The nation witnessed some achievements as well failures of the government during the year 2013. Pakistan continues to face fiscal deficit, trade deficit and current account deficit, which has increased the debt burden. Since 50 per cent of revenue income goes to debt-servicing, the government cannot allocate adequate funds for education and health sectors. Volumes have been written on causes of the multifaceted crisis Pakistan is facing, but no serious effort seems to have been made as to what should be done to overcome the crisis. Unfortunately, our economic managers and ‘financial wizards’ always find it convenient to approach the IMF for loans with harsh conditions such as selling prime national assets in the name of privatization; increasing indirect taxes like value-added tax to the chagrin of poor masses; enhancing electricity tariff and development levy on petroleum products to add to their woes. Pakistan finds itself in the midst of despair; the people entangled in an unending struggle for survival, as there appear to be no integrating forces, no unified meaning and no vision to lead us out of the blind alley.

In first five months, the previous government continued to procrastinate on implementation of the verdicts of the apex court. However, the incumbent executive vows to abide by the Constitution. The judiciary too maintains that it is acting in accordance with the Constitution, and the lawmakers are committed to go by the book. They, however, insist on their constitutional privilege to amend the constitution and enact laws, whereas Chief Justice of Pakistan has more than once remarked that Supreme Court can strike down any amendment to the Constitution. Some analysts describe it judicial activism. Of course, Supreme Court through its verdicts did put a break on rampant corruption of the ruling elite. After decades of military dictatorships and civilian autocratic rules the state institutions are perhaps for the first time finding a climate of openness to breathe in. The higher judicial appointments were once the closed preserve of the superior judiciary alone, but now the legislative branch has a say in them.

People had come out in droves on elections day to cast their votes in May 2013 elections with the hope that they would get some relief after the new government was installed. But they continue to suffer from unprecedented increase in electricity tariff, ever-increasing prices of petroleum products and essential items of daily use. There is despondency and frustration all over due to deteriorating law and order situation, load shedding, unemployment and runaway inflation. People seem to be disillusioned by the PML-N government, as the PML-N lost its seat to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf in by-elections in Faisalabad, which was once its stronghold. Nevertheless, amid gloom there is something for the people to cheer up and to be proud of. The World Economic Forum (WEF) released its annual Young Global Leaders (YGL) list of 2013 that included four Pakistani achievers among the 199 young leaders from 70 countries. But there were other landmark achievements during the year under review. The year has been significant in that the assemblies, federal and provincial governments completed their tenures; and after the elections the transition has been smooth.

Though the PML-N got majority in the National Assembly and provincial assembly in Punjab, it did not fair well in Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The PPP secured a comfortable majority to form government in the province of Sindh. In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf got majority of the seats and formed a coalition government with Jama’at-e-Islami. In Balochistan, the National Party formed the government in coalition with the PML-N. Though PML-N had secured more seats but to express solidarity with Baloch nationalists the slot of chief minister was given to the National Party. In May 2013 general elections, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) lost its federal credentials and became a regional party almost confined to Sindh province. In fact, the PPP during its five-year tenure failed to come up with any concrete development projects, which could have been politically sold in the elections. The PPP leadership was banking on constitutional reforms and amendments to the constitution only. Some analysts and political eminences may have appreciated those amendments and so-called reforms, but the people were not impressed by those amendments because they were not the beneficiaries.

The PML-N government had already too much on its plate, yet it deemed it appropriate to hold trial of former COAS/president Musharraf under Article of the constitution for subverting the constitution, which would certainly open new vistas of legal interpretations necessary to prove the offence of high treason. In the original Constitution of 1973, Article 6 held only those people guilty of high treason that abrogated or subverted the constitution, or conspired, aided or abetted the dictator. The 18th Amendment to the Constitution however amended this Article by adding the words, “suspends or holds in abeyance”. In TV talk shows Musharraf’s lawyers argue that he proclaimed emergency and suspended the constitution on 3rd November 2007, whereas the 18th Amendment through which the ‘suspension’ or ‘holding the Constitution in abeyance’ was included in the offence of ‘high treason’ was enforced in April 2010. They take the plea that at the time of Musharraf’s action, the suspension or holding of the constitution in abeyance was not an as offence of high treason. Their line of argument is that had the act of 12th October 1999 not been legitimized by the judiciary, November 2007 would not have happened.

