Under normal circumstances, the nation should be looking forward to the next general elections. The Parliament completes its tenure in March 2013, when a caretaker government would take over. Thus, a peaceful transfer of power should mark a happy occasion for celebration by all democratic forces. But unfortunately, the internal and external challenges facing Pakistan at the moment is an indication of a gathering storm, threatening not only the internal security of the state, but also the territorial integrity.

For the first time in our history, the Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, recently declared that the internal situation, including frequent breakdown of law and order and terrorism, pose a greater threat to Pakistan’s national security than the danger of aggression at the borders.

A war-like situation already exists at the western border. In addition to the US drone attacks against terrorists, a new political drone attack has been launched by MQM chief Altaf Hussain targeting Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who is held in the highest esteem by the nation.

The choice of this particular timing for such a political drone attack against the very ideology of Pakistan is very significant. Its launching was delayed for a couple of days on the plea of search for a certain number of essential nut and bolts, which finally turned out to be announcement of withdrawal of participation in Dr Tahirul Qadri’s long march and the bombshell of a veiled threat of demanding a separate province for Urdu speaking “Mohajirs” of Sindh.

Against the backdrop of the above scenario, the week starting w.e.f. January 10 could well turn out as decisive in the shaping of future events, including establishment of a caretaker government; the holding of general elections; the formation of the new elected democratic government and the withdrawal of the US forces from Afghanistan.

In short, Pakistan holds the key to future peace and strategic design of the region. Hence, the international interest, including India’s designs to destabilise Pakistan.

It is in this context that one should view the recent top level changes in the US State Department, the Pentagon and the CIA. We must not forget how closely Britain, Russia, China, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and even UAE are watching the current internal developments in Pakistan.

Why have I chosen January 10 as the countdown of a fateful week for Pakistan?

Firstly, because Tahirul Qadri’s deadline to the government expired on that date, paving the way for launching his long march and initiating “Peoples Parliament” on January 14 at Islamabad on the lines of Al-Tahrir Square, Cairo.

Secondly, because the MQM leadership ditched Dr Qadri and chose this moment for creating a highly crude and insolent controversy by equating Altaf’s dual nationality with that of Quaid-i-Azam when Pakistan had not even come into existence.

Thirdly, January 10 took the shape of a “bloody day” in the entire decade of terrorism as a darkest omen. It is a wakeup call for our political leadership. All this will have serious consequences.

Take the three bomb blasts at Quetta that have shaken Pakistan like an earthquake.

On January 10, nearly 150 innocent Pakistani, including women and children, became victims of blasts at Quetta, Swat and elsewhere. Earlier, the Supreme Court had declared the failure of the provincial government to maintain law and order in Balochistan. Now, the Governor of Balochistan, Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Magsi, has publicly confessed failure of the Raisani government as well as his helplessness to improve the situation in the province.

The situation has become so desperate that the Quetta Yakjehti Council has declared that they would not bury the victims unless the army is brought in to control the situation. This sit-in strike by hundreds of protesters by the side of their 82 dear ones dead bodies lying unburied in sever cold and rain, is a warning that testing times lie ahead demanding urgent and effective remedies.

 The writer is president of the Pakistan National Forum.  Email: ikramullahkhan1@yahoo.com