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Pakistan back on front pages, Times Now’s Rahul Shivshankar questions Shaheen Bagh protest

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Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has made it back to the front pages Friday after the announcement that India will invite Pakistan to the 2020 Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit. The news is the lead story in The Indian Express and The Hindu.

Hindustan Times leads with Pakistan too, but with a different story. It reports that UK called “for more action by Pakistan to counter terror emanating from its soil”.

Meanwhile, The Times of India leads with Union Minister for Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal’s statement saying that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ $1 billion investment in India was meant to “cover losses” and he wasn’t doing the country a favour.

Pakistan: Express is quite hopeful about the summit in its headline, “With summit invite plan, India opens window to bilateral space with Pak”, while TOI writes exactly the opposite, “No Talk Of Bilateral Meet On Pak PM’s First India Visit”. Hindu simply notes, “India to invite Imran Khan for Shanghai Council meet”.

HT, on the other hand, writes, “Pak cornered at UNSC, faces heat on terrorism”, adding that UK Prime Minister’s special representative said that “all options are on the table if Islamabad fails to implement the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) action plan to counter terror financing and crack down on terrorists operating from Pakistani soil.”

CDS Bipin Rawat: Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat said that “Children as young as 10-12 years are being radicalised in Kashmir and there is a need to isolate those completely radicalised and put them in ‘deradicalisation camps’”, writes Hindu.

According to Express, Rawat added, “First, you get to the nerve of this whole thing as to who are radicalising people… It is happening from schools, universities, from religious places and sites”.

Dhoni not mentioned in central contract: In what HT calls a possible “end of an era”, the paper reports that former Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was not given a central contract by the BCCI. The report notes that this is the first time Dhoni has been left out of the list since the system was introduced.

TOI also features the news, albeit in a tabular form with the details of the contract list for 2019-2020. The top grade consists of players like captain Virat Kohli, batsman Rohit Sharma and bowler Jasprit Bumrah.

Other: In its second lead, HT notes that “Raising farm incomes may top budget agenda”. It writes that the Union Budget this year may “do away with the penal provisions of the Essential Commodities Act” and also called the move “a radical piece of agricultural reform”.

Express reports, “After Kerala, Punjab Govt will seek House rejection today,” becoming the second state to bring in an Assembly resolution “seeking the repeal” of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). It adds, “Chhattisgarh, another Congress-ruled state, is considering if it can denotify an October 2019 order which announced the states’ participation in the NPR exercise”.


The HinduChina raised the issue of Kashmir for the second time at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Wednesday, notes Hindu. In “Talking of Kashmir”, it writes that China’s attempts to interfere in India’s issues are “unconstructive and will impact India-China relationship”. It argues that India has refrained from raising similar issues over Tibet, Xinjiang or Hong Kong and therefore, it is unfair on China’s part to take India’s internal matters to an international stage.

However, China’s move could be another reason for India to pay attention to the criticism over the situation in Kashmir since the issue has been raised in UNSC twice in five months —this last happened in 1971. Only when the government lifts all the restrictions, frees all political prisoners and removes the security restrictions, the real healing in the valley can begin, writes Hindu.

Hindustan TimesIn “The battle of Bihar commences”, HT writes that political forces have already started preparing for the state polls. As Home Minister Amit Shah reiterated the association of Nitish Kumar with the NDA in a pro-CAA rally in Bihar, HT predicts that the NDA has a clear edge in these elections.

However, the challenge for the alliance is the Nitish Kumar-led NDA government’s governance record and its biggest advantage is the weakness of the opposition, argues HT. RJD is struggling in the absence of Lalu Prasad Yadav and Congress remains marginal in the state. They will both hope that economic discontent against the central government and resentment against the state government will be a good combination to vote the NDA out of power, writes HT.

Prime Time

Prime time debates Thursday discussed a range of ‘burning’ issues. India TV anchor Rajat Sharma explained why the execution of the four December 16 gangrape-murder convicts was postponed. CDS Bipin Rawat’s comment on radicalised children saw Republic anchor Arnab Goswami wonder, very loudly, whether India should adopt a 9/11 type response.

Times Now: In ‘India Upfront’ anchor Rahul Shivshankar asked whether the ‘sting’ circulated by the BJP on Shaheen Bagh protesters reflected the truth. The BJP suggested that the protesters are being paid money to occupy the area. Shivshankar explained that even though we may have heard locals supporting the protests, “In reality, locals are getting disillusioned” because their “lives are being held ransom”.

Shivshankar was rather inventive in his commentary and said, “I know there is a section in the media, political class and intelligentsia that has held up the Shaheen Bagh protest as India’s very own Arab Spring”.

During the debate, Gaurav Bhatia, BJP’s national spokesperson relies on the most overused narrative, “This protest lacks legitimacy because it is being fuelled by the Congress that has lost its political ground”.

India Today: In an interaction with Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan, anchor Rajdeep Sardesai asked whether Khan conceded “that these protests reflect growing polarisation on the ground”. Sardesai further asked, “How do you see it playing out politically”.

To which Khan replied, “It is not proper for me to speak about political aspects” of the protests. Khan argued that since this is a law passed by the Parliament, “it is my duty to defend the law”. He also quoted Mahatma Gandhi and said, “Four years after independence, Gandhi said that if Pakistan continues to misbehave then it will lead to war”.

Sardesai felt the need to clear things up and said, “Let’s be clear that Mahatma would have been unlikely to endorse religion-based citizenship”.

NDTV India: In light of the questions raised on the UP Police’s brutality against protesters, anchor Ravish Kumar explained that initially they had claimed that they weren’t responsible for the violence. However, now they have admitted that they were responsible for one death. Kumar said, “jaanch ke naam par jaanch chal rahi hai” (investigation is going on just for the sake of it).

Kumar noted that activists held a people’s tribunal where author Arundhati Roy was also present. In an interview with an NDTV correspondent, Roy said, “The public is not stupid, you can’t view the CAA in isolation”. She added, “They want to make refugees out of citizens”.

ABP News: In ‘Master stroke’, anchor Rubika Liyaquat showed the viewers a picture of former prime minister Indira Gandhi and underworld don Karim Lala. In light of Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut’s statement on Lala’s meetings with Gandhi, Liyaquat asked whether the statements were true.

Liyaquat said the photograph was from 1973 and “even though Sanjay Raut has withdrawn his statement, this has resulted in the unfolding of Maharashtra’s gathbandhan”. Liyaquat wondered whether there is tension simmering in this gathbandhan sarkar (coalition government).

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