The Karachi Corps Commander’s speech on the state of affairs in the metropolitan city and other places laid bare the rank incompetence of the civil administration. It also declared that the military would be going the whole hog to crush the militant groups and miscreants.

Although intermittently, the interior minister and the Punjab chief minister have been explaining various steps taken under the National Action Plan, the general impression generated by the media and the opposition is that the civilian governments at the centre and the provinces have not moved fast enough to implement most of the tasks unanimously agreed to, by all the political parties. It is also said that NACTA has yet to be made functional and the joint intelligence directorate has yet to come into existence. This delay calls for an explanation by the government.

The Corps Commander did not mince words when he censured the political elite and their involvement in the activities of the various mafias.

For peaceful conditions to return to Karachi and the rest of the country, it is vital that all the NAP points are simultaneously dealt with vigour and speed, including the squeezing of financial sources of the extremist entities as also a thorough reform of the madrassas. The plan demands both long-term and short-term initiatives. Government will be well-advised to carry out a monthly review of progress made during the previous 30 days. These reviews should be undertaken by provincial governments as well as the federal administration, and a press conference held to answer questions raised by the media.

The recent remarks by Supreme Court judges about the failure of civilian government to ensure maintenance of law and order also calls for introspection and a revamping of law enforcement agencies at various levels.

Although Nawaz Sharif has been quite active in discharging his duties and has been holding successfully all parties conferences on some of the major issues, there has been a visible shift of power to the military. This may not augur well for the future of democracy in Pakistan. The present disorderly and desperate conditions do call for an iron had to sort out the terrible mess created over the years. Hopefully the military would continue its present stance and not fall to the temptation of direct management. To avoid such an eventuality, the politicians will have to reset their minds and mend their behavior. It is for their own good to attend to their tasks diligently and honestly to achieve the desired results.

To effectively bring about a change in government’s conduct and performance, its faults and foibles need to be pointed out continuously. In response, the government should go out of the way to provide convincing answers to the questions addressed to it. Besides the central government, all the provincial governments should have a mechanism for this purpose. Why not set up a special directorate which keeps people informed of the implementation of components of the various Pakistan projects. All that we have at present are the special spokesman for the prime minister and information and interior ministers themselves, off and on, making statements and holding conferences. Not only is expeditious action and transparency called for, people must be kept informed of the steps taken and feedback used to bring about improvements.

Fortunately for Pakistan at this point of time positive factors have emerged which help keep a keen eye on the government’s performance. What I have in a mind is the civil society organizations, higher courts and the media. These are playing their role commendably, except that the electronic media sometimes goes beyond the dictates of propriety and balanced behavior. Some of the television channels’ anchors also need to review their style and inclination for bravado.

Unfortunately, in Pakistan, almost everything becomes controversial. Starting from the early days, there is this question of identity which keeps popping up now and then. Although we have a Constitution passed by the elected representatives of the people almost unanimously, off and on voices are heard to bring about basic changes in it. There are also calls for reconciling Islamic Imperatives with the demands of a modern democratic state. Jinnah’s 11th August speech is quoted to emphasize the importance of secularism in the affairs of the state while the Objectives Resolution is cited to highlight the role of religion in the body politic.

How was it that the Kalabagh dam—a natural site for storing water got politicized and has since been an unresolved controversial matter. This dam could have helped to meet the energy gap to some extent, besides saving a lot of water which every year flows down the drain to the sea.

The latest controversy has risen about the route of the Chinese Pakistan Economic Corridor. The Prime Minister has sought to take heads of political parties into confidence. The differences, however, persist. Asfandyar Wali Khan has gone to the length of holding an all parties conference of the opposition parties. It is vital that our top government leadership sits with the opposition and sorts out the differences without delay. Too much is at stake—46 billion dollars of investment and a transformed Pakistan. The matter should not be allowed to linger on. Please Mr. Nawaz Sharif focus on this issue and have it settled within the next 3 or 4 days. As hinted by the ANP chief, it must not become another Kalabagh.

Another controversy relates to the use of Urdu as our official language. The decision was to be enforced as required by the Constitution in fifteen years. Is the government ready to implement the constitutional obligation if the Supreme Court, which is presently hearing a petition about the status of Urdu as the country’s official language, orders that all official work henceforth would be done in Urdu? Has the government done its homework and is it fully prepared to meet this hugely complex challenge?

The national policy for education too suffers from lack of clarity and distortions. Time and again our leaders talk of introducing one curriculum for all schools and text books free of misconceptions and distortion of history. It is said that instead of all children having a common curriculum, as is the case in many countries, we have different types of schools and are thus bringing into existence three different “nations”—one modern and westernized, another studying in government schools and the third consisting millions of generally poor students raised by Madrassas. Over the years we have had about a dozen national educational policies. The controversies indicated, however, remain unaddressed. Why can’t we settle these matters so that we can move forward with clarity and confidence? Why this lack of will?