it has had a history of crossing lines with India. New Delhi will have to convey to Colombo that the relationship and the mutual trust between the two countries should not be violated by either side. While it is of essence that India be accommodating towards Sri Lanka, history cautions New Delhi to be vigilant of Colombo’s flirtations with Beijing.
*Juhi is a Final Year Law Student, pursuing LL.B. at Symbiosis Law School, Pune. The author can be reached out at juhijain341[at]gmail.com
Is an Anti-Government Narrative Safe in Pakistan?
Pakistan as a state has rarely projected a revered image to the world when it comes to a lasting democracy. The governments have been a bait for the respective leaders and the military counterparts to juice the nation even further; passing the baton from one term to another in a power game between civilian and totalitarian regimes. Not even a decade has gone by to look back at the spiral of power that once vacillated between Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N). The rise to power of Imran Khan, however, was unprecedented and was duly celebrated as a speck of a possible change in the already wrecked political arena of the county; a narrative that was convincingly chanted in the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) slogans “Tabdeeli Aagai Hai”. Yet, with over thirty-months under the premiership of Imran Khan, the only observable change is the acceleration in the destruction of the country, inside out.
There was no doubt throughout the tenacious campaign of Imran Khan that he has the most decadent character amongst his political rivals. Be it his triumphant feat captaining the World-Cup winning national cricket team in 1992 or his relentless efforts to build Shaukat Khanam, the first cancer hospital of Pakistan, from ground up. Even his valour and determination culminating into a 22-year struggle to wade through the reeking political scenario of the 90’s and early 2000’s to eventually accede to power in 2018 is a commemoration in itself. However, half way through his tenure, no concrete results have showcased since the elections declared him as the 22nd Prime Minister of Pakistan.
While many of his apparent failures are subject to his over-the-top promises to his supporters; promises he failed to even materialise on paper, his brash allegations over his political rivals and guising his pitfalls as a carry-forward of their incompetency shows how his government has let down even in performing the rudimentary tenets required to lead a country. As the inflation runs rampant; crossing over to projected double figures in the following quarters of the fiscal year, and as the GDP growth plummets into the negative territory, the ruling PTI lacks the basic decency of accepting their failures head-on but on the contrary, never miss to initiate the blame game over petty issues whilst the country verges economic crisis amidst the pandemic. Ironically, however, Imran Khan continues to direct Pakistan on the very routes he once criticised the preceding leaderships over for adopting. An apt example presents in the decision of negotiating with the IMF for economic relief or receiving a $6 Billion loan from UAE and Saudi Arabia respectively, the notions once denounced by PTI as acts of selling the country or rendering the country servile to western powers.
Even the totalitarian position is not spared subtly as the Khan-led regime continues to harness any and all individuals who dare to criticise the policies of the great Imran Khan; a sardonic reality that is continually shifting towards a serious note. The recent comment of Asia Director at Human Rights Watch, Brad Adams, sheds some light on the vengeful exercise of political writ: “Pakistan’s continuing assault on political opponents and free expression puts the country on an increasingly dangerous course”.
The government operates on an apparent strategy to incorporate the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), country’s anti-corruption watchdog, under the pretence of its autonomous nature under the constitution, to prosecute and harass any and all holding an anti-government narrative. At first the rumours were wafted off as allegations over the austerity of the venerated PTI government. However, pilling reports of harassment of many famous journalists and human rights activists have surfaced, on the account of warrants of inquiry over inane matters; being held under interrogation for hours and even being threatened to tone down the criticism of state issued policies.
However, barring the criticism doesn’t hide the fact that whilst the country continues to deal with economic turmoil, unhinged violence continues to prevail against the minorities. The Ahmadi community being on the target of the extremists for decades, the even sturdy Imran Khan bowed down to the radical demands of the extremists to relinquish Mr. Atif Mian, a globally renowned economist, from his advisory position by accepting his resignation without a hint of apology or regret. The laws of Blasphemy continue to pillage multiple lives each year yet the government, hailed into power on the account of ‘change’, worsened the conditions further. Not only has the government failed to repeal or even amend the preposterous law provisions, it has failed to even proceed with just trials of the accused whilst the assailants wander freely without conviction. The Khan-led government tends to take the narrative of being the self-proclaimed defenders of the human rights in IIOJK yet fails to protect the Hazara community at the helm of genocide for decades. Even when victims like Tahir Naseem are shot dead during a trial of a supposed blasphemy case and a cold-blooded gang raped is officially insinuated as the victim’s fault for travelling late at night, it’s astounding how the state even claims to be under the arching definition of a ‘Islamic State’ and even more insulting when it is compared to “Medina Ki Riasat”.
The list goes endless but the festering reality of the country is as clear as it could be to a sane mind. Pakistan has made no progress on the economic front but has further deteriorated. Aspects of law and litigation are a rarity nowadays and free speech is a myth that once laced the breeze of an independent country. As to the ruling figure in Pakistan, the political image hinged on the “Famous cricketer and self-less philanthropist” has lasted long enough and the signs of weakness and decimation are showing. For the continually deteriorating nature of living of the country, it was well concluded in the 2021 Human Rights Watch Review, analysing Pakistan: “Threatening opposition leaders, activists and Journalists while trampling on the rights of the citizenry is a hallmark of an authoritarian rule, not a democracy”.
Farmers’ Protest: A Case for Policy Communications
This article aims to develop the case of strategic communications over policy matters to ensure better implementation. The on-going farmers’...
Central Asia: Potential and Opportunities of Investment
Central Asia is a heart of the world and in order to control the world, the region should be under...
Technologies That Are The Future
Innovation is the introduction of something new. As we are in this progressing age, one can observe changes in the...
What can I do if I lied about my criminal history to travel to Australia?
You’d be surprised to hear how many people actually lie when they apply for a visa to get to Australia....
EU playing a zero-sum game in Kosovo
When it comes to Kosovo settlement, the European Union is clearly trying to regain the initiative. It was with poorly...
The role of maritime power
The maritime environment is both a means of transport and a resource. The first aspect is obviously expressed through what...
Russia is a part of Europe, which never became a part of Russia
The process of the new European integration coincided in time with the intensification of the process of globalization, which has...
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