In my last article I discussed the vital importance of a unified response (War Cabinet - Way Forward, The Nation, Oct 20, 2008). We traced the empirical perspective of our current security environment beginning from our independence to the present period. Today, we shall concentrate entirely on the current situation and find the best ways, means and ends to meet the challenges to our national security, nay our very existence. From the very beginning our threat perception has been unidirectional i.e., from India. India too till now has been obsessed with Pakistan. Some change is discernable and it is hoped that the new crop of entrepreneurs in India is more pragmatic and conscious of the collective strength of South Asia in the global arena. Pakistan too needs to change its mindset. Both top leaders in Pakistan, Mr Asif Zardari and Mr Nawaz Sharif, have shown that farsightedness. The earlier the two countries establish cordial relations on honourable terms the better for the two people. Unresolved matters can be relegated to better times. This is the best way to thwart negative forces in both the countries. Threat from the East has now transferred to the threat from the West. Pakistan can ill afford two front threat environment.The potential of threat from India may be more ominous but the danger is clear and present from Afghanistan and need our immediate response. However, the situation in Afghanistan is very complex as well. It is a no win situation for the time being. If American and NATO forces continue to stay alongside an inefficient, corrupt, ineffective and non-representative regime, freedom struggle will continue and its adverse implications for Pakistan. US incursions in our territory and our support to War On Terror is further stoking the fire of popular unrest and growing intensity in militancy. Change in the US Administration might bring a tactical reorientation but one wonders if there will be a paradigm strategic shift. Now the second scenario. Suppose foreign troops leave Afghanistan without long-term pacification. All developmental activities will come to a standstill. Karzai government will fall. Taliban, most likely, will take over once again. Their influence will spill over and existing Tehrik-e-Taliban will get further impetus and safe haven. Afghanistan which Pakistan considered its strategic depth will in reverse consider Pakistan as its strategic depth This portends serious security dilemma for Pakistan. Even now Talibans are trying to establish their kind of sharia administration in the Tribal areas and the districts of NWFP where they hold sway. Third possibility that after the withdrawal of the foreign troops, Afghanistan is governed by a moderate representative government which is rather remote at the moment. It will be the most desirable outcome but seems wishful. The Pakistan Army has for the last sixty years been trained and motivated to fight a conventional enemy India. Not that the army has not performed well in the UN peace keeping operations against other forces, fighting against own kith and kin in an unconventional warfare that is extremely hazardous especially in prolonged operations. It is imperative for our government that we disengage our troops from internal security and counter insurgency operations at the earliest. This is on one hand undermining the efficacy of one of the finest armies of the world and on the other causing serious material, physical and moral damage to the patriotic civilian population of the affected areas. Apart from the threat of militancy and insurgency the other most serious threat is our state of economy and well being of our people. We are broke. Inefficiency and corruption is rampant. Law and order situation is precarious. Poverty, unemployment, lack of civic amenities, poor health and education facilities, power shortage, inflation and absence of social justice are making the life of a common citizen unliveable. How do we meet these two major threats, security and progress? Do we have resources? We do have resources albeit not ideal. But whatever we posses we have not optimised to our full advantage. Our geopolitical location gives us a position of significance which the world can not ignore. We have sufficient natural resources. Our manpower is our biggest asset. Agreed our institutions especially the political have not matured. Do we wait and be left behind or take extra leap to catch up with the world? As far as the first threat i.e. militancy, we must aim at pulling back our army at the earliest. Raise para-military and civil armed forces. Improve local administration and judicial system. Make it effective, efficient, speedy and transparent. If Sharia Laws can do this we should implement them. It would be better to improve our own system and make it exceptional or atleast equal to what the Talibans are trying to give. Anomaly between the administration of the Tribal Areas through governor and rest of the Frontier Province should be removed through the provincial government. British did it to keep the Tribal Areas as buffer and not for any lack of will or capability. We do not have such constraints. The country should have one uniform set of laws and administrative mechanism. There should be massive uplift, development and moderanisation programmes in NWFP, Tribal Areas and also Balochistan. Hold local bodies elections in FATA and empower the people instead of ruling them through 'political agents' and Maliks. The government should reach out to the locals and even engage Talibans in a dialogue to remove their legitimate grievances and to motivate them to join the mainstream people of Pakistan. Economic aid from our friends including America should be used in a visible and tangible manner rather than trying to coerce or bribe a few. To improve the economy we should ask our experts to chalk out a comprehensive doable plan. As the one familiar with the public administration can suggest some general though essential measures. Foremost is the need for a national drive for austerity, thrift and frugal living. Last week we visited India and were invited to the Punjab chief minister's house and also to the official residences of their senior civil servants. Their austerity simply put us to shame. We need to drastically cut down our non-developmental expenditure including perks, and privileges. Both the government and public must pay their utility bills and taxes. We lack work ethics and there is no concept of performance audit. No one cares for time management; public servants, politicians, traders, shopkeepers and the people alike. The same Pakistanis become a role model when they live and work abroad. Back home they display complete apathy. Our drug peddlers get beheaded abroad however here they go scot-free. This sad state of affair is because we have not set an example at the top. We need to implement the Quaid's motto of Unity, Faith, and Discipline in letter and spirit. Now the last and the most important part: who will bell the cat? Not angels: we ourselves. In the last article we recommended formation of a War Cabinet. It has not evinced the kind of debate as envisaged. Perhaps one may think that a War Cabinet is needed only in times of war and against foreign aggression. Not really The essence of democracy is decision making through consensus and reflecting the will of the people. In normal circumstances it is done through the majority. Under exceptional circumstances exceptional measures are needed. Taking a leaf from the mother of all democracies i.e., Great Britain we suggested formation of a unified or national cabinet representative of majority party and party in opposition. Great Britain did that during the First and Second World wars. They have not faced domestic challenges in recent times as us otherwise they would have surely formed a national government. Churchill the leader of the House had equal representation from the opposition party in this national Cabinet, including Atlee the leader of the opposition, underlying the purpose being to strengthen the power and resolve of the government in taking bold decisions reflective of the collective will of the people. If Pakistan has to meet the present security threat and economic melt down then the Pakistan Peoples Party alone, despite best of its intentions, cannot accomplish this. Mere joint sessions of Parliament are an exercise in futility. The two major parties must rise to the occasion. They can temporarily freeze their differences for the sake of Pakistan. We need to put our total energies in formulating clear cut policies, implementing these with resolve and commitment and steering the nation with courage and fortitude. If Mr Zardari wants to be a man of the moment then whatever he is doing is fine. If he wants to be a man of history than he has to take bold and radical steps which may appear unpalatable on the surface but will create a niche for him in posterity. Same holds good for Mr Sharif. The writer is a retired lieutenant general E-mail: tariqrai@yahoo.corn