The Express Tribune Editorial 17 February 2021

Shortage of public buses


Lahore is no different from Karachi in terms of public transport availability. Things are similar all over Punjab. The Lahore Transport Company bus service has ceased operation on more than 30 routes. The metro train service, which cost billions, has also failed to cater to the needs of commuters. Now these trains are carrying far fewer commuters than their capacity due to the lack of feeder buses. For a population of more than 15 million, Lahore has only 55 feeder buses for the metro bus service, which covers only one route.
Motorcycle rickshaws, commonly known as Qingqi, are filling the gap created due to the unsatisfactory state of public transport. These rickshaws are unregulated and so the authorities have little control over them. The transport department has failed in its attempts to regularise and rationalise them owing to the lack of coordination between the relevant departments. Qingqi rickshaws have been involved in 136,768 traffic accidents in the province between January 2018 and December 2020, leading to many fatalities. This is because most rickshaw drivers are untrained and overloading on these vehicles.
The provincial transport minister has promised to replace Qingqi rickshaws with four-wheeler electric vehicles. However, this seems to be impractical considering the shortage of electricity in the country. Why are government departments failing to do their duty the way they should? Surprise raids by officials and ministers would drive their subordinates to address public issues efficiently? We, the people, have never heard of such raids, unfortunately. Even absolute monarchs toured cities and villages in disguise to see how their officials were serving the people. Recently, the PM office has issued show-cause notices to several officers of the Punjab bureaucracy for their alleged inefficiency. This initiative from the top would set in motion the system of surprise raids. At present there is no check on officials; they are free to make people run around endlessly. No one asks them what they are getting their salaries for?



Withdrawal warning


The Afghan Taliban have warned Nato forces against staying in the country after the May 1 deadline that was agreed under the group’s deal with the US last year. The threat is not surprising, nor is the expectation that Nato forces won’t meet the May 1 deadline. This is because the deadline was agreed to by the former US President Donald Trump after little-to-no consultation with Nato partners or even America’s own military leadership.
Indeed, US and Nato military leaders have been warning since day one that a hard deadline could be impossible to meet as any withdrawal would have to be properly managed to avoid leaving behind a void. But Trump never considered peace and stability in Afghanistan as a factor. His priority was always getting any deal done and bringing the troops home as an election ploy. He even tried pushing for all US troops to return stateside before the election, forcing his military leaders to take the unprecedented step of shooting down the suggestion in public.
But that is not to say that the foreign troops should be extending their stay indefinitely. The peace deal, by and large, remains acceptable to all parties to the Afghan conflict. The US should work with Nato to offer the right amount of carrots so that the Taliban accept some form of an extension. We all know that the stick alone has failed to yield results.
At the same time, while the US and Nato claim the uptick in violence is the reason they will have to extend their stay, we cannot ignore the fact that it takes two to tango. In this case, the government in Kabul, at the bare minimum, must share blame for the violence. Keep in mind that they are the ones that refused to come to the table when Trump told them to, which led to continuing military exchanges with the Taliban.
Yes, it may have been insulting to be given orders, but sovereignty is something that the Afghan government lacks. The government is wholly propped up by the US and its allies. By refusing to listen to their masters, they are dooming the people of Afghanistan.



Brexit baggage


Amsterdam has stolen the crown that London hoped to retain after its messy divorce from Europe. The Dutch capital took over as Europe’s largest share trading centre from London, pushing it to the second spot. This is a serious blow to the UK’s ambitious post-Brexit plan of being a financial hub. The reality check for the UK came just six weeks after it left the European Union. While the political leadership may have underestimated the consequences of ending the partnership with Europe, the reality for Britain was always meant to be harsh. And so, it is.
Clearly, the Dutch capital’s new position isn’t the only insult. There is more to come. Anyone who understands financial matters would be quick to predict that this is just the beginning of the slow decline that was very much anticipated after Britain’s exit from Europe. Even while experts in the UK are downplaying the shift as a symbolic change, the numbers from the Dutch capital suggest otherwise. Amsterdam recorded an average daily trading increase from €2.6 billion to €9.2 billion while trading in London was 50% less than the previous month.
The question is simple: who bears the blame? The answer is also fairly simple: Boris John’s failure to ensure that financial services, which appear to be an important component of the British financial system, were not treated with greater importance during the Brexit talks. That is the primary reason for Amsterdam’s success and London’s failure. Now, the UK can only hope that talks under way to establish some understanding on future financial services relations end well for London. Unfortunately, while hopes are high in London, the mood in Brussels appears to be somewhat different. The Europeans seem to be in no mood to go easy on the UK in this matter.
Well — this is just the beginning. There are too many issues that will leave the UK in an awkward position, and in some cases, high and dry.

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