19 Sept 2019: The Hindu Editorial Analysis
1) On the Afghan crisis
- When the U.S.-Taliban talks collapsed last week, the insurgent group threatened to step up attacks in Afghanistan.
- It made good on its pledge on Tuesday using two suicide bombers who killed at least 48 people by targeting a rally being addressed by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani north of Kabul, and also the capital.
- These attacks are yet another warning of the security challenges Afghanistan faces, especially when it is gearing up to the September 28 presidential poll.
- Both the 2014 presidential election and last year’s parliamentary poll were violently disturbed by the Taliban. This time, the group has asked civilians to stay away from political gatherings, making all those who participate in the political process potential targets.
- Rising attacks against Afghan civilians make the Taliban’s claim that it is fighting on behalf of them against the foreign invaders hollow. The Taliban did not suspend its terror campaign even while holding talks with the U.S. in Qatar.
- In July, when the talks were under way, Amrullah Saleh, Mr. Ghani’s running mate and the former intelligence chief, escaped a serious assassination attempt. Now that the talks have collapsed, a revengeful Taliban is unleashing itself on the Afghans.
- The Afghan government seems determined to go ahead with the election. It has deployed some 70,000 troops to protect over 5,000 polling stations.
- But the threat from the Taliban is so grave that the President is largely addressing campaign rallies through Skype. Even if the elections are over without further attacks, the Taliban problem will remain.
- Afghanistan needs a solution to this crisis and regional and international players should help the new government. The fundamental problem with the U.S.-Taliban peace process was that it excluded the Kabul government at the insistence of the insurgents, which itself was a major compromise by the U.S. On the other side, the Taliban was not even ready to cease hostilities.
- A peace agreement dictated by the Taliban won’t sustain. The Taliban can’t be allowed to have a free terror run either. A permanently unstable Afghanistan and an insurgent group growing further in strength is not good news for any nation, including Afghanistan’s neighbours.
- Afghanistan needs a comprehensive peace push in which all stakeholders, including the government, the U.S., the Taliban and regional players will have a say.
- The U.S. should continue to back the Kabul government, put pressure on Pakistan to crack down on the Afghan Taliban, double down its counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan and invite regional players such as Pakistan, Iran, Russia, India and China to take part in the diplomatic efforts.
- In other words, the Taliban should be forced to return to talks. The U.S.-Taliban peace talks may have collapsed. But it need not be the end of the road for finding a settlement for the Afghan crisis.
2) On detention of J&K leaders: Dangerous vacuum
- The detention of National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah under the Public Safety Act on Monday marks a new, dangerous low in the overreach of state power to curtail liberty in Kashmir.
- The 81-year old leader has been thrice Chief Minister, Union Minister and five times Member of Parliament. He is currently MP from Srinagar.
- His father and National Conference founder. Sheikh Abdullah, led Kashmir’s Muslim population in rejecting the two-nation theory that led to Partition and the formation of Pakistan in 1947.
- And his son, Omar Abdullah, former Chief Minister and Union Minister, is also under detention since August 5, when the Centre abrogated Article 370 through a controversial process, ended J&K’s relative autonomy and is reorganising it into two Union Territories.
- While the BJP and the Centre have claimed massive public support for these moves, the Kashmir Valley has been in shutdown since then.
- Despite his declining popularity in the Valley, Farooq Abdullah continued to argue that Kashmir’s destiny was with secular, pluralist India. To treat him as a threat to public safety is a travesty of justice and an assault on democratic principles.
- The manner in which he was detained smacks of complete disregard for the rule of law and accountability. His detention, for 12 days, was announced hours before the Supreme Court was to consider MDMK chief Vaiko’s plea seeking a directive that Mr. Abdullah be produced before it.
- In Parliament last month, Home Minister Amit Shah had said the NC leader was not in detention but was staying at home on his own choice. The detention has now been legalised under a stringent law that allows limited remedies and could be extended to as long as two years.
- The moves to silence and humiliate Kashmir’s senior-most politician betrays a dangerous tactic of marginalising the moderate, mainstream politicians.
- Almost all Kashmir’s political leaders are in jail, including former Chief Minister and PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti and the IAS officer-turned-politician Shah Faesal.
- Such leaders have kept the political process alive in Kashmir against all odds, and despite threats even as some sections of the population remained extreme or aggressive to India.
- The argument that Kashmiri politicians used the State’s special status to shield their corruption and nepotism is distorted, as these problems are endemic to Indian politics.
- The amorality of the government’s treatment of pro-India forces is certainly demoralizing, but dangerous is the vacuum this is creating. The void will be filled only by forces hostile to India, if the government removes politicians from public spaces by wrongly labelling them anti-India.