Mian Nawaz Sharif after being sworn in as Pakistan’s Prime Minister for the third time, probably, has become the seventh leader in the history of the world to have been bestowed with this unique honour.

That, indeed, is an epoch-making development in itself, though his record during the last two stints was not so enviable.

According to some political analysts, Nawaz Sharif owes his current electoral triumph to the failure of the PPP-led coalition to deliver during its tenure and the people’s desire to have a change of guards.

Another factor that ostensibly seems to have gone in Sharif’s favour is that people somehow perceived him as a completely transformed leader, who has learnt from his past mistakes and has gone through personal ordeal for well over a decade.

The world is replete with examples where circumstances have completely changed ordinary persons and recast them as leaders of great standing. The advent of Islam, provides the best testimony of the phenomenon of transformation in character and role of individuals. Pagans became saints and flag bearers of Islam; a religion that changed the course of world history.

Nawaz Sharif too sounded like a transformed leader while addressing the National Assembly on June 5. Abandoning the belligerence of electoral campaign that characterised incessant swipe at his political opponents and luring slogans, he talked about respecting the mandate of political parties, evolving a common national agenda to meet the challenges confronting the nation, collaborating with all political entities represented in Parliament and extending support to the provincial governments to improve the law and order situation in their provinces, especially Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

He rightly refrained from giving false hopes to the people by pointing out the gravity and enormity of the existing challenges, but categorically stated that his government would spare no effort in tackling them at the earliest.

Further, Sharif vowed to show zero tolerance for corrupt practices, to appoint in government and semi-government organisations purely on merit and bury the culture of nepotism for all times to come. One can hardly take an issue with him.

Pakistan is at the crossroads today; a self-inflicted situation for which both the politicians and the military rulers are equally responsible. It faces an existential threat from terror groups due to the skewed and ill-conceived security paradigm that has been pursued over the years without taking the political leadership on board and without realising its negative fallout on the country.

Similarly, the economic policies pursued by successive governments focused more on prestige, rather than necessity-driven projects. Consequently, this has led to problems like astronomical internal and external debts, ever-increasing debt-GDP ratio, huge circular debt and burgeoning energy crisis, which sent the economy into a nosedive.

Moreover, it is unfortunate that the politicians never made any serious attempt to change the archaic colonial system of governance and instead made strenuous efforts to perpetuate it. Feudalism has created a culture of graft, entitlement and rampant corruption that has penetrated into the fabric of Pakistani society.

Indeed, Sharif’s government is confronted with several formidable challenges. Untangling this maze would require nerves of steel, sincerity of purpose and an infectious vision that can carry the masses along and prepare them for rendering sacrifices required to fix the rot.

In addition, there are no two opinions about the fact that we have to evolve an appropriate strategy to improve Pakistan’s economic growth in order to make it a self-reliant nation. It is a very tough undertaking in the present situation, as it would involve expanding the revenue-generating avenues, bringing the hitherto non-taxed sectors of the economy into the tax net, reforming the revenue collecting machinery that almost eats up more than 50 percent of the income through corruption and imposing new taxes.

The imposition of new taxes, however, is invariably an unpopular proposition and thus civilian governments have avoided taking this rational path for fear of political repercussions, which is mainly responsible for the expansion of internal and external debt. So, there is an imperative need to create a national consensus on broadening the tax regime and firming up of comprehensive long-term economic strategies for the betterment of the economy.

Similarly, a consensus national strategy is needed to deal with the scourge of terrorism and revisit the security paradigm. Ground also needs to be prepared for reforms in the political system. The only way to strengthen democracy is to change the feudal character of our politics by switching over to the system of proportional representation, which suits a multi-cultural country like Pakistan. It ensures the representation of even regional parties in the legislatures, making them truly representative bodies, besides strengthening the forces of national cohesion.

All the political forces must, therefore, respond positively to the reconciliatory gesture of Nawaz Sharif in the larger interest of the country, besides acting as a watchdog against the indiscretions of the government that is their legitimate right.

The writer is a freelance columnist.