In September 2013, All Parties Conference (APC) was held at prime minister’s house, in which a consensus was reached that negotiations with the militants should be pursued as the first option to counter terrorism. The draft resolution drawn up at the end of the conference was carefully worded and not even a hint was given about the use of force in case the negotiations fail. The purpose was that the militants do not reject the peace offer once again. After the introductory two points of the Resolution, under the third point it expressed uneasiness over non-implementation of the recommendations relating to national security contained in declarations of APCs organized from 2011 to 2013 by the PPP, ANP, JUI-F and the Resolution adopted by the Joint Sitting of Parliament and recommendations thereon of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS). But the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan either did not respond favourably, or came out with conditions that were not acceptable to the government. However the prospects for negotiations with the TTP were obscured with the drone attack that killed Hakimullah Mehsud, head of the TTP.

After years of target killings and syndicated crimes in Karachi, there was national consensus that there should be targeted operation against killers, criminjals and extortionists in Karachi, as it was taken hostage by the land mafias and bhatta mafias. Earlier, MQM supremeo Altaf Hussain had demanded of the government that operation in Karachi should be conducted by the army. There is quite some progress, as many of the extortionists, terrorists and members of the banned outfits have been arrested. However, the terrorism stalks the entire land; and the thugs have been slaughtering our innocent citizens, including children and women in terrorist attacks on markets, shopping plazas, school children buses and places of worship. They targeted our sensitive security assets including the army GHQ, and the ISI, navy and air force establishments. Anyhow, many accused were released due to lack of evidence, and also because of fear in the absence of adequate security for witnesses and judges. There is a pressing need to look at the method of trial of terrorists and terrorism suspects. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif wants impenetrable security shied to the judges; but it should be extended to the prosecutors and human witnesses also.

Addressing participants of ‘Vision 2025’ Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif stressed the need for speedy justice in the country, and said that all cases, particularly those related to terrorism, should be heard and decided within 14 days. To eliminate terrorism from the country, he said he would consult all the political parties to bring constitutional amendments envisaging no bail for the criminals involved in heinous crimes. He added that federal and provincial governments would bring laws for the protection of judges dealing with terrorism cases, allowing judges to use masks to hide their identity and conduct hearings through video links, if needed. Of course, there is need for a unified and collective front not only to frustrate designs of the anti-Pakistan forces but also to reduce the threat of terrorism. Present government has indeed taken steps to deal with the militants. On 6th November 2013, three ordinances were moved in the National Assembly with a view to making electronic evidences acceptable to the courts, and to provide complete protection of law to all civil and military law-enforcement agencies to enable them to discharge their duties within the parameters of the constitution.

On fag end of its tenure, the PPP-led government had formally awarded a contract for expansion and operation of Gwadar Port to China to be operated by the state-run Chinese firm, ‘China Overseas Port Holding Company’ (COPHC). China is likely to make the Gwadar Port fully operational, which will make Balochistan a commercial hub and improve the lives of the people.

On 24th November 2013, there have been two positive developments which would have positive effects in the region and the world at large. After four days of negotiations, representatives of the P5+1 group of nations - the US, the UK, Russia, China, France and Germany - reached an agreement with Iran, by which Iran has agreed to curb some of its nuclear activities in return for about $7bn (£4.3bn) in sanctions relief. Iran’s right to develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes has been accepted. Iran on its part agreed to give better access to inspectors and halt some of its work on uranium enrichment. The same day, Afghan grand assembly (loya jirga) endorsed a crucial security agreement allowing some US troops to stay on after 2014. Pakistan leadership has to conduct in a manner that Pakistan benefits from these landmark events.