No other Prime Minister, perhaps anywhere in the world is under as much pressure as that of Pakistan.

Unnerving challenges and daunting dilemmas confront him in the face. How much burden can he and his government carry considering their vision, capacity, capability and taking in view past performance and the intimidating opposition that they have to deal with.

Too much is at stake. Democracy is under strain. The civil-military balance is tilted on one side. Shortage of gas and electricity keeps the public on edge despite considerable reduction in petroleum prices. Terrorism is taking a heavy toll. Funds meant for social development are being diverted to defence.

External relations demand urgent and enormous attention. India has opened the eastern front and is hurting the Pakistan army’s military operations against the terrorists. The US is reluctant to diffuse the situation and help Pakistan’s efforts to open a friendly dialogue with its large eastern neighbor.

Pakistan has made very special efforts to mend relations with Afghanistan. Its initiatives have been helped by the new Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani. The future of their currently improving relationship, however, will remain overshadowed by America and to some extent India. It is no secret that the US is keen for India to play a significant role in Afghanistan’s affairs—post NATO/US drawdown of combat troops.

The reality of the complexity of the Pakistan-US relationship remains a matter of serious concern for Islamabad. Not only because of US-India close relations but also the role US will continue to play in Afghanistan. Terrorism in Pakistan is still taken as a threat to US and international peace. Pakistan’s nuclear capability and assets attract US concerns and apprehensions. Islamic State’s linkages with some extremist elements in Pakistan have been talked about in the international media.

Because of various incidents and episodes involving US military action against targets in Pakistan, FATA and Abbottabad, Pakistan-US relations hit a steep low for the last 3 years. This strained relationship was also because of an increasing perception in Washington that Pakistan was playing a double role—sharing the American fight against Taliban but covertly helping them. Thus Islamabad was considered untrustworthy. Recent books by US important insiders/ journalists like, “The Deadly Embrace” by Bruce Reidel and the “Wrong Enemy,” by a leading American correspondent have exposed Pakistan as an unreliable and deceitfully ally.

The Pakistan army’s Hizb-o-Azab operation in North Waziristan has contributed substantially to bring about a change in Washington’s thinking about Pakistan. General Raheel Sharif’s two-week long visit to Washington and his meetings with senior military and civilian functionaries including John Kerry and influential Congressmen has helped this rethink on the part of the administration as evidenced by positive statements and renewal of the Coalition  Support Fund.

John Kerry’s recent visit (after his sojourn to India) was for assurance of US’s revival of interest in Pakistan’s affairs. It also coincided with US-Pakistan’s strategic Dialogue.

While showing concern at the tension between India and Pakistan he not only declined to persuade India to start talking but also drew Pakistan’s attention to attend to India’s grievances about Pakistan’s role in the Mumbai killings. Pakistan also raised the issue of sanctuary provided to Mullah Fazalullah. Kerry however, referred to this matter as a mere “assumption.”

Kerry appreciated the seriousness of purpose of Pakistan’s Prime Minister in fighting terrorism and making no distinction between good and bad terrorists. He also committed $250 million for the IDPs relief and rehabilitation.

A significant point arising out of his meetings in Islamabad as reported in the text issued by the State Department will be of interest to the readers: The $250 million dollars may not go fully directly to government. It will be focused on “projects.” “The US will continue to partner with Pakistan to reconstruct schools, hospitals, water supply systems and bridges in FATA.”

This is significant in the sense that it would entail the involvement of US engineers and contractors in sensitive tribal areas. This conditional contribution may be read along with a report that the purchase by Pakistan, of mine-resistant vehicles last year at a cost of $198 million was linked to the induction of two US government representatives and 24 contractors for 18 months to perform inspection and reprocessing of vehicles. Much more stringent conditions of certification by Secretary of State have been prescribed before the release of the Coalition Support Fund especially in regard to action against the Haqqanis.

The above details have been given to underscore the kind of relationship the US works out for Pakistan even when the money is provided for services rendered and purchases made on cash.

One wonders if Nawaz Sharif fully realizes the formidable responsibilities he has to attend to, taking all emerging difficulties especially in view of untoward developments as a breach in the political consensus, with JUI and Jamaat-e-Islami protesting against the 18th Amendment and the Bar Associations submitting petitions to the Supreme Court against it. And above all, Imran Khan (and PAT) flexing muscles to restart agitation against the incumbent government. One may also mention the heavy burden of highly complex one-and-half dozen tasks he has to undertake under the NPA expeditiously and satisfactorily. Add to it the PML-Ns worries regarding the upcoming the Appellate Tribunals’ Verdicts especially in the constituency contested by the National Assembly Speaker and Imran Khan.

Instead of speaking strongly against Imran Khan, the Prime Minister’s cabinet ministers should be directed to exercise self-restraint. Why not make a quick and determined effort to arrive at an agreement on the ToRs of the Commission asked for by Imran Khan?

Imran too is facing internal questioning and criticism these days, and should soften his destabilizing moves and keep up the unity and solidarity of the country at a time when India has turned hostile and most of the influential Western countries hold Pakistan in low esteem on various counts including our extremely poor polio record.

It is unfortunate that a vocal part of the media keeps pulling down the government instead of constructively helping it perform its tasks at this critical time. The country is in state of war. The Prime Minister must work on a war-footing to do his job. The old ways must be given up.

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

The author can be contacted at: pacadepak@gmail.com