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Daily Times Editorials – 23rd April 2016

Nuclear arms race

After almost one and a half months of India’s conducting a test of a nuclear-capable, long-range, submarine missile in the Indian Ocean, Pakistan foreign office has expressed concern over this step, terming the Indian move as serious development, which could impact the delicate strategic balance of the region. In March 2016, India reportedly started conducting a test of its homegrown intermediate range Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) K-4 secretly from an undersea platform in the Bay of Bengal in a bid to boost its deterrence capability.The reported Indian tests have resulted in the nuclearisation of the Indian Ocean. Besides India, a very few countries have the triad of firing nuclear tipped missiles from air, land and undersea. Other countries that have such capability include Russia, US, France, UK and China.

Thosewho want peace in the region will never encourage India’s decision of making investments in nuclear weapons that are nothing short of a threat to a state’s own security. It will only give boost to the relentless subcontinental competition for nuclear arms. If India has committed a blunder, Pakistan should avoid this arms race mania. So far, Pakistan has demonstrated maturity and asked India to resolve all outstanding issues through bilateral talks. Presently, the world is facing a serious threat of falling victim to destruction caused by nuclear warfare. Certain states with nuclear capability pose a threat to the world peace. Those states that fail to resolve their conflicts through dialogues can get engaged in nuclear warfare anytime: that is the perceived fear. If that happens, it will be no less than mutually agreed destruction for both sides. The example of Pakistan and India can be cited in this regard whose political and military leadership have oftentalked about using the nuclear bomb.

Nuclear war could yield an unprecedented human death toll and habitat destruction. Detonating such a large amount of nuclear weaponry would have a long-term effect on the world’s climate that may generate significant upheaval in advanced civilisations. Nobody is oblivious of the terrible consequences of using nuclear weapons. Therefore, these weapons should never be used in any case, and all states should cooperate and follow nuclear agreements in letter and spirit for the sake of humanity. Instead of focusing on the acquisition of more advanced nuclear capability, more efforts should be made to promote regional cooperation. Arms build-up by various states is hardly necessary in a world that badly needs peace. Instead of getting involved in the arms race and making irrational increases in defence budgets, rival states should spend money in those social sectors that need their immediate attention. It is also necessary for Pakistan and India that instead of escalating tensions and increasing military expenditure, they should work for the establishment of lasting peace. India and Pakistan being neighbouring countries should focus on basic problems with their people. They should try to bring prosperity to their nations instead of indulging in an irrational nuclear arms race.

Balochistan and local government

Pakistan’s electoral politics is far from perfect as patronage networks provide the dominant mode of organisation. The major parties in Pakistan are successful only because they have deeply entrenched themselves in these networks by co-opting regional bosses and using them to form their bases of public support. These networks are deeply enmeshed in complementary networks of caste and class, and together they combine to dominate the electoral landscape of Pakistani politics. One of the reasons why this mode of organisation has proved to be so persistent is because they have value for their far more numerous lower socioeconomic-class patrons. They give the lower socioeconomic classes a certain degree of access to the state in absence of which their already unenviable lives would be far more difficult. However, it is true that these networks fundamentally function in a relationship that is characterised by gross asymmetry of power. For example, in a landlord-tenant relationship, the landlord is able to exploit the tenant because he owns the means of production, and so the tenant has to offer his loyalty to the landlord, which may include voting for the landlord or an individual of his choosing. This primary mode of organisation stands as the greatest impediment to the effective implementation of local government system as, in theory, the two fundamentally seek to replace each other.

Local governments are the most basic tier of government as they directly handle public issues. While the provincial and federal government are involved with broader policy questions, local governments are charged with service delivery to the citizens. They act as sites where citizens can present their demands and see them implemented. In fact, local governments are the building blocks from which a healthy democratic order takes root.

The patronage networks of Pakistani politics deliver the same function that the local governments do, albeit, in a less formal manner. Regional bosses and local landlords, in addition to using their elected office, also have direct links with the bureaucracy as often its members are overwhelmingly drawn from this class. This gives the bureaucracy the central position in dealing with issues, which in principle should be the domain of the local government. Subsequently, since the channel of communication for service delivery does not include the local government in its entirety, the existing patronage networks get strengthened. This is further compounded by the fact that for the larger portion of the time that elected governments have been in place, local governments have not been formed since provincial governments have found it easier to operate within the traditional nexus of patronage politics and bureaucratic support. Military rule is another case entirely, since local governments have been historically used by dictators to legitimise their rule, and in doing so they have been subjected to direct rule by the central government. This, in turn, rendered the whole system as nothing more than a farce. Either way, local governments have not realised their effective implementation as the upper tiers of government have historically prevented them from doing so.

It is in light of all this that the statement by the Supreme Court of Pakistan must be viewed as it has directed the Balochistan government to enact laws that would define the powers of representativesof local government. The issue is all the more crucial in Balochistan as the region is facing acute deprivation, which has, in turn,strengthened its separatist movement. The centre-province dialectic surely has a major role to play in this as the Baloch people feel that they have not been given their fair share of resources. While it is correct that the last few NFC awards have provided an equitable distribution of funds to all the provinces, especially Balochistan, however, sole emphasis on it overlooks the underlying structural issues, which have shaped Baloch politics. Historically, local bosses who have not entirely been representatives of the Baloch people have controlled the levers of the provincial government. Their good fortune has been at the expense of the Baloch people who have remained impoverished. It is for this reason that local government is essential for Balochistan. Only by ensuring democratic practice at the grassroots can Baloch fears be allayed. Local government holds the key for more inclusionary politics in Balochistan,and it is one of the ways through which the roots of Baloch separatism can be studied and handled in a humane way, and eventually eliminated to make the Baloch people feel that Pakistan is as much theirs as it is of the rest of Pakistanis.

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