Right from the start, the PML-N government has been facing and trying to sort out harrowing problems and challenges, internal and external. While little headway has been made to provide relief to the already miserable masses, serious efforts have been made to stem the rot in regard to a tottering economy and the complex challenge of increasing the woefully short supply of electricity. Reviving the Nandipur power project, speeding up the Neelum Jhelum one and starting coal-fired new units at Gadani are steps on the right direction. It will take time, however, for the planned increase in the electricity supply, to takes place.

In the area of law and order, the launching of the Rangers operation in Karachi stands out as a major initiative to bring peace to the violence—ridden metropolitan city of Karachi. Will it really succeed and endure? This remains to be seen.

Nawaz Sharif’s visits to China, Turkey and USA are expected to yield positive results. It is important that the projects discussed and promises made are followed up with vigour and periodical assessments to review progress.

Mention in particular be made of Prime Minister’s yatra to Washington to reset relations with America. Not much was achieved considering the agenda taken by the Prime Minister but certainly the visit helped improve the atmospherics, considerably reducing the tensions prevailing between the two countries in the last few years, highlighted by Salala, Abbottabad and Raymond Davis episodes. There is still a lot of mistrust to be taken care of and obstacles in the way of forging better ties. This is how the New York Times assesses prospects of a turn for the better: “After so many years of animosity between Pakistan and the United States Prime Minister Nawaz sharif and President Obama used their meeting at the White House on Wednesday to begin to set the relationship on a more constructive path. Pakistan remains a dangerous country in a region with the world’s fastest-growing nuclear weapons programmes. Over the past decade the distrust between America and Pakistan had grown so deep that the Obama administration reportedly stepped its surveillance of Pakistan’s nuclear programme. Mr. Obama’s decision to meet with Mr. Sharif, free up $1.5 billion in aid that had been put on hold and offer assistance on energy and public works projects shows he has confidence that Mr. Sharif is committed to building a democratic state. It is in the interest of both countries that Mr. Sharif succeeds…..after a decade of turmoil and mistrust”. 

Nawaz also attempted to develop good relations with India and Afghanistan. His pious wishes, however, have so far failed to yield the desired results thanks to India’s hubris and antagonistic behavior as well as Karzai’s hostile attitude. More than a month has elapsed and an agreed meeting between senior Indian and Pakistani military officers has yet to be held with LoC continuing to remain hot with frequent exchange of fire from both sides. It looks that relations between the two countries will remain tense till the forthcoming elections in India.

Afghanistan under Karzai has forged a strategic partnership with India. Its military has been receiving training from the Indian army officers under a well known arrangement. The recent arrest of TTP’s second-in-command Latifullah Mehsud by US forces and his subsequent interrogation has confirmed the long-held view in Pakistan that Kabul and New Delhi together have been orchestrating terrorism across the border, in Pakistan. It is time, Islamabad collects hard evidence of India’s involvement in terroristic activities in Pakistan, disseminates facts internationally and accuses India of conspiring with Kabul to destabilize Pakistan. It may be mentioned that Pakistan has been for quite sometimes claiming that India was engaged in sabotage and violent activities in various parts of the country especially Balochistan and also sponsoring and funding aggrieved Balochi leaders residing in Afghanistan and other places.

The one area where the PML-N government and specifically Nawaz Sharif has been disappointingly slow is meeting the challenge of terrorism in Pakistan. The unanimous decision by all the parties, also endorsed by the chief of the army staff has till today remained unimplemented. This sluggishness has taken a heavy toll, resulting in the Taliban gaining strength and up-scaling their terroristic activities. Two precious months have been wasted. This lethargy and inactivity has created an adverse impression about Nawaz’s leadership and lack of seriousness of purpose. Imran Khan has held a press conference announcing that PTI may have to go ahead to hold talks with the Taliban on their own, also saying that KPK government would stop the NATO container supplies if the drone strikes were not halted.

Pakistan, of course, has every right to demand the cessation of such strikes. The recent reports by the UN experts especially Mr. Emmerson and the elaborate details given in the Amnesty International findings, provide good ground for raising the issue internationally—UN Security Council Resolution No. 1373 notwithstanding. These strikes are certainly illegal. If earlier the government of Pakistan was colluding with USA in this regard, the present government has no such obligations. In fact now that the iron is hot Pakistan should not hesitate to strike and launch a world-wide campaign against the unwarranted drone strikes.

Also, to do the needful, urgently, Nawaz Sharif should hold a press conference or make an announcement in the National Assembly, spelling out details of the contacts established with the PTI and the agreed terms of engagement. Interior Minister’s briefing of the political parties about taking up of talks with the Taliban leaders, is not good enough. Delay has not only damaged the PML-N credibility, it has also let terror attacks continue, adding to civilian and military casualties and destruction of property. How can there be progress in the economic and social spheres, if there is a widespread fear of bomb blasts and suicide strikes in Peshawar, Quetta, Lahore and other places?

It is most unfortunate that the Interior Minister, the other day, came up, in the Senate, with certain unacceptable figures of civilian casualties caused by the drone strikes. Both New York Times and Washington Post have found it “surprising” and in sharp variance to the earlier Pakistan government’s figure of at least 400 (as against 67 indicated by the minister). The Minister has obviously been misinformed and even if he corrects himself, a lot of damage to Pakistan’s case against the drones, has already been done.

The news about the “demise” of the Iran-Pakistan pipeline too is disconcerting. This certainly amounts to compromising our national interests, under pressure. Nawaz Sharif must ensure expeditious implementation of this project.

 The writer is an ex-federal secretary and ambassador, and a freelance political and international relations analyst.