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Blasphemous Reality



Importantly, while Imran Khan posits and postures Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Muhammad Iqbal as his role models, his party, sensing the mood of the nation, had clearly taken a position to oppose any amendment or dilution to Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), which deals with the contentious blasphemy laws. The regrettable admixture of religion and politics has been the bane of societal regression and offering meaningless condolences and other platitudes after every such incident serves no purpose as the slippery slope of identity-based politics only gets slipperier


Ironically, the literal meaning of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan is ‘I am present Pakistan,’ and that perhaps is an apt descriptor of the reality staring Pakistan. This is also the name of the Islamic extremist party that had stunningly secured 2.2 million popular votes in the 2018 General Elections, even though it had emerged less than three years earlier on the violent premise of opposing any changes to Pakistan’s dark Blasphemy Laws.

Ideas besetting parties like the Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP) were especially incubated in the revisionist era of General Zia-ulhaq’s 1980s and tactically misused by all political regimes since, irrespective of the nomenclature, and including the shadowy Generals. Over seven decades since M A Jinnah’s belatedly restorative attempt at secularising Pakistan by statements like, “You are free; you are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed ~ that has nothing to do with the business of the state,” it is the likes of TLP, who now hold popular sway.

Political poison of religious majoritarianism has consumed the sub-continent and masses are galvanised by religious fervour, supremacism, and assertion ~ the brutal phenomenon of ‘lynching’ is only natural. The horrific lynching of Priyantha Kumara, a Sri Lankan expatriate in Pakistan, over allegations of blasphemy, should surprise none as it is part of a growing culture of self-appointed custodians of religious propriety and necessity.

Unlike the earlier lynchings in Pakistan that involved its own citizenry (with a high proportion from the constitutionally excommunicated minorities like Ahmediyas and others), this incident involves a foreigner, and therefore the ramification and sovereign-awkwardness is multiplied for Prime Minister Imran Khan, who likes to talk about Naya Pakistan (New Pakistan).

Importantly, while Imran Khan posits and postures Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Muhammad Iqbal as his role models, his party sensing the mood of the nation had clearly taken a position to oppose any amendment or dilution to Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), which deals with the contentious blasphemy laws. The regrettable admixture of religion and politics has been the bane of societal regression and offering meaningless condolences and other platitudes after every such incident serves no purpose as the slippery slope of identity-based politics only gets slipperier.

Perfunctory announcements from the Prime Minister, Chief of the Pakistani Army Staff, etc., were meekly issued, a calculated attempt to delink the issue from the blasphemy context was ensured. Instead, a generic mob vigilantism angle was bandied. But too much water has flown under the bridge, and the echo-chambers of dog-whistlers who have provided the necessary succour to revanchist elements like the TLP were still at it.

The Defence Minister of Pakistan, Pervez Khattak, defended and contextualised, “When children…grow up, they become spirited and do things out of emotions” and added for shocking effect, “I would have also done these things out of emotions had I been there”! In hindsight, such a politico-societal morass was in the coming, for a few months back, Prime Minister Imran Khan himself had made common cause with the TLP by reassuring them that he shared the ‘same goals’ as the TLP (this when TLP had just been outlawed as a terrorist organisation, a fortnight earlier), when the body was protesting violently against the French Ambassador and for boycott of French goods.

In the murky Russian-roulette of Pakistani politics, the relatively secular institution of the Pakistani Army itself is guilty of midwifing the terms of multiple peace ‘deals’ between the TLP and the Pakistani government. Forces like the TLP are invaluable levers for the Pakistani Army to keep up its sleeve and unsettle the civilian government, as and when it feels the same is getting comfortable enough to assert itself independently.

The ‘check-mate’ phenomenon of recklessly using religion and its ostensible guardians in the form of the clergy is the worst kept secret of the Pakistani establishment, be it for internal politics, or for across the borders in places like India or Afghanistan. Sadly, the genie of religio-extremism does not revert to its lamp once unleashed, and has a sure trajectory of injecting poison, hatred and uncontrollable polarisation that consumes its society and its progenitor.

