There are reasons to believe that a bright future is ahead of Pakistan – thanks to the epoch-making achievements during 2018 that, we in Pakistan Observer, regard as year of democratic transition and restoration of much-needed peace and stability. Political analysts and diplomatic observers agree that Pakistan was under long and dark shadows of political and economic instability as well as monster of extremism and terrorism but the year 2018 witnessed a wholesome transformation that augurs well for democratic process, economic development and sustainable peace and security that have always been a dream for every patriotic Pakistani.
There is no doubt that the credit for these successes goes to the resilience of people of Pakistan who stood firm and united in the face of a host of internal and external challenges and threats. They foiled designs of our enemy and its local corroborators, putting aside political or other differences for the sake of a better and prosperous future of the country. However, it would be unfair if we do not acknowledge the role and contribution of all those who led this struggle of national survival and put Pakistan back on track in almost every respect.
No one would differ that the cherished objective of progress and development cannot be achieved without enduring peace and stability. Without going into the genesis of how extremism and terrorism raised its ugly head in Pakistan, it would suffice to say that the threat posed an existential threat to the country. The internal security situation was perilous impacting upon investment and economic growth besides tarnishing the image of the country in the comity of nations. The situation was so complicated that there was an unending debate whether Pakistan was part of the problem or part of the solution. However, our valiant armed forces waged an all-encompassing war against terrorism and surpassed all others in achieving measurable success against the menace. It is because of tremendous sacrifices and concrete achievements that there is a realization among members of the international community that Pakistan is part of the solution and the US too has indirectly admitted this reality by making repeated requests to Pakistan for cooperation in finding a politically negotiated solution of the longstanding Afghan conflict, an approach that Pakistan has sincerely been advocating for the long term interest of Afghanistan, the region and beyond. This latest convergence in views of Pakistan and the United States raises expectations of early solution of the problem. It is also a hard reality that Pakistani armed forces, through their combined operations during 2018, were able to break the backbone of terrorists and that is why there was a marked reduction in incidents of terrorism during the year. It was for the first time that a comprehensive operation was undertaken in tribal areas, depriving the US and Kabul authorities of excuses to malign Pakistan on account of cross-border terrorism. Now cross-border terrorism takes place from Afghanistan into Pakistani territory and this issue has been taken up both with the US and the Kabul Government. Pakistan also demonstrated its resolve and sincerity in the war against terror by a set of far-reaching measures aimed at border management. Fencing of long and tortuous border, which is expected to be completed this year, would go a long way in ensuring peace for people on both sides of the Durand Line and restricting movements of terrorist elements. Pakistan Air Force deserves special mention for waging relentless and effective counter-terrorism and insurgency operations and according to defence experts air forces of other countries can learn much from PAF’s experience. Pakistan Navy too, despite paucity of resources, is doing Herculean job in ensuring maritime security and protecting the country against sea-bound terrorism or mischief by our enemy. It was because of all-round achievements that Director-General ISPR Major-General Asif Ghafoor rightly pointed out at a news briefing recently that Pakistan is the only success story in the world against war on terror. Pakistan Armed Forces, therefore, contributed immensely in making the world more safer place to live in despite adverse propaganda and limited financial and technological resources.
Another important aspect of the tremendous contribution of armed forces to the security and progress of the country is their commitment to secure all projects under the umbrella of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and provide security to Chinese manpower working on them. CPEC is a purely economic oriented project aimed at progress of people of Pakistan, China and the region but despite all this there is illogical opposition to the gigantic initiative by some countries especially India. India is on record having declared on a number of occasions to make efforts to undermine the project but it was because of foolproof security and over-arching support of the armed forces that the project is progressing well as per schedule. Here one may pay tribute to General Qamar Javed Bajwa whose initiatives known as ‘Bajwa Doctrine’ have eased Pakistan’s economic and security problems and are leading to robust bilateral cooperation with some of the key neighbours and world capitals.
The year 2018 also witnessed peaceful and orderly democratic transition after completion of tenure of an elected Government. Though initially there had been apprehensions that the democratic process might suffer a setback due to political instability and some judicial interventions but thanks to the commitment of the Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Saqib Nisar and the COAS the electoral process moved ahead successfully and resulted into smooth change of power. There are different schools of thought interpreting the judicial activism in their own way but the fact remains that overall it has led to improvement in governance and provision of relief to the people. The way the judiciary is taking exception to instances of corruption and wrong doings by those at the helm of affairs would surely inculcate a sense of caution and responsibility among past, incumbent and future rulers. Corruption has assumed alarming proportions and it is hoped that the precedents set by the judiciary would help keep a check on such practices and the country would ultimately move towards good governance. Water scarcity is becoming an issue of life and death for agrarian-based Pakistan economy and with this in view the vigorous campaign undertaken by the CJP to raise funds for construction of two major water reservoirs on which there is complete consensus would always be remembered in golden words. Similarly, despite criticism, his contribution in creating necessary awareness about population explosion, plight of health and education sector and irregularities by housing societies and other institutions has made a difference. He has compelled private schools charging hefty fees to reduce their fees by 20% and stopped fleecing of cell phone users who were made to pay undue and unfair taxes.
There were also positive developments on the foreign policy front as the civil and military leadership have resisted exploitative foreign pressure, safeguarded core interests of the country zealously, highlighted the cause of Kashmiri people, established peace credentials of Pakistan and made peace overtures to regional countries including India through measures like opening of Karpartur corridor.
The most visible change of 2018 was installation of a new democratically elected Government under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan. PTI was able to establish its presence in all the four provinces, formed its governments at the Centre, Punjab and KPK and joined the coalition in Balochistan. There are numerous challenges to the country and the new Government is moving steadily to address them squarely. The most worrying was the economic and financial crunch but it is appreciable that the Prime Minister was able to convince friendly countries like Saudi Arabia, China, UAE and Turkey to provide meaningful assistance to the country to bail it out of the prevailing crisis. No doubt, foreign loans and aid are no answer to the problems of the country and it is because of this that the Government is taking bitter but necessary measures to reduce Pakistan’s dependence on others and its ultimate movement towards self-reliance. Foundations are being laid for peace, development and welfare of the people through a process of well-conceived and far-reaching reforms. Prime Minister Imran Khan has the sincerity and commitment to lead Pakistan on the path of dignified progress and prosperity and hopefully all segments of the society would extend a helping hand to him in realizing this noble objective.