EDITORIAL: Meeting each other halfway - Monday, February 21, 2011

Source : http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\02\21\story_21-2-2011_pg3_1

In a dramatic change in stance, the US is apparently toning down its aggressive rhetoric concerning the Raymond Davis issue. Following in the footsteps of Senator John Kerry’s recent flying damage control visit, a US junior congressional delegation arrived in Islamabad on Saturday to meet Prime Minister Gilani and other government officials in an effort to ease the impasse between the two countries following the mishandling of the Raymond Davis debacle. This flurry of diplomatic traffic in the present scenario is indeed extraordinary. Stressing the need to move forward and come up with “out-of-the-box” solutions for the resolution of this issue, the delegation agreed that the US-Pakistan relationship was about much more than a single issue and said that the US was going to deliver on its economic and social aid pledges. This is comforting news because the diplomatic stalemate was becoming a thorn in both sides.

The two most prominent casualties of the aftermath of this affair are the ex-Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and PPP Information Secretary Fauzia Wahab who has now resigned (or been dismissed). Qureshi has shown his displeasure by issuing provocative statements concerning this extremely delicate manner. By claiming that he was under pressure to declare Davis had immunity but the American does not possess complete diplomatic cover, the ex-minister has exposed deep fissures in the PPP ranks. Maybe he possesses the ambition to take a solo flight into the political arena. It is not recommended he try this on the basis of an issue that has so polarised society and could come at the cost of national security. Ms Wahab also issued reckless statements out of turn by speaking up about the case and categorically declaring Davis enjoyed immunity.

It seems as if the abating of the initial furore has provided the space for reaching some sort of compromise. This could take the shape of the Pakistani authorities conceding the argument, releasing Raymond Davis and handing him over, after which complete criminal investigations will commence on US soil, and compensation being offered to the aggrieved family of Davis’s victims. If compensation is accepted, the family may need protection as, reportedly, they have been told to refrain from any such compromise. It is astounding that the right-wingers, so concerned with ‘justice’, would threaten the family with a backlash if compensation were accepted.

It must be stated that Pakistan-US relations have never been free of mistrust and the Raymond Davis incident has caused the relationship considerable long-term damage. Past and present political mistakes — there are many legacies of the Musharraf era that are still haunting the present regime — that have given the US carte blanche on our soil will need to be addressed in the aftermath of a solution to the Raymond Davis affair. It is then that Pakistan and the US must look towards each other on a more equal footing. Arrangements will need to be revisited where checks and balances and proper diplomatic processes are ensured for the appropriate handling of American personnel posted to Pakistan. Pakistan will need to reassert its dignity and self-respect to ensure visas are not issued en masse and without stringent checks. Pakistan needs to reclaim as much sovereignty as it can, given its dependence on the US. After Davis, when we go forward we will need to do so as more equal partners of the US than in the past. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: World Day of Social Justice

Although the designation of World Day of Social Justice by the United Nations is fairly recent, the objectives it promotes tackle the issues that give birth to underdevelopment and social strife. February 20 was designated by the UN General Assembly as the World Day of Social Justice on November 26, 2007. The decision came after a long process starting with the World Summit for Social Development organised in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1995. At this summit, subjugation of poverty, abolition of paucity and full employment were recognised by over a hundred countries as the basic ingredients for a peaceful and prosperous coexistence of communities and nations. Social justice entails ensuring gender equality and the rights of minorities. Governments and societies that strive to provide everyone equal opportunity for development regardless of their gender, age, race, religion, culture, disability or ethnic affiliation, are pursuing social justice. In many countries, including our own, we see discrimination against migrants or indigenous populations, denying them a fair share of opportunity, which keeps them underdeveloped. This not only impacts the overall development of societies, it has in many cases led to conflicts and even insurgencies. Separatist struggles or demands for regime change are the result of social injustice that people of a particular area, ethnicity, culture or religious affiliation face. Many communities and groups are engaged in such struggles throughout Asia — the Kurds in Iran, Iraq and Turkey, the Kashmiris and Maoists in India, the Baloch in Pakistan and Iran, and the Tibetans in China. The wave of regime change unleashed in several countries in the Middle East was sparked by the suicide of a youth who was being denied the right to a decent livelihood by a repressive regime.

Governments are expected to take measures to alleviate poverty, unemployment and strengthen social security networks for all sections of the population. In socially unjust societies, this cannot be achieved without political engagement and dialogue with alienated sections. In today’s world, where advances in communication technology have obviated the need for traditional and risky methods of mass mobilisation and facilitated organisation by private citizens, failure to recognise the need for social justice by unjust societies will sooner or later result in popular revolt. *

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