2013 was the year of transitions in Pakistan. In addition to a political transition of one democratic government to another, after the completion of the constitutional term of five years, a new chief justice took over, as also a new chief of the army staff. There further was, more or less, acceptance of the civilian government supremacy by the military establishment.

2014 will see changes in leadership in India and Afghanistan. These changes along with NATO/US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan will have considerable impact on Pakistan’s relations with its immediate neighbours. These developments will, to a considerable extent have negative implications for Pakistan.

Of the numerous challenges that Pakistan faces today, four stand out as the most pressing. These relate to economy, energy, terrorism and lawlessness. Although all four are internal, each has an external dimension.

The most crucial are terrorism and lawlessness. Rightly did the Quaid say, way back in 1947, that the first duty of the state is the establishment of law and order.

And today the state is failing to do this duty.

Wanton killings of security personnel and civilians continue all over the country especially in Balochistan and Karachi. The devastating attack on the SSPCID, Chaudhry Aslam on Thursday in Karachi is a ringing reminder of the frightening state of affairs. The case of the missing persons, in particular belonging to Balochistan remains unaddressed despite persistent efforts of the supreme court and its former chief justice. There also are the sectarian target killings witnessed recently in Lahore, Rawalpindi and Karachi.

Terrorism is taking a heavy toll. A journalist and a Ph.D student at the UN National Defence University has in a paper published in “Regional Studies”, a journal of the Institute of Regional Studies Islamabad analyzed the impact of terrorism on Pakistan’s socio-political and economic security and strategic policy. He has taken notes of the socio-economic fall-out of these non-stop waves of terrorism. An inter-ministerial committee appointed by government in 2008, thus summed up its findings: “The conclusion was that the war (on terror) not only caused serious damage to the economy but also to the social fabric of Pakistan”. And the society has been radicalized and become more volatile. There were only five acts of terrorism during 2001 but it spiraled up to at least 473 bomb blasts in 2011….6715 people were killed due to terrorism in 2008. The number went up to 11704 in 2009 (in addition 21551 terrorists were killed).

South Asia Terrorist Portal shows that suicide attacks rose tragically and badly impacted the overall security situation. There was not a single incident of suicide in 2001 but by the end of June 2011 there were at least 283 suicide attacks in the country, in which 4611 people were killed and 9882 injured. By May 2011, according to a foreign office release 35000 civilians were killed including 5000 security and armed forces personnel.

Close to 100 billion dollars have been spent by Pakistan on this war so far. The Pakistan economic survey 2010-11 while giving details of the fall-out of the war, stated that it had resulted in the destruction of infrastructure, internal migration of hundreds of thousands of people, nose-diving of investment and mounting unemployment…. further that “Pakistan had never witnessed such devastating social and economic upheaval in its industry even after dismemberment of the country by direct war (in 1971).

Why has Pakistan suffered so grievously? The answer is the rash and myopic policy of a military dictator. Disregarding the Quaid-i-Azam address to the Waziristan Jirga in which the founding father of Pakistan had called the people of FATA brothers and self-respecting citizens of Pakistan, the dictator, to please a foreign power, sent hundreds of thousands of soldiers to attack Pakistanis living in the tribal areas and turned them into fiercely vengeful enemies. The whole edifice on which the system of managing tribal affairs rested was thus disrupted and practically destroyed. This operation along with drones has indeed spawned the ferocious terrorism that is tearing Pakistan apart. The same usurper twice subverted the Constitution of Pakistan. He is presently facing the charge of treason in an Islamabad court. His ruse to hide behind the plea of ill-health has not succeeded and it is vital that he appears before the court of law and explains his unpardonable acts of commission and omission.

It is a matter of deep disappointment that for the last four months, the government has fallen short of the unanimous mandate given to it to diffuse the situation by talking to the Taliban. The government must move ahead speedily to find ways to build up contacts with the TTP using all its resources. Although the interior minister keeps saying that the government is moving into the right direction and steps are being taken to open the dialogue with the Taliban, little by way of anything substantial and credible is visible. The more time elapses, the more complicated and difficult this task will be, considering the continuing attacks and counter-attacks on the part of the Taliban and our security forces. Those who advocate more of military action ignore the fact that America and the other Nato countries with all their state of art military machines, daisy-cutters and cluster bombardment failed to defeat the Afghan Taliban despite fighting a war with them for more than ten years. Can we afford more of this horrible terrorism, more of dislodging of tribal people, more of terrorist killings of our forces and civilians, more of destruction of infrastructure and property, more of disruption of civic life, more of losses for the economy and wastage of scarce funds (in billions) when the prospects of success in this so-called “war on terror” are so poor?!

I, for one, find that the government is not serious enough to fully realize the enormous gravity of the situation. All other work should be placed on the back-burner and total attention concentrated on this one terrifying menace. For the national security advisor to say that the state’s writ has been restored in 6 of the 7 FATA agencies amounts to tinkering with an extremely grim situation. The fact of the matter is that Taliban have extended their reach all over the country. No city or area is safe in Pakistan any more. Just recall how, as indicated in the DIK Jail Report, the Taliban and other related groups could operate and make a hash of the state’s security apparatus.

It is good that government has woken up to the need for raising the drone issue internationally. So far it has been merely protesting and posturing. It should learn a lesson from India’s stand on the arrest of one of its diplomats in USA. Pakistan’s case on drones, backed as it is by UN Resolutions and international opinion, is much stronger.

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

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