Nawaz Sharif’s approach towards politics has generally been positive. He took steps early on to establish that parties other than PML-N and its allies would run provincial governments in Balochistan and KPK. With Dr Malik holding the helm in Quetta and Imran Khan’s PTI ruling KPK, the message was loud and clear. PML-N was exercising self-restraint.

With such wholesome initiatives he was signaling the arrival of a mature politician harking back the Charter of Democracy, which he signed in London along with the late Benazir Bhutto.

As luck would have it, he soon enough found himself facing a formidable challenge from PTI where Imran Khan launched a protest movement spread over 126 days accusing the PML-N of widespread rigging. Large rallies were held all over the country and dharnas set up in Islamabad. Nawaz was quick enough to address a letter to the Supreme Court requesting the court to appoint a judicial commission to probe allegations. The Supreme Court declined to respond. For months, Imran persisted with his protests. In the meantime, the pin-pointed four cases including Imran’s own election are nearing a closure. If he wins his own or one or two others, he is bound to press for early elections.

PTI had discontinued dharnas after the horrendous Peshawar school attack. The sit-ins may be resumed after the election tribunal judgments come through in PTI’s favour.

One could describe Imran’s highly successful campaign as a costly diversion for PML-N. The incumbent government is hesitant to concede to Imran’s terms of references for the judicial commission. Much will depend on how serious and vociferous Imran will be pressing for his demands for the commission and the subsequent fresh elections.

Although the military had launched a massive anti-terrorist operation in mid-2014 in FATA especially in South Waziristan and even North Waziristan, the horrible tragedy at the Army Public School in Peshawar finally turned the tables. In an all-parties-conference held with the military leadership, a National Action Plan was announced. No more talk of good and bad Taliban any more. NACTA was activated and a coordination mechanism for intelligence agencies instituted. Special legislation has been promulgated. And thousands of suspected terrorists and miscreants arrested. The media is not happy with the pace and quality of implementation of the National Action Plan. There is definitely room for improvement. Much will depend on the will and capacity of the provincial governments. One may here mention the provincial apex committees, which include senior military officers.

Most probably at the insistence of the Army Chief, a Rangers’ operation has been launched in Karachi. It is indeed a matter of disgrace if not shame that our largest metropolitan city, the economic hub and the largest seaport has been in the clutches of killers, monsters, extortionists and blackmailers. Dozens of civil servants and especially medical doctors have been targeted. Even the privileged lot is vulnerable.

Just how serious the military and the central government are to go all out to eliminate rabid violence and terrorism can be gauged from the raid carried out by the Rangers at the Nine Zero headquarters. Lethal weapons have been recovered and scores of miscreants arrested. This has caused a flutter in MQM’s dovecots. The PPP in Sindh too has shown its concern.

This indeed is a test case for the government, the military, political parties and local citizenry. If there is political give and take and political bargaining done, the rare opportunity to put things right may be lost. The federal interior minister is firm in his resolve not to relent.

The formation of the Provincial Apex Committees has raised eyebrows. Manifestly it is indicative of civilian administration’s grievous inadequacies. The increasing role of senior military officers in helping manage administrative tasks is not a positive development.

This brings to light the PML-N government’s general deficiencies in matters of governance. The general impression is that the government is very much enamored of large infrastructure projects but has little to show by way of people’s welfare. Health and education remain low priorities. Poor men and women run from pillar to post to get medical treatment and often fall victim to quacks. In my previous column I drew attention to gaps and lapses in school education and how little is being done to enhance quality in teaching and learning. The lower judiciary is considered to be a den of complicity and corruption. What good are the training institutions if there is no speedy delivery of civil services? Dozens of senior appointments remain unfulfilled because of lethargy and outmoded procedures. There is tremendous waste in stores. The other day there was this news of medicines worth millions rotting away in government premises.

Good that the federal minister for water and power has stressed the need for conservation of water. Water he said is the looming crisis facing the country. But he is serious about the wasteful use of water—in our homes, factories, offices and public places. The depth of potable water in Lahore has gone down to more than 600ft. This indeed is an unhappy development. Presently, water available to the citizens of Lahore is contaminated. It contains harmful bacteria and minerals. With water contaminated, with food adulterated, with malnutrition widespread at the lower strata of the society, with substandard education in government schools—what kind of a new generation are we producing?

It is time the dynamic Punjab chief minister descends from the high horse of launching large infrastructures and spends some time to see that the common man gets the services he keeps promising as Khadim-e-Ala. Imran Khan claims to have introduced revolutionary reforms in KPK. It is time an assessment is made to evaluate the impact of KPK’s initiatives.

Nawaz has again played his cards well. His endorsement of PPP’s Raza Rabbani for the office of Chairman Senate and letting the smaller parties get a share in the Senate management was wise political posturing. He should follow up this commendable step by persuading himself to take more interest in Senate affairs. It was unpardonable on his part to have ignored the Senate for a whole year. He may also avail of the new bonhomie, which characterised political parties in the recent Senate elections and chalk out an impressive programme for introducing desirable legislation in the Parliament.