Saturday, May 16, 2009
A Saturday of Contrasts for South Asia
Saturday the 16th of May was a historic day for South Asia. The Congress Party in India was swept back to power with the country’s highest margin of victory since 1984. The two-decade long ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka came to a military conclusion. But in Pakistan, Taliban militants exploded yet another car bomb in the North Western city of Peshawar, highlighting the country’s uncontrollable tailspin into the bottomless abyss of Islamic militancy. (For Maldives too it could have been a significant day if the Elections Commission had gone on with its original plan to announce the results of the Majlis election.)
These events signify the tragic contrasts between the three South Asian countries born from the remnants of the British Empire in the aftermath of World War II. In Sri Lanka, its seemingly intractable ethnic militancy is coming to end, while the Islamic militancy in Pakistan is beginning to go out of control.
In India, the Congress won a general election, where the main issue at stake was development. As Rahul Gandhi said after the victory, this signals that Indians have rejected caste and religion based politics. This contrasts sharply with the General elections in Pakistan last year, where the main issues were religion and sharia law.
One wonders if the reality of Pakistan today is what its founding father Mohamed Ali Jinnah and its poet laureate Sir Mohamed Iqbal had dreamt.