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Radicalization through Media Mobilization in the Indian Periphery

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In recent times, pandemics and regime changes have shaped national interests of countries and have created new security concerns while various radical groups are making efforts in attracting attention of citizens in the Indian subcontinent, seen through using media to create a positive image and influencing gullible minds. Radicalism has evolved, evident through passive mobilizing tactics fueling ethnic and communal uncertainty along which the role played by governments, non- state actors in such circumstances need to be seen.

Media and Mobilization: A new trump card Of Radical Groups in the  Indian Periphery ?

Currently, media propaganda has become a new tool of radicals to impose their own ideology and will by setting preferences and perceptions upon  illiterate and unaware communities , which could be seen vis-à-vis majoritarian  behavior witnessed through maltreatment, discrimination towards minorities who are later on, compelled to take up aggressive measures. The strategies being adopted by such movements are witnessing changes amidst periods of pandemic with mass media becoming an extensive tool of mobilization among the weaker youth ,who are being persuaded to join these groups through economic incentivization where hopes of  fulfilling  social cum economic needs are being provided to earn their bread and butter. Moreover, radicalization has furthered due to increasing  nationalism being promoted  in religions  such as Islam and Hinduism.

Islamic Radicalism is heightening with increasing usage of hate speeches, fake news and misinformation campaigns in South Asia through online social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, which are being used by extremist groups to express their mindset on the aim of establishing a universal caliphate, promoting jihad or holy war while generating a feeling of national and historical pride.

Communal and ethnic violence through misinformation initiatives being apparent in countries such as India, Afghanistan, Myanmar, could pave way towards regional instability through widening inequalities, hatred being fueled among various communities. Firstly, the case of India will be looked at with New Delhi having historical roots vis-à-vis ideas of secularism, tolerance where as of now these values and norms seem more idealistic, due to them being ignored in agendas of right wing groups, witnessed through massive propagation of Hindutva, being spread under guidance of fanatics, who are  vigorously imposing it towards minority religious communities through immense coercion, pressure while considering the latter as invaders or outsiders and eventually compelling them to leave behind their original identity and take up a new one.

Political appeasement and vote banks fulfillment has created uncertainty  in democracies like India where populist tactics have become a new trend for political parties for garnering public support through incentivizing the latter in the name of development and welfare but at later stages however, these promises remained obsolete, making it  counterproductive for New Delhi in her neighborhood with terrorist groups  exploiting the former’s weakness in her dealing with counterterrorism techniques and territorial disputes vis-a-vis the Kashmir Valley . Currently, this region which is stuck between a rock and a hard place because of the prevailing geopolitical threats emerging from China and Pakistan, where the latter is trying to count on its all-weather ally vis-à-vis protection and usage of separatist groups such as Lashkar E Taiba, Jaish E Muhammad and ISI aspiring to alter status quo ,deeming unfavorable to New Delhi.

Furthermore, increased minority migration from their home territories is widening in least developed countries ,due to nationalist activities being provided support by ruling governments who are being biased towards minority groups , which  has been observed through the 2017 Rohingya crisis where many of the Rohingya refugees went to Bangladesh for seeking asylum since the junta in their  home state, Myanmar, was punitive with its dealings with respect to supporting Bamar nationalism. Now, after the Tatmadaw has taken over, the rights of the minorities are at a question since they have had a turbulent past during previous coups , which man-handled as well as harassed them. Similar events have also been witnessed vis-à-vis Afghanistan in 2021 where question of minorities needs to be looked at.

In August 2021, ever since the Taliban captured Kabul, further fears and doubts have been created about whether is there chance of any improvement in the current situation or it will further accentuate. When it comes to the radical organization being mainly Pashtun, it is imperative for rights of other minorities to be looked at, as far as groups such as the Hazaras, Tajiks and Uzbeks are concerned.  According to a Human Rights Watch report, restrictions have been put in place vis-à-vis media forums to prevent opposition to Islamic values, spreading resentment regarding government activities abroad due to which many journalists have faced violence , intimidation by the local police.

Civil Society Groups Coming In: A Way Forward ?

Observing the developments above, many South Asian countries lag behind vis-à-vis religious freedom , as mentioned in the recent Freedom Of the World Report, New Delhi is partially free with a rating of 67/100 and its neighbors, Myanmar(28), Afghanistan (27), where all fall under the sections of partially free and not free vis-à-vis media, religious and speech,  which is witnessing further downhill due to radical movements being one of the root causes plus with the Covid pandemic, economic inequalities and dissent have widened.  The situation is becoming more complex in countries under autocratic and authoritarian regimes with media and civil society groups being curtailed and censored, thereby limiting multiple solutions.

While ensuring regional stability, civil society groups have a lot on their plate when it comes to spreading awareness, rehabilitation plus welfare in conflict ridden zones but only if governments are autonomous then civil society groups could act as bridges in spreading awareness along with promoting skill development amid such circumstances.

