The first 100 days of any new government is typically a time to take stock. In the case of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the 100-day mark has passed largely unnoticed and without consequence. The third-time prime minister took office on a celebratory note. For the first time in Pakistan’s history, an elected government successfully completed its tenure, oversaw parliamentary elections and passed the mantle of leadership to a successor.

However, notwithstanding the celebratory note surrounding the manner in which Sharif has stepped in to office, the first 100 days have only sharpened scepticism, mainly driven by the new government’s failure to tackle Pakistan’s vital twin challenges: Security and economy.

If events of the past fortnight are any indication, Pakistan’s security conditions are more than just a passing reason for the rapidly deepening anxiety. Last Sunday’s killing of Major General Sanaullah Niazi, a Pakistan army commander deputed near the Afghan border in the northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, exposed the fragility of prevailing security conditions. The general was targeted by a Taliban bomb while he was visiting troops on the frontline.

Niazi’s killing took place less than a week after Sharif finally assembled a gathering of key political leaders as well as General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, the army’s chief of staff, for the so-called All Parties’ Conference (APC). The event happened after a two-month delay caused mainly by reported squabbling among its prospective participants.

The APC was held mainly to discuss Pakistan’s prevailing security conditions and seek agreement on a common theme for future policies. While the gathering agreed to arm Sharif with a supportive policy statement to open peace talks with Taliban militants active in areas along the Afghan border, subsequent events have exposed the fragility surrounding his position.

In addition to Niazi’s killing, the Taliban turned around in the face of the government’s offer of a new peace process, reciprocating with impossible conditions. These controversially included the demand for the release of Taliban prisoners as well as the withdrawal of troops from the region along the Afghan border. It is clear that unless the Pakistani state acquiescences in the face of terror and practically abandons its campaign against some of the country’s most notorious militants, peace talks cannot even begin.

Meanwhile, the economy remains in shambles notwithstanding the Sharif government patting itself on the back. In one of the most widely quoted examples of disorder in Pakistan, the rupee appears to have slipped by 8-9 per cent since Sharif took office. This devaluation, which must be among the steepest in Pakistan’s history, will only end up fuelling already high rates of annual inflation.

Tax bugbear: At the same time, the ability of Sharif’s government to reach out to prospective new investors remains in doubt thanks to controversial economic policies. Notwithstanding the rationale put across by Pakistan’s ruling quarters, the reality is that the rupee has lost value recently since the government decided to allow Pakistan’s notoriously corrupt tax officials to access any bank account across the country.

Though the measure was meant to detect illegally earned wealth, stashed away quietly away from the public eye, it has borne the brunt of criticism by investors. Many see this step as a recipe for disaster in a country with a long history of corruption and nepotism among tax officials.

While the failure to tackle lawlessness and militancy and improve south Asia’s worst-performing economy have disappointed many, Sharif runs the risk of failing to tackle other areas in urgent need of reforms. Across Pakistan, there is no shortage of work that needs to be done. However, without stabilising security conditions and fixing the economy, Pakistan’s future direction will only head south.

Going forward, Sharif’s choices are well-known and very obvious. He can either ignore the writing on the wall and press ahead with his view of the world, irrespective of the gravity of challenges surrounding millions of households across Pakistan.

On the other hand, Sharif and other politicians belonging to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) have the option to act freely, decisively and responsibly in setting the pace for a qualitatively better future for Pakistan. Tragically, however, the way to the future appears to be taking the country more towards the latter rather than the former.

The writer is a political and economic analyst. This article has been reprinted from the Gulf News.