The campaign for the upcoming general elections is characterised by violence, victimhood and rumours. The decision to go for the elections in an environment of violent conflict implies that pre-electoral violence would remain at a more than usual high pitch. The ongoing violence has two formats: electoral type and terrorist style. Former can be identified by low intensity explosions, and the latter by high potency bombing attacks.

Going by the statistics, the scene is dominated by the electoral type violence; though there is eagerness on the part of Taliban to claim ownership of all kinds of militancy. Further, those handicapped by the incumbency baggage are invoking victimhood to justify their prospective slide down. The election campaigning spree initially remained subdued, but has, of late, picked up the usual pace, though it remains at a lacklustre level in the violence-hit areas of Balochistan, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Alongside the electoral campaign, there have been a whole range of rumour mill and conspiracy theories about the likelihood of the postponement of elections.

The “assurance of timely elections” came from the most appropriate person. The Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, while addressing a gathering on the eve of Youm-e-Shuhada (Martyrs Day), declared in unequivocal words: “The elections would be held in the country on May 11. We must not harbour any suspicions or misgivings about it.” He added: “It is not merely retribution, but awareness and participation of the masses that can truly end this game of hide and seek between democracy and dictatorship. If we succeed in rising above all ethnic, linguistic and sectarian biases to vote solely on the basis of honesty, sincerity, merit and competence, there would be no reason to fear dictatorship or to grudge the inadequacies of our present democratic system.”

Having said that, there is a nationwide fever for the elections; high turnout is likely - perhaps, a record-breaker mainly because the young voters look motivated. Political analysts are expecting a rise of 10 percent or more as compared to the 44 percent mark during the 2008 polls.

Moreover, elections seem likely to be a fair, with minimal meddling. Hopefully, the single majority party would be able to bag around 110-120 seats, runners up may end up with about 60-70, alongside two entities between 20-40; the remaining seats would go to smaller parties and independents. Hence, a hung Parliament and a not-so-comfortable coalition appear the likely outcomes of the elections.

There is a difference between a majority broad-based coalition government and a non-majority broad-based coalition government. Of these, the former has the luxury of deciding policy without being subjected to blackmail by its own coalition partners. A coalition government that is too dependent on its partners leads to the kind of impasse that was seen during the past five years.

Besides political transition, this year would also witness the transition of leadership in army and judiciary, as the heads of these institutions are slated to step down. In all probability, there would be a new President as well. This would put the new PM in a comfortable position to implement his agenda. His immediate priorities would be the rejuvenation of economy, solution to energy crisis and wrapping up of the so-called war on terror through a robust political process within Pakistan as well as in Afghanistan.

Further, consolidating the political gains in Balochistan, through a viable strategy, to re-rail the province into national mainstream would be another high priority task for the mew PM. Keeping in view the complexities of domestic dynamics and external interference, Balochistan is likely to continue sounding alarms on and off. There is a need to workout a long-term strategy for a smooth transition from the feudal-tribal structure to people-centric democracy.

The nationalist are a double-edged sword - they are part of the problem as well as part of the solution. Working with them would not go beyond a marriage of convenience. There is a need to go beyond such a shaky arrangement. The formulation of Balochistan-specific political structures could provide a durable solution.

Karachi is another problem area; unfortunately, the city is under a perpetual grip of insecurity and fear. So, the new political dispensations at provincial and federal levels will have to act with prudence and mutual accommodation to reclaim Pakistan’s financial hub from the jaws of lawlessness.

The economy too shall be an area of the PM’s concern. Indicators like stagnation of GDP growth around 3 percent and persistent 10-12 percent inflation are pointing towards another arrangement with the IMF. In addition, global slowdown is likely to continue, with negative outfalls on the economies of developing countries. Pakistan’s agriculture sector provides a hedge against external economic pressures. There is a need to rejuvenate this sector to enhance its share in the overall GDP. A prudent combination of incentives and mechanisation could give it a new direction. In the prevailing environment of global food insecurity, agriculture sector could become a major source of foreign exchange earner.

The industrial sector, however, is likely to remain in doldrums until continuous supply of cheaper power is ensured to keep it competitive at the international level. A typical major ready-to-launch cheap power generation project has 5-7 years gestation period. Therefore, one does not foresee an immediate solution to our energy crisis. But the new government would have done its duty, if it sets into motion a long-term energy strategy to generate ample cheap electricity, say by 2030.

There is also a need to redefine the role, task and constitution of our Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC). This committee should have its own secretariat and requisite executive authority to implement, follow-up and revisit policy level issues. Without bogging down into the nomenclature related controversies, our higher defence organisation should be reconfigured for prompt response to spontaneously emerging contingencies.

Human resource development is another task for the upcoming government. Expanding youth bulge necessitates out-of-the-box solutions for absorbing them into mainstream national economy. There is a need to give vocational bias to our education policy. Bridging the gap between madrassah and mainstream curricula is also long overdue.

Speedy and affordable justice for a common man is another haunting task. A comprehensive strategy of strengthening investigation, prosecution and forensics, alongside regulating; the fees charged by lawyers and reducing appellate tiers compatible to the gravity of the case should be essential constituents of legal reforms package. There is a need to invoke concepts like ‘Justice of Peace’ and strengthen the institutions of arbitration for handling trivial matters which do not really need to go through the arduous judicial process.

At the psycho-social pedestal, mass and rapid influx of Islam specific blasphemous material, through social media, has been a source of frequent disruptions of public routines. The new government should enter into agreements with service providers of social media, like Google; YouTube; BlackBerry, etc, for installing protective softwares to overcome this issue. India and Bangladesh have already entered into such arrangements with some of the service providers. With the platter full of tedious errands, the next PM should not expect an easy ride of the nineties.

    The writer is a retired air commodore and former assistant chief of air staff of the Pakistan Air Force. At present, he is a member of the visiting faculty at the PAF Air War College, Naval War College and Quaid-i-Azam University.