Security should always be viewed in its broader context, whereby every individual, family, group of people (irrespective of religion, color and creed) and the nation as a whole should feel secure with respect to physical entity, honor and legitimate possessions. This entails an elaborate socio economic, political and security systems with a strong implementation mechanism that would satisfy the people of own state as well as keep the regional and international players in good humor, ensuring warding away of any ill designs of external and internal adversaries.

However the international political and economic framework, evolved over a period of time, predicates purely on self-interest of nation states with only a facade of international laws, ethics, morality and fair-play. Power of countries is wielded through a combination of their economic, political and military prowess. Aware, active and bold leadership plays a vital role in getting countries to honorable levels through this treacherous maze of conflicting interests and veiled intentions.

Pakistan, interestingly, is located in an active region, possesses a large power potential (though not fully realized) and is a Muslim country with atomic arsenal; thus cannot keep itself out of the scope of power struggle between big nations . All theories of geo strategy related to Mackinder’s Heartland ( Central Asian Countries ), Spykman’s Rimland (Coastal regions) and Admiral Mahan’s Control of Seas ( Indian Ocean ) along with more than one third of the world population and resources, combine in this region, making it a competing arena for all significant International players. Thus, there was never and not likely to be ever, a dull moment in the eventful history of our region. Year 2019 was no exception.

American attitude towards Pakistan all along Trump’s era was continuation of blowing hot and cold, as earlier. This year also remained tense till PM Imran Khan accompanied by COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, visited US in Aug/Sep. Though USA has been extracting Pakistan’s support in Afghanistan but never acknowledged it with open heart, and kept us deliberately under pressure demanding more and more, probably to prevent any change of heart. It was apparently a desire of the Super Power, for whatever reasons, to solicit our requisite support but try to keep us away from the comprehensive talks and future political solution of Afghanistan. Definitely they have not succeeded in that, as Pakistan garnered support of China, Russia and even Iran to jointly contribute in the peace talks regarding Afghanistan. So Pakistan, (thanks to good politico military diplomacy) emerged important and relevant as far as the Afghanistan’s political future is concerned. There were many detractors that were professing ‘Hands off Policy’, only for us, totally oblivious what others were doing. That was a strange piece of advice for the most connected and effected neighbor. Anyway the US-Afghan Taliban talks are likely to restart and the next year might see the start of the settlement process as far as Afghanistan is concerned. It will be a bumpy journey, yet it may not be as catastrophic like last time. All actors must have learned their lessons and this time it will not be a vacuum. A balancing act of big powers and neighbors is likely to keep it in much better direction. Competing interests may result in keeping the area in some turmoil, but hopefully not for very long. However US will keep nudging Pakistan for other reasons, like our affinity with China, reliance on CPEC and our Strategic Assets; all factors with a potential of propelling us to the leadership role of Islamic World and important regional player. They would like us to remain engaged, will try to create suspicions on CPEC and keep us under immense pressure through India, Lawfare and economic machinations. In case of any Indo-Pak standoff, US and its Allies are likely to stand with India irrespective of moral principles.

Iran is likely to remain under pressure until a solution is found to circumvent unilateral US economic sanctions. China, Russia along with other countries shall keep trying to end the tyranny of dollarized world economy. But it may take some time and may not be possible within 2020. Iran will keep facing external political, economic and military interferences. Pakistani leadership may pick up the courage to open barter trade and other economic and political relations with Iran. The next year may see some positive developments in Pak-Iran understanding, if they remain connected on Afghan issue. China may play a role in strengthening such interaction.

Indian stubborn attitude and abhorrent actions and attitude towards Kashmir, Pakistan, and Indian minorities, will keep us entangled in adversarial relationship. The glaring inequality in size, economy and other elements of power potential gives India a huge political edge. However instead of behaving like a responsible great country it has exhibited an attitude of a bully of South Asia and Pakistan is its only stumbling block. The rise of Hindutva and extremism has further exacerbated the situation with further vitiating the political environment of entire region. Abrogating Article 370 and 35 A, is an ugly attempt to change the status of IOK, in blatant violation of UNSC Resolutions and Simla Agreement. The curfew and blackout in IOK is continuing for the past more than four months. There seem to be no respite for the hapless people of occupied Kashmir. This has created unprecedented unrest in the population of Pakistan and Azad Kashmir. This situation is now a ticking bomb. Indian strategic community is convinced that without subduing Pakistan, India cannot acquire the grandeur that they perceive for themselves, and resultantly Kashmir cannot be assimilated. Indian Military is frantically building and strengthening its prowess by inducting latest aircrafts, naval crafts, tanks and missiles, creating further imbalance of conventional forces against Pakistan. Acquisition of ABM Systems, anti-satellite capabilities creates strategic instability as well. With such extremist leadership, ever increasing military power and unstable strategic regime, there is a high probability that India might find incentive to go for a short limited war with Pakistan. Especially when international community seems oblivious or unconcerned of all such developments. Pakistan’s obsession to avoid war rather than deterring it and behavior of a peace loving good boy further incentivizes oppressive Indian mood. So the coming years would witness the increasing Indian aggressive attitude towards Pakistan unless our military and political leadership can visualize what is coming and how it needs to be prevented and deterred. We would require to revisit own Concept of Deterrence keeping in mind the lessons from recent Iranian and Korean Episodes.

Our internal political and institutional tug of war in the current year, created a lot of bitterness and weaknesses in our polity, economy and harmony. This must cease immediately, otherwise it would be nearly impossible to fight ominous external and internal threats that have been mentioned above. The poverty stricken masses in the absence of justice, merit, education and health facilities may soon become insensitive to what happens to the State of Pakistan. Large chunk of Social media and portion of Mainstream Media is already rife with divisions and Stand offs, further aggravating a divisive environment that serves well to the enemies of Pakistan. All major institutions require reforms that are nowhere in sight. Population blast, rampant illiteracy, absence of decent health facilities, lack of justice and equal economic opportunities, all combine to point towards ominous future. The present Social Contract is crumbling. The youth bulge, we are so proud of, can become a heavy drag unless systems are immediately streamlined and signs of bright future are seen and felt by all. Either evolve fast or face a revolution. We are facing a complex situation with ominous socio-politico-economic and military threats. No single institution can manage it. Add to it the lack of unified and consolidated approach, and we can be in thick soup, unless positive and negative controls are instituted immediately. That entails creating an ability to fight Hybrid War, of which we have little understanding and for that we are neither organized nor equipped. Time is running out, we are in a grip of social, economic and political quagmire, and valiant armed forces alone may not be able to provide security in its expanded sense. Political elites across the divides, Apex Judiciary, civil and khaki establishment (reconstituted National Security Committee) will have to join heads and hands to steer the Nation clear of the choppy waters and rocky course. Year 2020 would demand a change in direction and objectives with collective wisdom and combined efforts.

Testing times for leadership of all institutions and civil society.

Our choice: - combine own strengths and rise or exploit each other’s vulnerabilities for self-destruction (Allah forbid)