A chastened and sober Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif spoke to the nation to spell out his vision and the challenges faced by the country. It was his first televised address. The address has since been subjected to considerable criticism. “Little of substance” was the caption of the editorial of a leading English newspaper. The TV talk shows too grilled him for not being more decisive. He was accused of pessimism. He was found long on problems and short on solutions. His glowing references to his previous government’s achievements were not appreciated. A major default on his part, it was remarked, related to the omission to come up with a clear and decisive policy to address terrorism.

Indeed, some of the criticism was unwarranted and unnecessary.

However, the area about which more should have been said is the making of a good security policy and how it was to be implemented. It has to be conceded that despite Nawaz Sharif’s deep concern about the havoc played by terrorists, a sense of urgency was missing. There actually has been an increase in the number of terrorist strikes since the new government took over. According to one estimate, there have been more than 100 strikes in 75 days and about 350 casualties. While the Interior Minister has talked about the making of a counter-terrorism policy and establishing an effective system and institutional framework, these have yet to be formulated, finalised, and approved.

Also, PM Nawaz made no mention of an All Parties Conference. The general impression is that the government is not moving fast enough. Of course, it is a daunting situation and it is not easy to come to a final decision. But delay in catching the bull by the horns will only make the problem all the more difficult.

This government carries a credible mandate and should, after quick consultations, have by now framed an anti-terror policy and, in fact, should have been seen implementing it.

As suggested in my last column, there is no harm arranging a tripartite meeting amongst the COAS, Imran Khan, and the Prime Minister. Why Imran Khan? Because he has a well thought out solution of his own and heads the party that, except for PML-N, secured the maximum votes in the May 2013 elections.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s latest move to redesign the Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) as Cabinet Committee on National Security (CCNS) is a step in the right direction. According to an official statement issued by the PM’s office: “The CCNS will be chaired by the Prime Minister and would include ministers of foreign affairs, defence, interior and finance, the JCSC chairman, and chiefs of staff of Pakistan army, navy, and air force.

“The committee will focus on the national security agenda with an aim to formulate a national security policy that will become the guiding framework for its subsidiary policies - defence policy, foreign policy, internal security policy, and other policies affecting national security.”

The Prime Minister highlighted that Pakistan was facing formidable challenges domestically, while far-reaching developments are taking place in the region. Keeping this in view, the DCC’s meeting that was held on August 22 decided to fully support the international community’s efforts for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan, and work to comprehensively upgrade Pakistan’s bilateral relations with it in all dimensions. It received a briefing on the situation along the LoC and took note of the continued violations of the ceasefire. Pakistan’s policy of restraint and responsibility was highlighted. The committee condemned in the strongest terms the unprovoked firing in the Shaqma sector, which resulted in the death of Captain Sarfraz. It was strongly emphasised that the ceasefire should be maintained in letter and spirit, and all military and diplomatic channels should be used to prevent or stop ceasefire violations. It was emphasised that Pakistan would also continue to seek dialogue and resolution of all outstanding issues with India peacefully.

As for talks with the Taliban, according to an earlier report, the dialogue will be taken up only with those who agree to lay down their arms and accept the supremacy of Pakistan’s constitution. Later, reports indicated that no such conditions have been imposed. The Talban are reported to have responded positively to the decision to have talks with the government.

Reverting to the PM’s television speech, some of the other points made were:

(a) Determination to improve the economy. “We cannot achieve any target without strengthening the economy of Pakistan.”

(b) End the electricity crisis within five years (an addition of 1700 MWs has already been registered; Rs 480 billion have been paid against the circular debt; Nandipur and Neelam projects are being activated; and coal-based 6600 MWs plants will be established in cooperation with the Chinese at Gadani).

(c) It is time for a bold review of the foreign policy. Develop good ties with all neighbours, including India.

(d) The government has a clear-cut position on drone attacks. US Secretary of State John Kerry was told to stop these attacks.

(e) Kashmir is the “jugular vein” of Pakistan.

(f) There was no room for corrupt and inefficient officials.

(g) Assist the provincial governments to eliminate lawlessness.

(h) Help develop Karachi; initiate the underground metro project.

(i) Federal government to provide resources and support to the Balochistan provincial government for the restoration of peace and for development.

(j) A programme for the welfare of youth would be announced soon.

(k) A low-income housing scheme was being prepared to provide houses to millions of shelter-less people.

(l) The Gwadar-Kashgar road/rail project will change the region’s destiny.

The Prime Minister, nevertheless, made no mention of the Iran-Pakistan pipeline project. This was a serious omission. Is he under American or Saudi pressure not to pursue this project? It would be a folly to do so. India and many other countries have economic relations with Iran. India imports oil from Iran without incurring any American sanctions.

In his address, PM Nawaz Sharif should have empathised with the misery of the people and announced some relief for them. For the poor and the deprived, his eloquent speech was so much hot air.

Another omission: there was no reference to the local government elections. Local government is practically the third tier of government. Its revival deserved to be highlighted by the Prime Minister.

Lastly, here was an opportunity to motivate the people to help the government in its stupendous tasks to overcome the formidable economic, security, and administration problems. A time to show leadership. A time to talk about a ‘New Pakistan’ and whatever it takes to realise the national goals.

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