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EDITORIAL: The shelling of Europe’s largest nuclear plant in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, which caught fire and almost caused a radiation disaster “10 times larger than Chernobyl”, according to the plant’s spokesman, could be a major turning point in this already very dangerous conflict. Moscow has denied any part in the reckless attack on the nuclear plant and blamed “Ukrainian sabotage groups with the participation of foreign mercenaries” for it.

But this position doesn’t have many takers outside Russia, of course, not the least because its foreign ministry only recently added a nuclear colour to the ongoing debate about modern wars. And if the Russians were really responsible for this very irresponsible tactic, then they have only themselves to blame for justifying some of the adjectives that the Americans and Europeans are using for the Kremlin right now.

In the modern setting, such events are never really as far-away as some countries not directly linked to them might think. The way this war has sent commodity prices tearing through the roof means all countries that rely predominantly on import of things like oil, like Pakistan, are in for a very tough time, at least for the foreseeable future. Yet front-page headlines here are still obsessed with the coming no-confidence motion and all the wheeling and dealing that always accompanies such things.

Nobody’s concerned about how the instability that this move will cause, regardless of its outcome, could well deliver the kiss of death to the economy. For the opposition to make it a mission, at this time, to set in motion a series of events that will surely add more uncertainty is unlikely to go down in history as a service to the nation; as they’d like to portray it. It would have helped if they had presented an alternate plan of their own to deal with high prices and low wages, so the people would at least know that all this is not being done for nothing.

Such moments also show, all over again, just how much successive governments’ inability, rather unwillingness, to invest in alternate sources of energy when crude prices were down has hurt the economy. Now our slavish dependence on light-sweet and heavy-sour crude is also costing us in ways that we could never have factored in. And since there’s no immediate chance of the Ukraine situation de-escalating or even supply bottlenecks working themselves out, and the PM has just announced a Rs10/litre reduction in petrol prices, the current account will not be a pretty sight in the months, if not quarters, ahead.

The last thing the country, especially the economy, needs right now is political mayhem; especially uprooting the sitting government. If opposition parties are really doing all this because the people’s miseries are giving them sleepless nights, as they say, not because they’re out to protect their own illegitimate wealth, as the government claims, then they must pass the litmus test of presenting their preferred policy for everybody to see and weigh. Such, at the very least, must be the price of wanting to upset the applecart so desperately; especially when there’s so much to lose for the state itself.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has cast a very dark shadow over a lot of things — global politics, financial markets, emerging markets, commodity prices, etc. And there are plenty of reasons to worry that things can get much worse, especially if the Russians really meant what they said about their way, or else. These are times when countries like Pakistan, which are so exposed to international price volatility, hunker down and wait out the storm. These are also times when it becomes very clear which kind of political parties really work for the people and which for themselves.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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