No letup in violence and disorder in Karachi, Fata and Balochistan. Day after day, the mayhem goes on. Screaming headlines hit the front pages of newspapers. Heated discussions almost every night on the TV channels. The circus continues. So does the disastrous drift.

How will the rot be stopped? Who will stop the rot?

Who is in charge? Who makes the policy? How will things change?

Take the case of Balochistan. Do we have a government there? Yes, all the trappings are there. Elections, a cabinet, rules of business, laws, secretariat, ministers, departments, budgets, district administration and law enforcement agencies? But is there delivery of services? Is there law and order? Are development programmes implemented? Who is answerable to whom? Is there really a foreign hand pulling the strings? What is the role of the federal government? Are the opposition parties discharging their responsibilities? How can the army be persuaded to stop interfering in the civil affairs? How effective can be the higher courts’ directives?

On Wednesday last, the answers came in the form of a large advertisement of the Government of Balochistan that was published in a leading national daily under the title: “5th year of Unprecedented Public Service: Taraqi Bemisal - Awam Khushal.” It bore on the top, a sizeable photograph of the Chief Minister Nawab Mohammad Aslam Khan Raisani. Eighteen achievements that were listed in the advertisement include the following:

“Practical steps taken for provincial accord and unison.”

“Freedom of political activities and effective measures for the recovery of missing persons.”

“Efforts are underway to resolve the energy crisis through solar, wind and geothermal sources.”

The advertisement is rounded off with the statement: “The journey of people-friendly development initiatives - continues for the 5th year of public service. This has not only improved the standard of life of the people of Balochistan, but has also paved the way for Balochistan’s instrumental role in the economic development of Pakistan in near future - Inshallah.”

What a wonderfully befitting answer to the Supreme Court judgment that the government in Balochistan has failed to deliver. Is this the way, the Supreme Court verdict is to be acknowledged and honoured?

What a mockery, indeed, this expensive government advertisement is! What kind of message does it give to the people of Pakistan and particularly the alienated Balochis?!

Can one expect any improvement in the management of provincial affairs when its Chief Executive remains for weeks absent and away in the province? Will the federal government, headed as it is by the same party that leads the coalition in the province, take any meaningful step to remedy the situation in the light of the Supreme Court’s directives? Does it have the intent and the strength to take up matters with the army high command so that a process is initiated to normalise conditions in the benighted province?

The case of Balochistan has been cited to highlight the horrendous challenges Pakistan faces today.

A word now about the non-stop killings in Karachi, which speak volumes about the PPP-led coalition government in Sindh. All that the administration does is to tinker with the situation with its Interior Minister flying over to hold crowded press conferences and make hollow promises. This marry-go-round goes on and on. The economy suffers and so do the people. There is neither will, nor capacity to restore peace to this, our largest metropolitan city and country’s financial hub.

And now about the most challenging problem the country faces today - our north-western tribal areas. The attack on the brave teenager, Malala Yousafzai, has shocked the whole nation. Will this terrible tragedy wake up the government to come to grips with the formidable challenge the country faces to ensure the stoppage of the unending terrorist attacks.

Here too, there is no clarity about the problem. No defined policy. No integrated strategy. No taking the people into confidence. No understanding about the shape of things to come.

Strangely enough, this crucial matter has been left to the army high command.

Not just are the issues involved, highly complex, but they have formidably problematic external dimensions.

Sporadic efforts have been made in the past to discuss the matter in Parliament. Twice resolutions were passed in meetings of the National Assembly and the Senate. These have not been implemented. The political parties stand divided in their approaches to the resolutions of the issue. A school of thought favours a dialogue with the Taliban. Its foremost protagonist is PTI’s Imran Khan. Recently, he led a procession towards Waziristan. His argument is that all these years we have been fighting the Americans war. This war has created the Pakistani Talibans. All these suicide and other attacks are retaliatory strikes. Most of the Taliban are our own people, who have remained loyal to Pakistan. We have to talk to them. The foreign elements amongst them need to be identified and expelled. If an operation is launched in North Waziristan, there will be more trouble, more suicide attacks, more disorder and the fight would continue for years to come.

The other approach believes in stepping up military operations and seeking to exterminate the Talibans and other militants, including the extremists who want to take over the country or parts of it and enforce Shariat. The major group harbouring such designs is led by Maulvi Fazlullah, who operates from a sanctuary in the Kunar province of Afghanistan.

At the same time, Americans keep pressing for extending the military action to North Waziristan.

The matter is also linked to the endgame in Afghanistan. Pakistan has to keep in view the possible political dispensation in the neighbouring country. Also, a settlement in Afghanistan will have to have a regional dimension.

The burden of arriving at a desirable policy in the Fata - talking and/or fighting - rests on our national leadership. Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan, Chief of the PPP and ANP parties, plus the heads of the Jamaat-i-Islami and Jamaat-i-Ulema Pakistan, must sit together and hammer out an agreed strategy. The agreed approach should then be finalised in consultation with the military top brass. (Alas, there is no one in the country today like Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan, who could bring the diverse political elements together on one table and persuade them to come to some sort of a consensus.)

A competent, forward-looking, interim national government (which in any case has to be constituted for holding the general elections) should be set up as early as possible. The country cannot afford anymore delay and drift.

    The writer is an ex-federal secretary

    and ambassador, and political and international relations analyst.