The Frankensteinian monster of religio-terror was manifest in the sick visuals of the large crowd taking selfies, after barbarically killing and burning the Sri Lankan, with hapless policemen loitering around. Taliban Khan is an ill-earned moniker for Imran Khan who in his three years of so-called Naya Pakistan is guilty of courting the Afghan Taliban (especially the hardened Haqqani faction), capitulating repeatedly to the likes of Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP) and even cutting ‘deals’ with Tehreek-i-Taliban (TTP or Pakistan Taliban) who were responsible for the Peshawar terror attack on schoolchildren. Imran Khan has gone on to even suggest amnesty (if they become ‘normal citizens?) for TTP cadres who have killed thousands of Pakistanis.

It was left to the Pakistani Chief Justice, Gulzar Ahmed, to excoriate the Prime Minister, “You are in power. The government is also yours. What did you do? You brought those guilty to the negotiating table.” Obviously, the sentiment went unheeded, and Imran Khan continues to play the patented Pakistani gameof running with the hare and hunting with the hound.

The problem starts when the sensibilities of TLP, TTP or even Afghan Taliban starts getting normalised in Pakistani society, politics, and the governance agenda ~ lynchings then become collateral outcomes of the new normal. History across the ages instructs that any nation that yields space for any majoritarian or religio-ethnic assertion of any specific denomination will always fall prey to distractive passions that do truly little to uplift the real and socio-economic growth of the nation.

Yet, it is the loaded doublespeak, political acquiescence, and subtle pandering to echo-chambers (conveniently dubbed ‘fringe elements’) that sows and reaps electoral harvest, and all long-term consequences to society be damned. Also, it takes more than a person from beyond the traditional political feudatories, trajectories, or dynasties to be able to deliver Naya (new) anything ~Imran Khan is yet another example of no change from the past.

(The writer is Lt Gen PVSM, AVSM (Retd) and former Lt Governor of Andaman ands Nicobar Islands and Puducherry)

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Harin batting for India



The Minister of Tourism, Harin Fernando, has stated that the Sri Lankan Government will be handing over the operation of Mattala International, Ratmalana International and Colombo International Airports to India. He has added that Sri Lanka is a part of India! Has he lost his senses?

Separately, should it not be the role of the Minister of Ports, Shipping and Aviation Nimal Siripala de Silva to make such a far-reaching decision?

Mattala, Ratmalana and Colombo are the three main airports of entry to Sri Lanka. Giving their management over to Indian organisations is tantamount to putting the proverbial snake inside one’s sarong and complaining that it is stinging.

What then will be the future of Airports and Aviation Sri Lanka (AASL)? They are, in any case, a ‘service provider’.

It is the responsibility of the government of Sri Lanka through its regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority Sri Lanka (CAASL), to adhere to International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) requirements and regulations. Will this be compromised?

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) guidelines for airport governance declare that the State (in this case Sri Lanka) must be accountable irrespective of national, legal or regulatory framework, or airport ownership and operating model. Could that be ensured under this recently announced arrangement?

Such accountability must be guaranteed by enactment of primary legislation in the aviation sector, mindful of the adage that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. I believe that the Legal Draughtsman’s Office will take an inordinate amount of time to deliver this guarantee, amongst other things.

There is also the matter of establishing an effective regulatory framework with CAASL to monitor technical/safety and economic performance of the aviation sector, and compliance with International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) obligations, Standard and Recommended Procedures (SARPs), and policy guidance.

In my opinion CAASL is not yet capable of that. In a combined operation such as this, IATA stipulates “Awareness and mitigation of potential conflicts of interest inherent in the regulatory framework or ownership and operating model through clear separation of powers, for example conflicts between economic oversight and shareholding arrangements, and separation of regulatory and operational functions”.

So, it is not an ‘open-and-shut case’, as Fernando believes. It is complex. His optimism is amazingly unrealistic, to say the least.

Remember, certification of aerodromes by the technical/safety regulator under ICAO requirements will continue to be carried out by CAASL as at present. According to the Organisation of Professional Associations (OPA), report Sri Lankan regulators tend to be more “obstructive” than “facilitative” when it comes to certification. CAASL needs to be revamped for greater efficiency.

