India’s 18th Lok Sabha elections concluded on June 4 with a verdict that was vastly different from the exit polls. In a surprising turn of events, the BJP lost its single-party majority in the House securing 240 seats, down from 303 in 2019. The NDA managed to move beyond the magic number of 272 getting a total of 293 seats. The INDIA bloc, on the other hand, defied expectations with 234. Dawn (June 5) wonders whether this is a “sobering” election for the ruling party. The Nation (June 5) quotes Congress’ Rahul Gandhi and says that the verdict shows “Modi punished”. The media, across the board in Pakistan, mentioned BJP’s loss in Uttar Pradesh, particularly in the Faizabad constituency that Ayodhya is part of, where the Ram temple was consecrated in January.

Express Tribune (June 6) says, “The 2024 vote has… buried the myth of Hindutva taking roots in a billion-plus population and at the same time put an end to the chauvinist mantra of Akhand Bharat.”

Commenting on the state of minorities, The Nation (June 5) says, “While Hindu nationalists crawl back into party offices to lick their wounds, India’s minorities — especially its 200 million strong Muslim population — will be breathing a sigh of relief.”

Echoing a similar sentiment, News International (June 6) believes “that there will be breathing space for the country’s minorities as well as critics of the Modi government.” Moreover, the editorial adds that “these results are being seen in India as a wakeup call for the BJP and Modi’s politics, which targeted minorities, arrested political rivals, co-opted the Indian media, benefitted the corrupt Indian elite, had a stronghold on the judiciary and compromised the Indian election commission.”

Festive offer

Dawn (June 5) discusses the fate of India-Pakistan relations and hopes that “Narendra Modi reviews his foreign policy. India should reach out to Pakistan, and the state should respond positively to any Indian overtures.”

Imran Khan’s acquittal in cipher case

On June 3, ex-prime minister and PTI founder Imran Khan and ex-foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi were acquitted by the Islamabad High Court in the cypher case in which they were charged with compromising state secrets. According to Dawn (June 4), this was the “most serious” of the three charges brought against Khan in the days before Pakistan’s general election on February 8 this year. By all accounts, this is a “major relief” for Khan and Qureshi.

Daily Times (June 4) expresses its dissatisfaction with the proceedings of the case asking “why the prosecution failed to produce the only pertinent evidence — cipher” and why it relied on “blanket platitudes instead of concrete details of how the Khan-Qureshi duo revealed the said secrets”.

Dawn (June 4), however, believes that although this was “a historical blunder [sic]” by the two ministers that “caused an international diplomatic incident by using the cipher as a political prop”, it was not “reason enough to punish them under laws originally meant to prosecute traitors and foreign spies.”

A mining tragedy

Earlier this week, 11 miners lost their lives in the Sanjdi coal mine area in Balochistan due to methane poisoning. The government arrested the owner and others for negligence soon after. But this incident, coming only two months after the Harnai coal mine explosion that resulted in the deaths of 13 people, speaks to the lack of attention paid to safety measures and improper audits at mines. The media slams the mining department and private owners for violating labor laws and not ensuring a safe work environment for miners.

Express Tribune (June 7) says, “The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, in a 2022 report, noted that lack of oxygen, mine collapses and gas accumulation and explosions kill over 100 miners every year, almost all of them in preventable accidents and disasters. … Yet, there has been no urgency to act on the HRCP’s recommendations.”

The Nation (June 6) agrees with the above and says that the “state needs to care for its citizens.” In terms of potential foreign investment in the mining sector, it says, “If Pakistan is to invite investment in the mining and minerals sector, the safety protocols are barely up to the mark… foreign enterprises do not operate unless safety procedures are complete.”