In a break from tradition, the Prime Minister’s address to the nation on Monday evening was based on the grim realities of the situation. Only when the leadership is aware of and willing to admit to the problems faced by the nation, can progress be made.

Mian Nawaz Sharif touched on virtually every challenge Pakistan was confronting, but it was the critically important and demanding issue of energy about which he was unambiguous in telling the nation that a sudden and immediate solution was simply not possible. He did not mince his words to disabuse his listeners of the impression that if the government had the will, it could replace darkness with light overnight. Wiping the curse of loadshedding out, he maintained, would take five years. This is in contrast to promises made by the PMLN during the election campaign, but a more realistic assessment of the situation.

Apart from power shortages, he brought out the country’s two major concerns: terrorism and foreign policy issues. On militancy, Mian Nawaz repeated the PML-N’s well known mantra that it would hold talks with terrorists and, in the address, he made them an overly optimistic, unconditional offer of coming to the table.

However, he asserted, that in case a reasonable way out was not possible, his government would not hesitate to use force. But the problem with the idea of talks is: which group will Pakistani officials meet with, since militants are not a single homogenous entity. They represent different splinter groups, each carrying its own agenda. The government must be ready to tackle them militarily if it was serious about putting an end to it.

In his speech Mian Nawaz gave the impression of favouring a regional approach to foreign policy, with China and India both receiving special mention. With India, the Prime Minister suggested a policy of restraint and cooperation, but failed to mention how this progress could be sustained without the core issue of Kashmir being resolved. On China, he was unambivalent, declaring it to be a “truly sincere friend”, and most eager to help Pakistanis build momentum to an era of prosperity.

While Mian Nawaz’s speech contained much to mull over, it was mostly a lament of past failures and other than the energy plan, did not offer enough solutions to satisfy the people. While the PMLN’s national security policy continues to be seen as the best hope we have so far, it would be a good time for someone from the government to finally elaborate on what exactly it is.