Concluding points

Government institutions should adopt a cosmopolitan and holistic approach towards accommodating minorities through giving civil society and media groups autonomy to ensure smooth nation building and integration, where even the same goes for authoritarian governments needing to be inclusive towards minorities for protecting their image, not compelling the latter to dissent and further, being a root cause behind aggravating regional instability.

Vineet Malik is a student in MA Diplomacy Law Business from OP Jindal Global University . He was a Research Assistant at Oneworld Foundation India and a former Research Intern at Institute For Peace And Conflict Studies and the Kootneeti. His research interests include South Asian Geopolitics, Defense and Strategy in India's Neighbourhood He could be contacted at malikvineet12[at]gmail.com

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South Asia

“Haqeeqi Azaadi” or “Political Invasion”?

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You call it a “Long March” or an “Azaadi March” or a “Haqeeqi Azaadi March” and lastly according to some people “Political invasion of the capital”; whatever attempt it may be, the impact of this “Long March” will not be “Short” at all. Seems like history is repeating. Yesterday, it was PTI, later it was TLP, then JUIF, PDM & now again PTI. This reminds us about a Supreme Court’s historic judgment on Faizabad Sit in by Supreme Court, which is quite relevant again in these crucial times. The historic judgment of Supreme Court on Suo moto quotes that “The leaders of the dharna intimidated, hurled threats, abused, provoked and promoted hatred. The media provided unabated coverage. Inflammatory speeches were delivered by irresponsible politicians. Some unscrupulous talk-show hosts incited and provoked citizens.” Isn’t the situation once again similar? Doesn’t it seem like history is repeating? Few analysts consider it to be a worst kind of situation.

Supreme Court writes in its judgment that “the freedom of speech and expression and of the press are fundamental right. However, these rights cannot be used to denigrate or undermine the glory of Islam, security or defence of Pakistan, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, or commission of or incitement to an offence.  He categorically mentions that “PEMRA Ordinance mirrors the restrictions as set out in Article 19 of the Constitution and further prohibits broadcasts which are, “likely to create hatred among the people or is prejudicial to the maintenance of law and order or is likely to disturb public peace and tranquility.” So, Supreme Court has already given clear instructions that if some event is likely to disrupt peace and tranquility, media broadcasts can be prohibited.

Insiders say that we are in a dead end and this is the most crucial time of history for Pakistan, especially when the economic fate has to be decided by IMF on 25th May when Imran khan marches on Islamabad. So let’s playout the possible upcoming scenarios which political stakeholders may have to consider;

  1. Marching towards Islamabad with huge crowds is one thing but forcing a government to dissolve assemblies with this crowd is another thing. Imran Khan very well knows this is a do or die situation for his political career as well. He knows his March will only succeed if he can force an early election.
  2. Bringing larger mobs to Islamabad will only be fruitful if there is some kind of disruption by the present government or by the PTI itself. IK knows that a prolonged sit in without happenings in the red zone won’t be impactful.
  3. PTI leaders have been repeatedly convincing people including government employees, Army officers and police to bring their families in their Haqeeqi Azaadi March. The question which arises is that “Why IK doesn’t bring own family members to join the “Jihad” or “Haqeeqi Azaadi”?
  4. IMF has to take crucial decision on Pakistan’s economic fate. Without an IMF Package, a Srilanka type scenario may arise. The decision will come on the same date as of long march, on 25th May. This is a do or die situation for Pakistan’s economy. So the leaders of this March should definitely come with a futuristic economic plan and tell the masses how will they get rid of this dire economic situation.
  5. While Srinagar Highway will be full of Marchers led by the so-called Ambassador of Kashmir, a big decision is expected to come from Srinagar about Yasin Malik. Unfortunately, it is expected that his sentencing maybe announced on 25th May as well.

The government also has limited options. They are arresting leaders of PTI. They are raiding houses in their own panic mode which will further incite the situation. The removal of fuel subsidiary has become inevitable and when it happens it will be the most unpopular decision. Rising, Inflation will cut purchasing power. Finalization of IMF program has brought them to a dead end.

The dread is in the air. 25th May is around the corner. It is Crucial. It is Do or Die for Pakistan. We must fear!!

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South Asia

When Politics turns Personal; The Toxic Allegations & Accusations become a Norm

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Image source: timeofpakistan.com

There is something happening beneath this political turmoil which is NOT looking good!!

Whenever Political landscape turns into a Personal battleground, defeats become unacceptable. These past few days are a perfect case study to see that how Political elite in Pakistan has done whatever it took it to stay in power. In this power grab scenario, there could be numerous losses including the integrity of institutions. We have unfortunately entered into a very dangerous phase, where some political stakeholders have put all stakes at risk, where they have stretched their limits beyond a constitutional limit, all to gather mass support, all to stay in power and avoid defeat. Is it a threat of losing power? Is it a double game? Is it a practical hybrid war we are fighting?  Whatever it is, it doesn’t seem to be good. All is at stake, all is at risk and all is toxic.

