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Common thread

A round-up of the issues of the week as reported in the media...

It's the gallows for Ajmal Kasab
This is one case that has kept the nation glued to the telly for over a year now. Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving terrorist of the 26/11 Mumbai massacre was sentenced to death on Thursday after having been convicted earlier in the week on all counts charged against him by the prosecution. The proceedings got widespread coverage in the international press as well. Soutik Biswas of the BBC writes: "The death penalty for Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab, hopefully, brings to an end the media-driven bloodlust over how the only surviving gunman of the Mumbai attacks should be punished. " Indeed, the observation he makes about the hysterical blood baying that the media showcased and some would say even contributed to has become a point of debate in itself.

Closer home, the Chinese media took note as well. Xinhua noted "The sentencing of convicted Mumbai attacker Mohammed Ajmal Amir alias Kasab to death by a special court in Mumbai has brought relief to India. " The Financial Times, while covering the high-profile case gives a different take on the issue. Joe Leahy writes, "But for business people in India and investors, the conviction will pose a question. Does this - and Kasab's expected sentence tomorrow in which he could face the gallows, have any significance for security in India? Or is India - and Indian business - still just as exposed to the type of daring terrorist attack. The first time was unlucky. But to be caught so flat-footed a second time would be just plain stupid. Investors will be watching. "

Meanwhile, ramifications of the death sentence are begiing to be felt in Pakistan. The Dawn reports that "A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Ghulam Rabbani and Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday had taken up appeals of Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, one of the seven suspects being tried by an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi. Khawaja Sultan Ahmed, representing Lakhvi, was asked to submit Kasab's confessional statement, both in English and Hindi language. " The death sentence has also evoked mixed reactions in India. While there is no doubt that the majority might perhaps welcome death given how horrific the crime committed was, there is a strong voice that opposes the death penalty on both ethical and practical grounds.
In an editorial, the Deccan Herald states, "Fifteen years ago, India had told the United Nations that death penalty was required to instill fear and deter future criminals from perpetrating grave crimes, including terrorist acts. Yet, there is no evidence to suggest that these harsh statutory provisions have helped reduce crime. " Indrajit Basu, of Asia Times Online, sums it up well by writing this: "However, even as India celebrates the conclusion of this complex and very high-profile case, experts feel the judgment is of little significance;after months of high-decibel claims, the government has done little to strike terror at its roots. "

Time for change
With the just-concluded polls in the UK and the confusing state of flux now, no one seems to be sure just how the new administration will coalesce. As George Monbiot put it in a May 7 Guardian article, "With no clear winner, the people's verdict is a plague on the old politics. Now is the time for real reform of our broken system. " According to him, the near-certainty of a hung parliament offers the opportunity for sweeping change such as delivering "proportional representation and party-funding reform".

In a Telegraph article on the same day, Philip Johnston took a narrower look at the results themselves, arguing that going by ethics and propriety, it is incumbent on Gordon Brown and Labour to step aside for the Tories. He said that Labour's loss does not necessarily mean its exit since "the individual who can cobble together enough seats to ensure he is not defeated in parliament on key pieces of legislation is the person the Queen asks to form an administration. "

But he then pointed out that "the political realities are different. It would be unprecedented for an incumbent government to lose so badly and try to remain in power. " And in a May 7 editorial, The Times said that the most pressing priority was "fixing the British economy. The parlous state of the economy and the public finances overshadows even the momentous fact that Britain is at war in Afghanistan. "

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