Nobel Peace Prize & Backwardness in South-East Asia

Let us face it. The two co-winners of the Nobel Prize for Peace, Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzay, have drawn world attention to the shameful backwardness that still prevails in South-East Asia, nothwithstanding government legislation to fight against child exploitation in India and gender inequality in education propagated by obscurantist forces in Pakistan.

These are two facets of society, which like many others are an embarrassment to South-Asians every time they are brought in the limelight. Rather than being shoved under the carpet and ignored in most media debates in the respective countries, world attention compels various stakeholders to take stock of the situation and address such issues with strong commitment and political will.

Child labour or the enrolment of children as soldiers in any part of the world is a constant reminder of the primitive instinct of men to exploit the weakest among their fellowmen. Not only Nobel Prizes but documentaries and films on honour killings, wife-burning, attitudes to sex and gang rapes and similar social ills are the most efficient means to help raise awareness and prompt serious debates on their root causes and changes in mindset to handle them.

The award of the Peace Prize to two citizens of South-East Asia comes amid growing tensions at the Kashmir Line of Control (LoC) which has resulted in casualties on both sides with people fleeing their homes for safety. The Pakistani military, under the pressure of its top officials and ISI, has become increasingly nervous and aggressive since the appointment of Sri Narendra Modi as the new Prime Minister in India. Last year while the former PM was still in office, the high brass of the Pakistani military was reported to have declared its impatience to go to war against India. If anything, the ongoing constant aggression occurring at the LoC since May is a deliberate strategy to test the patience of the Indian PM and drag India into a war.

The opposition and the English-medium press have been pressing the PM to publicly declare its stance on the issue. Wary of the press which he suspects of distorting statements and building up sensationalism, the PM shuns interviews and ignores calls for mediatizing his strategy. Yet, right at the beginning of the Pakistani provocation, the Indian PM made a forceful speech in which he strongly warned Nawaz Sharif against any attempt to mess up with India. While unrelentlessly attending to a multitude of tasks to improve efficiency on a daily basis, the PM has apparently given the military a free hand to conduct operations and unforgiving retalialions at LoC, which has created surprise and shock in the Pakistani army. On the other hand, the United Nations ignored Pakistan’s call to internationalize the issue.

After the street show by Imran Khan and fiery cleric to topple PM Nawaz Sharif, Bilal Zardari’s claim to the whole of Kashmir makes him look as an additional partner in the ‘political circus’ his slain mother denounced. The move of the PPP leader who is still in his twenties is seen as a bid to gain the favour of the army despite the fact that grandfather Ali Bhutto was sent to the gallows by the army, and former PM General Pervez Musharraf is accused of organizing the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

The Swedish Nobel Peace Prize committee’s decision is not only a reward for those who fight against child slavery and extremist forces who shoot at 14 year-old girls to keep them away from schools, but also a call for settling territory disputes based on religious grounds through peace instead in light of the barbaric beheadings and drone attacks by the coalition in the Middle East.

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Second Republic Megalomania

The local ‘political circus’ with its series of turncoat remakes is what everybody seems to be talking about with disgust whenever conversation shifts to politics, and as quickly moves on to other topics as if politics sullied their mouths. This is an indication of how a noble pursuit that politics is supposed to be has fallen into disrepute in the hands of unscrupulous individuals.

The grand project of a highly modern light metro contrasts sharply with the run-down state of buses and the noise pollution caused by the noise made by the engines and which the public has been putting up with for ages on account of poor quality buses purchased by bus companies. They have no qualms about hiking fares and every month pocketing huge sums generously handed to them by the government for the so-called free transport of the elderly. There should be a serious survey on how many of the elderly are regular public transport users as it seems that today most of them are driven around by relatives.

The appropriation of beautiful spots by private groups is another sensitive issue to a lot of people who are increasingly aware of the shrinking public space they are left with in a small island with limited variety of natural environment to offer. Are we heading towards more privatization of outer islands for the benefit of cronies?

The Second Republic is the plaything of rampant megalomania at the top and is of absolutely no interest to ordinary citizens. What comes up in conversations is the wish to address, among the issues mentioned above, public order, crime, and rising cost of living, and the impoverishment of not only low-income sections but also of the middle-class. And to straighten things up there is much hope laid on a future no-nonsense type of government.

* Published in print edition on 24 Ocotober 2014

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