As if the political temperature was not noxious enough, Shireen Mazari Saga took place. Once again, accusations, allegations and assumptions started pouring in against the state institutions. Soon after her arrest, her daughter, a lawyer herself Imaan Zainab Mazari alleged that her mother was beaten by male police officers during the arrest. But few minutes later, a video clip surfaced that showed clearly that her mother was arrested by Female Police officers in broad daylight and as per the law. Lie number 1 of the daughter stood exposed. Within moments, without any cogent evidence the lady, known for many controversies in the past targeted state institution for such an act, although the anti-corruption already had taken responsibility of her arrest.

Abuse of power can never be tolerated, regardless of who it targets or from where it emanates. This mantra is true and everyone has an equal belief on it but let’s take a deep dive to see that how politics turned dirty in this case, how blame game took place and how this entire episode was used as a tool to churn propaganda against Army leadership and Armed Forces.

1. The anti-corruption police had arrested Shireen Mazari and she herself accepted that Prime Minister and Interior minister were responsible for my arrest. But the mother daughter nexus brazenly started blaming institutions without any solid evidence. Shouldn’t there be an inquiry on this too?

2. PTI was always of the opinion that why courts were opened mid night to send IK packing while he wasn’t listening to anyone however when same court gave a verdict in favor of PTI ex minister, late night, it was celebrated and much appreciated by Shireen Mazari & IK who have been spearheading anti judicial tirade until recently. Isn’t it blatant hypocrisy? Judicial inquiry has been ordered by the Court which is a positive sign, but the serious allegations which Mazari nexus have raised must also be inquired during this newly formed judicial inquiry. Should the Judiciary not question them on hurling these baseless allegations?

3. The present government, whose Police itself arrested Shireen Mazari disowned this attempt. Attorney General displayed his ignorance about the matter in front of the court. So, somehow the government created this impression in the public eye that they are not to be blamed for the arrest of Shireen Mazari. Was it a double game? Or a deliberate effort to discredit institutions?

Pakistan is already facing serious economic downfall, political uncertainty and civil strife. PTI has also announced Long March to Islamabad on 25th May which is likely to further exacerbate already fragile political and economic instability. It has become quite evident now for achieving petty political ends, our political elite has no serious resolve to address the crisis confronting the country. Country is being deliberately pushed to limits of economic and political dead end. The political immaturity and lack of vision to handle the crisis situation is also hurting the repute of institutions amidst internal political wrangling. If political leadership doesn’t come to grips of the critical situation prevailing which is likely to aggravate further in coming days, people of Pakistan in particular and the country in general are likely to suffer unprecedented damage. Political elite must put its acts together and steer the country out of prevalent political and economic crisis by showing sagacity and political wisdom until it’s too late.

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Accusations to Acknowledgement: The Battle of Article 63 A

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The weather is heating up. As the May is ending, Political temperatures are soaring. The fate regarding the country’s political and economic stability will be measured in the upcoming days. Earlier, PDM built momentum by taking on institutions. Maryam Nawaz raised the temperature by targeting key personalities and institutions. Allegations were bursting against the institutions in all dimensions. Today, we witness reversal of roles. Accusations have been outflowing in every Jalsa by PTI. But now suddenly, the “accusations” turned into “acknowledgment”. “Complaints” started transforming into “Compliments”. Is it the change of narrative? Is it another U-turn? Or is it the restoration of confidence in the institutions? Where will this chaos end?

The Supreme Court’s “decision” or as they say “opinion” or “binding” on Article 63 A has raised some pertinent questions on the status of CM Punjab election? In the interpretation of Article 63 A of the constitution, the Supreme court categorically condemns the practice of horse trading by calling it “a cancer afflicting the body politic”. Supreme Court in its decision of 3-2 rejected the vote count of these dissident members against the party directives. So the future of the Chief Executive of Punjab is now under threat because it is contrary to what happened in National Assembly. The political instability continues and the situation is messy.

In light of this verdict, Hamza has a support of 172 MPAs in Punjab assembly but at the same time, he also has 4 dissenting members which draws the figure to 168. Now further moving ahead, PTI and alliance also has a collective figure of 168 votes minus 21 dissenting members. The situation here in Punjab is way too complex now. A support of 186 members is required for a clear majority in Punjab assembly to formulate a government. This current Punjab government can either fall through a governor led vote of no confidence or a Supreme court order. The governor even has a right to dissolve the assembly with his discretionary powers according to Article 112 (2) of the constitution. Supreme Court has already made its decision on cross voting against Party fiat.  Now legal experts are interpreting the decision in their own dictionaries. What will happen in Punjab? What will happen on the federal level? Will there be an election call? If so, what will be the care taker setup? Will there be a fresh mandate? Who will make the hard economic decisions?  Lot needs to be answered in these crucial times.

From “My judges disappointed me” to “Thankyou Supreme Court”, a lot has happened and a lot is ready to take place. Islamabad is full of gossips, interpretations, whispers and predictions these days. There is something seething under this political turmoil. The Red zone is under a lot of pressure whether politically or economically. Pre – Elections, Elections and then Post elections, we have a lot of consequences of a lot of hard decisions. But hard decisions need to be taken. Question is who is ready to make the hard choices? Be Afraid!!

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