The Express Tribune Editorial 6 December 2019

Cracked Nato

Alliances work when all those included are clear about the objective and are equally committed to its cause. For the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato), this clarity has been lost in recent years to the detriment of the alliance. In the ebb of a major threat to the world, with the war on terror either being won the world over or at least subsiding to such a level that most nations feel they do not need to commit as much to the cause anymore, there is confusion as to its very purpose or at least what should be its next target.
Nato tried to keep the peace in the Bosnian and Serbian conflict and later the Kosovo crisis on the European front. But things changed after 9/11 and it was dragged head-on into Afghanistan and Iraq. It rounded up its Middle Eastern intervention with a parting role in Libya. But it could only watch on as Russia calmly plucked Crimea back from Ukraine and its own extended Middle East push. It got worse when a new regime in the White House demanded that other nations should share a greater cost of Nato’s operations, including in some theatres where it found itself at the behest of Washington. The Trump factor, it seems, has deeply fractured the alliance and now threatens to even unravel it completely.
French President Emmanuel Macron had lamented the ‘brain death’ of the alliance in the run-up to this week’s meeting, complaining about the unprecedented absence of US leadership which forms the core of the body. The selfishness of the US, its European partners believe, has left it at the brink of another crisis. After all, they only agreed to Nato to keep their borders safe. The US, it has discovered, cares little for that. One thing, though, is clear, for the European partners at least – Nato is too big to fail. Perhaps it is time they looked inward for inspiration and perhaps even new leadership.

 
 

Removal of encroachments

 

The anti-encroachment drive launched in Karachi more than a year ago is still continuing by fits and starts. In the fresh bout of activity that began around a fortnight back, small shops functioning on footpaths, especially in Saddar and its vicinity, have been removed. Some of them though have reappeared. Encroachments are being removed following an order by the supreme court. The KMC had promised the displaced shopkeepers that they would be provided with alternative spaces, but most of the displaced have not been provided with spaces despite the passage of more than a year. Not even all of those displaced from the historic Empress Market. This was revealed during a traders’ delegation recent meeting with the Karachi mayor. The mayor informed the delegation that “during the past 11 months, the Sindh government has not given a single penny for development projects.” The KMC has long been complaining of lack of finances. The provincial government has been laying the blame at the door of the federal government claiming they are not getting their due share of revenue from the centre. In this blame game, it is the ordinary, and not so ordinary, people that are suffering. The blame game is proving to be the yoke. It would not be wrong to say that the whole shambolic affair is resulting from inept handling of pressing issues. Of course, the bread and butter issue of petty shopkeepers is one such.
Removal of encroachments is important for orderly development, so is to do things in a rational way. Individuals make choices in a way that serves their own interests and also protects the interests of society as a whole. The baker and the butcher serve us not out of benevolence but from the motive of self-interest. Here in the interaction between the baker, the butcher and people comes the primacy of moral sentiments. Not only should encroachments be removed but those displaced should be given suitable alternatives.

 
 

The elusive consensus

 

The government and the opposition are least expected to be in harmony with each other – anywhere in the world. But the acrimony prevailing between these two sides in our country is unparalleled and has gone to the extent of affecting the business of the state pretty seriously. The parliament is almost non-functional, with the business of legislation only running by fits and starts. A war of words on almost everything happening in the country – be that the handling of the economy by the government or its diplomatic dealings; the process of accountability or the functioning of the police – is only adding to the political uncertainty in the country. Many a constitutional matter requiring consensus between the prime minister and the leader of the opposition stands to suffer gravely. The constitution of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is a significant case in point.
The hostility between the government and the opposition has all but rendered the electoral watchdog dysfunctional. The two sides have failed to reach an agreement on the appointment of a new Chief Election Commission (CEC) to replace Sardar Raza Khan who retired yesterday. The ECP though has already been incomplete since January this year as deadlock also persists on the nomination of its two members – from Sindh and Balochistan. The matters – pertaining to the appointment of the CEC and the two ECP members – landed in the courts from where they have been referred back to the two opponents who disagree on literally everything. And what looms as another test in the same series of challenges is that the remaining two ECP members – from Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa – are completing their two and a half years term just the next month.
Quite pertinent is thus the question: if our politicians cannot even agree on a regular appointment, how are they going to build consensus on bigger issues? Consensus politics is what the prevailing situation demands. The useless verbal bouts must now stop. The contest of who can shout louder and who can come up with a wittier jaw-breaking reply must now end. Given their bigger stake in the government, the PM and his men must step out first.

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