Other refinements involve the independence of regulatory authority (CAASL) from government, and striving for separation of economic regulation from technical/safety regulation. CAASL was formed under the ‘Private Companies Ordinance’ but unfortunately it has drifted back to conducting its business as a regular government office, with political interference and all.

Besides, it is vital to establish an Aircraft Accident Investigation Authority, preferably independent of the CAA. Annex 13 to the ICAO convention says: “The State shall establish an accident authority that is independent of the aviation authorities and other entities that could interfere with the conduct or objectivity of an investigation.”

That, I believe, is what ‘checks and balances’ are about.

Meanwhile, the silence of the Aviation Minister is deafening.

The proposed ‘Indian involvement’ is a sad state of affairs when we have aviation experts in this country who have retired from careers in many parts of the world, and are now capable of sharing their knowledge and experience to good effect.

There is already an Indian-managed flying school at Ratmalana catering to Indian students. Maybe the camel has already put its head in the tent, and only money will talk.


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Pledges to abolish executive presidency



With the presidential elections around the corner, the abolition of the executive presidency has come up for discussion once again.

This time around, the proposal for abolishing the executive presidency has come from former President Chandrika B. Kumaratunga. She pledged to scrap it first when she ran for Presidency in 1994. But she did not fulfil her promise.

Former Presidents Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena are also now for scrapping the executive presidency.

Almost all the former Presidents came to power promising to scrap it but once in power they swept it under the carpet.

The Opposition parties claim they are for the abolition, but after the next presidential election. which, they say, they are confident of winning.

Mahinda has recently said it is preferable to abolish the executive presidency because he has already held it twice. However, he seems to have forgotten that he was greedy for power and he failed in his third attempt. For him and most other past Presidents, executive presidency is sour grapes.

They are now trying to have the executive presidency abolished in the hope that they will be able secure the premiership.

Ironically, Anura K Dissanayake, NPP leader and presidential candidate is against the abolition of the executive presidency as he is confident of winning the next presidential election.

So, all of them are in the same boat and one thing is clear; whoever becomes President will never have it abolished.

The campaign for scrapping the executive presidency will go in circles, forever.

Dr. P.A. Samaraweera 

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Dispelling Misconceptions: Visionary Future of an NPP-led Sri Lanka



NPP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake taking part in a protest (file photo)

by Shantha Jayarathne, PhD

In recent discussions, concerns have emerged about the National People’s Power (NPP) in Sri Lanka, with some fearing a return to outdated communist traditions if the party ascends to power. These apprehensions, often fueled by political agendas, particularly target those with limited political literacy. This article aims to dispel these misconceptions and shed light on the NPP’s forward-looking vision for a progressive and prosperous Sri Lanka.

Coalition of Visionaries

Contrary to the narrative peddled by certain factions, it’s essential to recognise that the NPP represents a diverse coalition of 22 parties and civil society organisations, with the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) as its main partner. Importantly, both the NPP and JVP members boast of a commendable track record, free from accusations of corruption, nepotism, or cronyism. Nominations are filed for any election from the NPP under the “Compass” symbol, and contestants with high repute and integrity will be drawn from all 22 constituent parties in the broad coalition.

A Clear Development Roadmap

The NPP has consistently articulated a comprehensive roadmap for the development of Sri Lanka. Emphasising the importance of a thriving Agriculture, Industry, and Service sectors, the party is committed to eliminating barriers hindering investments. Corruption, favouritism, and covert dealings of officials and people with vested interests will be totally eliminated under an NPP government. Furthermore, the NPP pledges to introduce efficient systems, ensuring minimal delays and promoting a business-friendly environment that attracts both local and foreign investors.

Government’s Primary Obligations

Addressing fears of property takeover, the NPP asserts that its government will not engage in business activities but will focus on essential public utility services, education, health, social security, and defence to ensure the well-being and security of the nation. NPP will not only encourage local investments but also it will take all possible measures to attract foreign direct investments. State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) facing financial challenges will undergo restructuring with utmost transparency, fostering efficiency and accountability.

