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February 26, 2024

A CROWN OF THORNS

HISTORY HAS A NASTY HABIT OF REPEAT - ING ITSELF IN PAKISTAN. The sarcastic wit of well-known poet Salman Pirzada summed up the situation as the results of General Election 2024 came in. In a Facebook post, he quipped in Urdu, “The oppressors did such blatant rigging that it reminded me of the 2018 elections.” On the one hand, he was referring to the outrage of the supporters of incarcerated former prime minister Imran Khan, whose Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party-backed candidates won the highest number of seats at the federal level but who were also crying foul that many results were manipulated to deny the PTI a majority. On the other, Pirzada was citing the nearly identical situation in the previous general election in 2018, when other parties had levelled similar allegations of electoral manipulation that had allowed Imran Khan to come to power by the slimmest of margins. On the face of it, both allegations seem to carry weight. As in 2018, this time, too, there are many seats where the final tally of votes represented a complete reversal of what initial counts suggested. The only difference is that, in 2018, the PTI had been the happy beneficiary, while in 2024, it has borne the brunt, with the anti-PTI parties—primarily former premier Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the urban Sindh-based Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM)—being the beneficiaries. The target of the allegations both times has been the 'Establishment', Pakistan's euphemism for the military. There was also a historic role reversal. The former Pakistan cricket captain had been ousted in April 2022, after he had fallen out with the very Establishment that had propelled him to the PM's post in 2018. Khan has been under arrest since May 2023, and had received prison

THE EQUITY QUEST

There was no room for mansplaining at the india today Woman Summit­Gender Equity held in Chennai on February 9. Instead, it was all about leading women across fields sharing their experiences of overcoming odds and lessons learnt along the way. The audience--young and predominantly female--bore witness to the testimonies of sheroes in the arts (Carnatic vocalist Aruna Sairam, Bharatanatyam dancer Narthaki Nataraj and actress Pooja Hedge); in science and medicine (Suchitra Ella of Bharat Biotech, Nigar Shaji from the Indian Space Research Organisation, Prof. Annapurni Subramaniam, director, Indian Institute of Astrophysics and Dr Pratima Murthy, director, National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences); and in business (Saundarya Rajesh, founder-president of the Avtar Group; Lavanya Nalli, vice chairperson of the Nalli Group of Companies; Dr Urjitha Rajagopalan, director, MGM Healthcare; Megha Asher, co-founder of beauty label Juicy Chemistry; and Nalini Parthiban, co-founder of Sweet Karam Coffee)India Today Group's Editorial Director Raj Chengappa noted that for India to progress, it is imperative that it be "a leader in gender equity and equality". He identified five areas where work needs to be done--workforce participation and pay parity; education and empowerment; healthcare disparities; legal

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