Questioning The Right To Immunity
Roznama Ausaf’s January 29 editorial criticised the Pakistani government’s handling of the Ramond Davis issue, where an American affiliated with the United States Consulate in Lahore opened fire—ostensibly in self-defence—killing three Pakistanis (whom he identified as thugs). The editorial argued that while Lahore High Court lawyer Athar Minallah asked for Davis’ trial to be conducted in Pakistan, the government seemed to be bowing down to pressure from the United States.
The editorial posed the following questions: Why was a US citizen roaming the streets of Lahore, which, in the West is portrayed as being unsafe? How is it that despite an encounter with two Pakistanis, Davis escaped without so much as a scratch? The editorial put forth suspicions that Davis was professionally trained, and possibly a Blackwater agent en route to a mission. If events unfolded as Davis narrated them, how did he come to shoot one of the Pakistanis from behind? As for the arguments about diplomatic immunity put forth in the West, the editorial asked the government to clarify who the immunity is applicable to—certain staff levels or all consulate staff? Furthermore, the editorial questioned that if Pakistani diplomats were to conduct themselves in a similar manner in the United States, would Washington grant them diplomatic immunity?
The editorial suggested that the Pakistani Foreign Ministry and the US State Department had worked out an arrangement to decrease Davis’ sentence; it warned that if the Pakistani government were to reduce Davis’ sentence, Islamabad may end up with a Tunisia-type revolution in its hands.
Looking To The Future
Makram Mohammad Ahmed opined in Egypt’s al-Ahram on the way forward for Egypt after the recent popular uprising. The writer suggested that the uprising was a watershed moment in post-colonial Egypt’s history, and that the country is faced with two stark choices—democratic transition or chaos.
Mr Ahmed suggested that it is important for calm to prevail in Egypt and for a reconciliation process to begin, leading up to the presidential elections later this year. He recommended a series of steps that the military and transitional government could take to restore calm in Cairo. The suggestions put forth included the initiative of inviting a team of economists to establish a new minimum wage and reconsider pay scales in the public and private sectors, adaptation of a declaration on human rights that includes abolishing the state of emergency (and its curbs on freedom), instituting rights to information, imposing fines for not voting and using a national ID card (instead of a ticket) to verify voters.
In addition, Mr Ahmed called for the formation of a Council for National Dialogue to agree to the terms and conditions under which legal transfer of power will take place through the electoral process. The writer stressed that part of this process should include an unambiguous commitment to human rights, including the rights of minorities, and to the rights to freedom of expression and equal opportunity.
Reassessing the Situation in Kashmir
Amjad Islam wrote in the Daily Express about the Kashmir issue, that Pakistan’s annual observance of February 5 as Youm-e-Yakjehti-e-Kashmir (Kashmir Solidarity Day) has lost its meaning and purpose since several years. He criticised Pakistan’s policies toward Kashmir, which he said have had no consistency from 1947, and through the agreements in Tashkent and Shimla.
The writer put forth that Kashmiris feel a strong bond with Pakistan, and cheer for the Pakistani team whenever it plays against India. However, the same commitment isn’t present in Pakistan’s state policy towards Kashmir. Islam pointed out that while the terms “occupied Kashmir” and “Kashmir valley” are sometimes treated as synonyms, the lack of a Muslim majority in the state’s other regions means that even if a plebiscite is conducted, the only region likely to support union with Pakistan would be the Kashmir valley.
He argued that the situation has changed and requires reconsideration—he suggested that Kashmiris’ insistence on independence has decreased because of “draconian military measures” employed by India. According to the writer, economic subsidies offered by India have helped Kashmiris, who are therefore less keen on independence. Furthermore, Islam pointed out, Pakistan’s challenges in confronting terrorism, religious extremism and economic stagnation have forced Kashmiris to question whether Pakistan can really help them if it cannot help itself. Based on his arguments, Islam hopes that India and Pakistan will reconsider their positions, commit to peace, and formalise the de facto boundary between the two nations, by taking into consideration inputs from the people of Kashmir.
Bahrain’s Security Status
Qatar’s al-Raya strongly opposed the protests in Bahrain in its editorial. The editorial says that demonstrations must cease immediately, especially after the King Sheikh Hamid announced his desire for dialogue with all parties and groups in accordance with the wishes of the Bahraini people. al-Raya suggests that it is important for demonstrators to realise that protests will not help in achieving their objectives, and that they choose the option of reconciliation.
Reconciliation, however, cannot take place when there is a security situation in Manama. The editorial says that the demonstrators are creating divisions in society which are unacceptable, and seem unwilling to listen to statements by the King, that the state would not differentiate between Shias and Sunnis (Bahrain is unique in that it is a demographically Shia-majority state ruled by a Sunni royal family). The editorial states that a breach in the security and stability of Bahrain will affect the entire region, and that this is a “red line” that cannot be crossed. In this regard, it applauds the emergency GCC ministerial meeting in Bahrain, where countries in the region stood “shoulder-to-shoulder” with Bahrain and rebuffed “foreign interference” in the country’s affairs.