Business Friendly Environment

The NPP is dedicated to creating a level playing field for businesses by implementing regulations inspired by the most developed economies. Consistent antitrust laws, investment protection laws, and laws that are inconsistent and complex will be amended or new laws will be enacted to ensure fair competition and safeguard business interests. By fostering an environment that encourages innovation and competition, the NPP aims to boost economic growth and prosperity. NPP plans to streamline the systems and process to facilitate investments within the shortest possible timeframe whereby it aims to take Sri Lanka in the Ease of Doing Business Index from 99th position today to a position within the first 50. The Cooperative system will be strengthened in an NPP government and they will be regulated to deliver an effective and efficient service to the periphery.

Transparent Tax Policy

Simplifying Sri Lanka’s tax policy is a priority for the NPP, aiming to create a transparent and tax-friendly environment. NPP will ensure a stable and consistent progressive tax policy in the country, and all regressive taxes will be eliminated. Citizens will be provided with clear information at the end of the Tax Year on how their tax contributions are utilised for public services, promoting accountability and citizen engagement. This transparency is crucial for building trust between the government and its citizens.

Learning from Developed Countries

Taking lessons from successful models of governance in developed countries, an NPP government will strive to implement best practices in public administration. Emphasising the importance of accountable institutions, streamlined bureaucracy, and effective public service delivery, the party is committed to ensuring transparency and efficiency in governance. There will be a minimum number of cabinet ministries for key areas, and their roles and functions will be clearly defined while making the officials accountable to their respective assigned functions. Zero tolerance for corruption and the law of the land will be applied to everyone alike.

Economic Adjustments and IMF Negotiations

Acknowledging the need for economic stability, the NPP plans to initiate negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This strategic move aims to strike a balance between economic adjustments and safeguarding the livelihoods of the people in the country. The NPP is dedicated to ensuring that any economic reforms are implemented with a people-centric approach, minimising adverse effects on the general population and the industry.

Nonaligned Foreign Policy

The NPP upholds a nonaligned foreign policy, reflecting a commitment to Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and independence. While fostering international relations, the party is resolute in not allowing foreign nations to utilise Sri Lanka’s soil for military purposes. This stance ensures that the country remains neutral and independent in its dealings with other nations, safeguarding national interests and security.

Repositioning Sri Lanka in the World Order

A central tenet of the NPP’s vision is the repositioning of Sri Lanka in the global context. The party is dedicated to identifying and leveraging the country’s potentials, addressing weaknesses, seizing opportunities, and managing threats, both internal and external. This strategic approach aims to elevate Sri Lanka’s standing on the world stage, fostering positive engagement with the international community.

Quality of Life Improvement

A key focus of the NPP government is enhancing the quality of life for all citizens. The party recognises the importance of social welfare, healthcare, education, and infrastructure development in elevating living standards. By prioritising these aspects, the NPP aims to create a society where every citizen can enjoy a higher quality of life, emphasising the well-being and prosperity of the people.

Addressing False Propaganda

Amidst the misconceptions surrounding the NPP, it is crucial to address the motivations behind certain groups disseminating false propaganda. The fearmongering tactics employed by those with vested interests seek to perpetuate a status quo that has allowed for ill-gotten wealth and alleged illegal transactions. These groups, resistant to change, attempt to sway public opinion by sowing seeds of doubt about the NPP’s commitment to a fair and just governance model.

However, when one closely examines the NPP’s dedication to transparency, efficient governance, and inclusive development, it becomes evident that these accusations are nothing more than a desperate attempt to cling to the shadows of a fading era. The party’s emphasis on tackling corruption, restructuring inefficient State-Owned Enterprises, and simplifying the tax policy directly challenges the interests of those who have thrived in an environment of opacity and undue influence.

As citizens, it is paramount to discern the true intentions behind such narratives and recognize the NPP as a force poised to break free from the shackles of corruption and vested interests. By supporting the NPP’s vision, Sri Lankans have the opportunity to usher in a new era – one marked by ethical governance, economic prosperity, and a society that prioritises the well-being of its people over the interests of a privileged few.

In conclusion, the NPP stands not only as a political entity but as a beacon of hope, calling on the people to embrace change, reject false narratives, and collectively forge a path towards a brighter and more equitable future.

(The Writer, a UK resident, is a former Senior Consultant at the Sri Lanka Institute of Development Administration (SLIDA). He is a member of the NPP-Policy Development Team, and he can be reached through email:

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