Can the incumbent federal government adequately cope with the daunting political, diplomatic, economic, social and administrative challenges?

How much can a government do in the face   of unrelenting pressures emanating from internal and external urgent demands?

If everything was more or less okay internally, the external issues relating to relations with India, Afghanistan, USA, China and other near or distant neighbours would in any case pose formidable dilemmas.

Take for instance India-Pakistan relations. Recent hot verbal exchanges reflect the hostility harboured against each other. Can it be denied that Pakistan under Nawaz Sharif has been going out of the way to forge friendship with India? It was this urge on his part that in UFA there was no mention of Kashmir while Mumbai did figure there. This has cost dearly politically and attempts later, to make up for this default (or lapse), have resulted in the scrapping of the talks altogether, at least for the time-being. With this frame of mind on the part of Pakistan, to somehow reopen the talks, would it make sense that it would begin firing across the Line of Control and the Working Boundary? It is India, which keeps heating up the borders and then accuses Pakistan of doing so. But so weak is our international public diplomacy that it is India’s version of it that finds favour with the international community. Evidence for this conclusion was cited in a previous column by a direct reference to a New York Times editorial in which it was said that Modi was only striking back. In other words the provocation had come from Pakistan’s side.

Afghanistan is another headache for the present government. Islamabad made promising moves after President Ghani’s tour of Pakistan. This was a wholesome development and it appeared that a new era of good relations had started. Later Pakistan made special efforts to organize a meeting of Afghanistan Taliban and the new Afghan government representatives. This however, failed to bear fruit as announcement of Mullah Umar’s death sparked differences amongst the Taliban. Prospects of renewal of talks have receded. Afghanistan has since been hit hard by Taliban’s summer offensive and attacks in or near Kabul have upset Afghan government which has restarted blaming Pakistan for across-the-border terrorism (India’s role in influencing Afghanistan’s attitude towards Pakistan just cannot be underestimated). Pakistan is now hard put to convince Kabul that it is unjustified to blame Pakistan and that there is a pressing need for an open-ended mutual understanding.  Sartaj Aziz is about to lead a delegation to ensure Ashraf Ghani that Pakistan would do all that is necessary to control cross-border incidents and to point out that Pakistan itself is a victim of cross-border attacks from the other side. That the armed forces operations have destroyed most of the bases and infrastructure of the Taliban. It was an unkind cut on the part of US Security Advisor Susan Rice to ask Pakistan “do more” to deal with the Haqqani group. She was rightly told that the operation against Taliban in North Waziristan had not spared the Haqqani set-up there.

Now turning attention to the internal scene, the laudable action in Karachi too has sparked off political difficulties for the incumbent government. MQM has resigned from its membership of the National Assembly and is being persuaded to return to the house. Negotiations have fallen although the process of reconciliation linked to hard conditions continues.

PPP too has threatened to create difficulties for the PML-N administration. Mr. Zardari sitting in London had earlier directly accused the army of targeting PPP and had threatened to expose the excesses of the generals. Now he has turned the guns on PML-N government and has hinted at creating trouble politically.

Add to these disturbing developments Imran Khan’s continuing tirade against the PML-N leadership. Even after the judicial Commission’s verdict which practically rejected the PTI’s allegations, Imran has continued insinuating that PML-N and Election Commission of Pakistan had ganged up to rig the elections. PTI’s recent victories in three disputed constituencies has boosted its standing and Imran says he would be holding rallies in Islamabad agent the ECP followed by a possible Dharna.

The coming local government elections in Punjab and Sindh are bound to put further pressure on the government and strain considerably its political and administrative resources. Further, as Ayaz Amir has reminded us two ticking bombs are staring PML-N, in the face. One is the Asghar Khan’s case about the distribution of money to a number of political leaders including PML-N’s and the other the Model Town murders.

Add to it the dilemmas being faced to resolve the Balochistan troubles and one can see the enormity of the tasks the government of the day has to come to grips with simultaneously. Not forgetting how the electronic media keeps flinging arrows night-after-night at the government’s slips-ups. Very little is appreciated. In fact some of the programmes, especially talk shows, are designed to find faults and pick holes in government’s policies and practices. Not that it is intrinsically wrong to do so, but it is negativity that drives discussions and denunciations.

In these challenging circumstances, government has to manage a faltering economy and a corrupt society. Let us spare for a change, a word of understanding for such hard-working ministers as Ahsan Iqbal who are doing their best to ensure that the tremendous demands of imagination, determination and mobilization of all available economic and administrative resources to achieve targets for the completion of dozens of projects linked to the Chinese Pakistan Economic Corridor are fully met.

One may not at the end omit to mention that the Prime Minister must be spending quite a bit of his time planning on making his forthcoming official visit to USA next month a success.

How much can a government do satisfactorily, when it is so hard-pressed internally and externally? As the Indians do, we should also strengthen the government’s hands, and stand by it when it comes to the protection and promotion of our national interests. Criticize it constructively and fiercely when necessary, where ever it falters and fails to adopt the right course. But is it proper to weaken an elected, validly mandated government in charge of national affairs deliberately, and sometimes maliciously?