As the year 2013 has ended with a feeling of no successes and more failures, there does remain some hope of a brighter future, provided the new leadership in the government, military, judiciary – along with the nation – go hand in hand to face the challenges head-on. The challenges continue to remain on four major fronts combating terrorism, strengthening political stability, overcoming energy shortages and dealing with unpredictable situations on our borders.

Our fight against terrorism has entered a crucial phase, most of the credit for clearing the tribal areas of terrorist outfits goes to the army, but the ulema, politicians, media and the intelligentsia need to do a lot more towards fighting sectarianism and extremism both ideologically and intellectually. The major question is if the army is fighting the Taliban, then who is fighting Talibanization inside the country? That means the nation has to straighten out its outlook by shedding sectarian prejudices and preferences.

On the foreign policy front, more serious challenge is going to emerge as observers see opportunities as well as dangers alike if and when the US-led forces leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014. How Kabul reacts in the post-withdrawal period is to be of critical importance to Pakistan, opines a newspaper editorial. However, the UN General Assembly’s resolution on drone strikes is considered to be an achievement on part of the government.

Besides interacting with world’s financial institutions and pleading for inflow of foreign assistance, Nawaz Sharif’s priority list also seems to be focusing on improvement in bilateralism with India. But the most significant of all was the rendezvous of the DGMOs of both Pakistan and India militaries – a rare event at the Wagha border that was enthusiastically highlighted by the world media. The Directors General of Military Operations, in their meeting, pledged to uphold the 2003 Line of Control (LoC) ceasefire accord which had been left in tatters by repeated violations by the Indian side last year. The two countries agreed to a number of steps to keep the ceasefire accord intact. It is expected that such meetings at the level of military commanders would lead to further contacts, believing the mutual trust and confidence once restored would result in to taking up the bigger issues like the ones – Sir Creek, Siachen, etc – as indicated in the agenda of the composite dialogue.

F Z KHAN,

Islamabad, January 8.