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Dawn Editorial 5 January 2020

World policeman

THE killing of Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in Baghdad early on Friday by the US sends several messages to America’s foes.
The most obvious of these signals is that American exceptionalism prevails and that Washington plays by its own rules, throwing international conventions to the wind.
This may temporarily prove to the world that the US remains the globe’s primary military and economic power. Yet the turbulence such reckless actions cause to the international order in the long term is considerable, something that the policymakers in Washington seem completely unconcerned about.
Moreover, such unilateralism only adds to anti-Americanism amongst the nations of the world, with people feeling that the US cannot be trusted.
Clearly, there is no remorse or afterthought in America’s power circles; in a tweet following a conversation with army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa after Gen Soleimani’s assassination, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said “our resolve in protecting American interests … will not waver”, indicating that such actions will continue.
The fact is that America’s desire to act as global policeman has played a major role in creating a more unstable world, including a more volatile Middle East, especially in the period following the Second World War.
Different American administrations have backed tinpot dictators and cruel regimes from Latin America to Africa, all the while helping thwart democratic movements, particularly if the movements espoused socialist or nationalist tendencies.
In the Middle East, it has supported potentates and strongmen as long as they have danced to Washington’s tune, while expressing anger with regimes that have refused to play along.
Much of the mess in the Middle East today is the work of American interventionism and desire for regime change; Saddam Hussein, once a client as long as he was useful against Iran, was quickly toppled after dubious claims of weapons of mass destruction were conjured up in order to get rid of him. Israel has long enjoyed American patronage, as the US has shielded its principal Middle Eastern client from global criticism, even though Tel Aviv’s hands are soaked in Palestinian blood. Israel has also violated the sovereignty of its neighbours multiple times. Also, Syria and Libya today are broken states because Washington and its allies felt it was time to remove Bashar al-Assad and Muammar Qadhafi; both these individuals are/were brutal autocrats, but plans of regime change hatched in foreign capitals have helped destroy Syria and Libya.
Washington under successive governments — particularly under Donald Trump’s watch — has come a long way from the Fourteen Points championed by Woodrow Wilson for world peace.
The operative American policy seems to be ‘shoot first and ask questions later’. However, this reckless unilateralism has created a more dangerous world, and unless there is a change of course, it will imperil American interests across continents as Washington’s foes decide to answer in the same coin.

 
 

THE phase may be short-lived, but it appears that the PTI-led federal government is starting to shed its cloak of arrogance and engage with the Sindh government. Earlier in the week, a delegation of senior PTI leaders — Federal Minister for Planning and Special Initiative Asad Umar, Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Zaidi and Sindh Governor Imran Ismail — held a press conference to announce their willingness to work with the provincial government for Karachi’s development. Mr Umar said that despite serious ideological differences with the Sindh government, the centre, taking a ‘principled decision’, was ready to work with it to resolve the issues of the province including Karachi. He said his government had released funds for the Green Line bus project and would soon reach an agreement with the province regarding progress on the K-IV water project as well. Mentioning other development schemes for Karachi, he said there should be no politics when it came to serving the people.
Though Mr Umar’s assurance is encouraging, it is in stark contrast to his party’s behaviour over the past year and a half. The PTI had secured 13 National Assembly seats from Karachi, more than any other party, yet it chose to ignore the country’s economic hub that brought it to power. The federal government set up the Karachi Transformation Committee last year that had no representation from the democratically elected provincial setup. Over the months, senior PTI leaders, including the prime minister, have snubbed the Sindh government. Hence, their decision to engage with it now can only be welcomed — and one hopes it goes beyond their fear of the PPP striking a deal with the MQM-P. Indeed, Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has time and again expressed his willingness to talk to the federal government. This is not to say that the PPP-led setup is blameless where provincial governance is concerned — it is just as guilty, if not more, of neglecting Karachi as the centre. Both sides should refrain from souring this much-delayed thaw and stop pointing fingers at one another over the myriad challenges that beset the province. If the federal government is indeed serious about resolving the issues of the people of Karachi, it would do well to stop taking its position for granted, and continue on the path to reconciliation. It needs much more than a few statements to smoothen the feathers it has ruffled along the way.

 

Patch-up in Sindh?

THE phase may be short-lived, but it appears that the PTI-led federal government is starting to shed its cloak of arrogance and engage with the Sindh government. Earlier in the week, a delegation of senior PTI leaders — Federal Minister for Planning and Special Initiative Asad Umar, Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Zaidi and Sindh Governor Imran Ismail — held a press conference to announce their willingness to work with the provincial government for Karachi’s development. Mr Umar said that despite serious ideological differences with the Sindh government, the centre, taking a ‘principled decision’, was ready to work with it to resolve the issues of the province including Karachi. He said his government had released funds for the Green Line bus project and would soon reach an agreement with the province regarding progress on the K-IV water project as well. Mentioning other development schemes for Karachi, he said there should be no politics when it came to serving the people.
Though Mr Umar’s assurance is encouraging, it is in stark contrast to his party’s behaviour over the past year and a half. The PTI had secured 13 National Assembly seats from Karachi, more than any other party, yet it chose to ignore the country’s economic hub that brought it to power. The federal government set up the Karachi Transformation Committee last year that had no representation from the democratically elected provincial setup. Over the months, senior PTI leaders, including the prime minister, have snubbed the Sindh government. Hence, their decision to engage with it now can only be welcomed — and one hopes it goes beyond their fear of the PPP striking a deal with the MQM-P. Indeed, Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has time and again expressed his willingness to talk to the federal government. This is not to say that the PPP-led setup is blameless where provincial governance is concerned — it is just as guilty, if not more, of neglecting Karachi as the centre. Both sides should refrain from souring this much-delayed thaw and stop pointing fingers at one another over the myriad challenges that beset the province. If the federal government is indeed serious about resolving the issues of the people of Karachi, it would do well to stop taking its position for granted, and continue on the path to reconciliation. It needs much more than a few statements to smoothen the feathers it has ruffled along the way.

 
 

Soil erosion

ACCORDING to the UN, approximately 820m people suffer from hunger. As the world comes to terms with the effects of climate change on food security, there is an additional challenge confronting us all: the quality of the soil used for farming and growing crops. In recent reports on the state of the soil, scientists warn that intensive farming practices, the use of harsh chemicals in fertilisers and pesticides, and deforestation, along with expanding urban space and grazing land, have resulted in large-scale erosion of the earth’s topsoil. Since the bulk of food is grown on the top layer of the soil, this loss of land not only damages the fertility of the land and thus the ability to grow nutritious food, it also negatively impacts the soil’s role in regulating global temperatures. Unless some of the harm is reversed in the next decade or so, scientists warn that the implications of continued soil damage and erosion for global hunger — and even global peace and stability — do not look good.
This report is particularly significant for countries like Pakistan: an agricultural economy, which suffers disproportionately from the effects of climate change. Due to several factors — deforestation, the construction of dams and barrages that retain the natural sediment load, and the lack of awareness of water-management and rainwater-harvesting techniques — there has been a steady erosion of fertile land, particularly for the coastal communities. Last year, farmers from villages along the shrinking Indus delta region embarked on a 140km journey from Kharo Chan to Thatta to draw the government’s attention to their plight. The region has been suffering from a shortage of freshwater and loss of fertile land due to rising sea levels and salinity, which is blamed on the construction and management of the Kotri Barrage. It seems that no matter how much scientific or industrial ‘progress’ our civilisations make, everything about the state of the environment strongly hints at a need to go back to the basics.

 
 

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