A bittersweet victory for Nawaz Sharif in by-poll

Nawaz Sharif PML-N’s may have won in the NA-120 by-election. But the victory will now be followed by an urgent need for introspection by the party. While his wife, Kulsoom Nawaz, managed to win the fiercely contested by-poll – according to unofficial results, the narrow margin of victory is worrying for the party, which has traditionally seen the NA-120 seat as a party stronghold.

“We gave them tough competition in their own home constituency,” said a senior leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf. His assertion is not just rhetorical. This has been a trend since 2013. And if the trend is to continue in the 2018 general election, the PML-N may just be toppled in its heartland. While in 2008, the PML-N secured an impressive 62.7 percent of the vote, it has now appeared to have fallen to just 53.8 percent. Simultaneously, the PTI’s vote share has increased from 2 percent in 2008 to almost 41 percent in the present by-poll. If the trend continues, PTI may just do the impossible – vanquish the PML-N in its decades-old bastion.

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What’s going to make news at this year’s UN General Assembly?

The annual UN General Assembly may just come with a bunch of surprises this year. The reason is easy to predict – Donald Trump. What he may say, who he may offend, surprise, appease or annoy – none of this can be known in advance, thus making this year’s UN GA one of the most anticipated and unusual.

What makes Trump’s speeches and meetings even more thrilling to watch out for is his position on the UN until less than a year ago. “The United Nations has such great potential but right now it is just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time. So sad!” Trump had tweeted last year. To add to the Trump effect, there is the unending defiance by North Korea, the crisis in Myanmar, the uncertainties over the Iran nuclear deal and the hope that the international community could sway Trump to rethink his decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate agreement.

African courts’ remnants of repression

The British may have left their last colonies in Africa over half a century ago. But the debates on their continued legacies are raging across the continent. And at the heart of these debates, at least, symbolically are the wigs – the long, white, horsehair locks worn by high court judges, and well, also King George III. It’s surely not just the wigs, however. The red robes, white bows, references to judges as “my lord” and “my lady” – all relics of colonial rule are scattered across the continent’s legal landscape.

So why do the continent’s legal luminaries still wear these “trappings of the colonisers”? To begin with, they could just be jettisoned for their sheer inconvenience. Uncomfortable and old-fashioned, they have even been discarded by British barristers. But it’s not just about the inconvenience. Opponents of the colonial outfit are increasingly arguing against a tradition of continued judicial repression. “The colonial system used law as [an] instrument of repression, and we’re still maintaining this tradition without questioning it,” says the director of the Africa program at the International Commission of Jurists.

Germany’s online speech law with oodles of censorship

Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz – an unforgiving law meant to protect German online spaces from abuse, radicalisation and defamation by imposing colossal fines on social networks – is all set to be implemented next month. While in the face of “blatantly illegal hate speech”, the biggest social networks would be required to take down the content within 24 hours, in case of material which is less egregious in its legal violation, the time given to the networks would be seven days. Failure to meet these deadlines would mean a fine of 50 million euros.

The law obviously has many critics. The constant threat of these enormous fines would lead to social networks to delete huge amounts of content just to be on the safe side, they contend. “With these 24 hour and seven day deadlines – if you are a company you are going to want avoid fines and bad public branding of your platform…If there is a complaint about a post you are just going to take it down. What is in it for you to leave it up? I think the result is likely to be greater censorship,” says the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression.

How to deal with the Rohingya radicals: promote the rights of the Rohingya

The apartheid-like existence of the Rohingyas has been brought to the fore of global politics, and a localised struggle of a few Rohingyas who have taken up arms may just be exploited by international terror networks. What’s worse is that the radicalisation of even a very few provides a public justification of sorts to the Myanmar military by saying that it is indeed fighting terrorism.

“We have seen how democratic and nationalist movements can be taken over by transnational terrorist groups…“The presence of legitimate discontent, despair and desperation among hundreds and thousands of people, growing radicalization of a movement, asymmetry of forces engaged in the conflict and a religious dimension to the crisis all provide a conducive environment,” says a professor of politics and government at Illinois State University. In such a situation, the best solution to grapple with risks of extremism is to promote the rights of the Rohingya – something that seems to be the last priority, if at all, for the Myanmar military.

 

 

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