The PML-N government led by Nawaz Sharif is beset with formidable problems. Awesome challenges, internal and external, call for quick and competent handling. Can Nawaz and his team do the job and come up to the people’s expectations?

The country suffers from serious deficits. Although the budget has been passed, can the government meet all the targets and raise the required revenues? A loan of more than $5 billion has been negotiated with the IMF primarily to pay the debts already due. There is little doubt that austerity measures announced by the Finance Minister, if enforced by the government will, inter alia add to the burdens borne by the people. The prices of petrol and diesel have been increased. Electricity charges are being enhanced. Power shortages are continue. An increase in the power supply will take quite some time. People will have to wait for better times and keep suffering the rigours of hot weather. Many a wheel of industries will remain static due to lack of energy. The rupee is falling and the cost of living is progressively going up. And there are no signs of relief.

What has shaken the government more than anything else is the non-stop wave of terrorism. Some of its recent manifestations, in Gilgit-Baltistan where foreign nationals were bumped off, repeated killings of Hazaras in Quetta, targeted shootings in Karachi and frequent attacks on security posts and forces in Peshawar and other parts of KPK/Fata have, together, badly unnerved the administration. During the last month, there has been no letup in the virulence of the terrorist strikes.

What is puzzling and even bewildering is the fact that there is no clear policy to effectively deal with this menace. People are beginning to wonder if the government is really serious to tackle this horrendous issue. They recall the earlier attempts, including unanimous parliamentary resolutions that practically came to nothing. Will there be more of the same or this time, a new government will take effective steps to meet the challenge?

Does the government have available to it a clear picture of who is who and who does what and where? Or is all that is being done is the blind men’s bluff about the large animal called the elephant, only a feel and guesses about its various parts?

It is time the people are taken into confidence about the various aspects of the problems being faced by the country relating to terrorism and how these are to be resolved.

Pakistan has been the worst victim of terrorism for the last many years. Why was it that a master mechanism not prepared to handle the task? Why have we not set up special training institutions for anti-terrorist personnel?

The government, it is reported, has called a national conference of political parties, the military top brass as well as the intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Hopefully, something intelligible and meaningful will come out of the envisaged deliberations. The Minister for Interior had some days back spoken about the need for coordination. Can the requisite coordination amongst the intelligence agencies, civil and military be really ensured? How can such a coordination be brought about on a continuing basis? Is the required homework in hand?

Why don’t we have a comprehensive and workable anti-terrorism law? When will the present legislation be reviewed, revised and strengthened, keeping in view the new challenges emanating from recent developments in the information technology, especially cybernetics?

Afghanistan and the American military presence and operations have much to do with the militancy and disorder seen in KPK/Fata and Balochistan. Why has Pakistan continued to follow the stupid policy of a dictator, who suddenly ordered military operations in parts of the northern tribal areas starting off a virtual war against peaceful and patriotic citizens of Pakistan?

It was, indeed, most unfortunate that our weak and selfish politicians let the military run our defence and foreign affairs all these years. The faulty policies have not only kept the country in a state of turbulence, but also caused the death of tens of thousands of innocent Pakistanis and security-personnel.

A most disturbing and, indeed, shameful display of lack of sagacity and spine has been our government’s complicity in the aerial drone attacks on our soil, resulting in the killing of hundreds of civilians. After the Salalah incident, we did stand up to demonstrate defiance of the US and Nato, but soon enough buckled under pressure and started working for the “masters” for the payment of dollars, as before.

The whole question of these attacks and the continuing presence of Afghan militants living in the tribal areas need to be dealt with firmly, keeping in view various dimensions and possible consequences of our policy and actions.

Afghanistan is a land-locked country. It mostly depends on Pakistan for the movement of goods into and from it. Under American pressure, a pro-Kabul transit agreement was signed by us, some time ago, Pakistan has been more than reasonable, even generous in providing access and related facilities. Consider these concessions, along with the burden of letting millions of Afghan refugees, live in Pakistan. One wonders about the heavy cost of permitting them to live here – financial, economic, social and political. Is any study available about how some of these refugees have worked as agents and hired labour of foreign forces some of whom operating against our interests and causing substantial losses - human and material?

Why do we go on agreeing to extend the burden of stay of these foreign nationals, many of whom are potential troublemakers?

It is time the government comes clean about all the aberrations, distortions and dichotomies characterising our convoluted relationship with Afghanistan and how we can resolve these preposterous dilemmas. We must find ways and means to get rid of such flotsam and jetsam littered all over the land. There certainly is an urgent need for a comprehensive white paper, which tells us about the unnecessary and burdensome liabilities we have allowed to accumulate and which we must get rid of, one way or the other.

To do all this, the military will have to fully cooperate. Surely, it will be very much in its interest to be relieved of extra duties and chores, allowing it to concentrate on its basic task of safeguarding our frontiers.

The Americans too will have to be informed and educated about our interests, plans and approaches. We cannot afford anymore duplicity or hypocrisy. We cannot afford to be unmindful of our national interests, even if we may have to forego dollars and privileges of various kinds. No foreign operations, overt or covert, on our soil, please!

Considering what has happened in Egypt, Nawaz will have to tread carefully?

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