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Challenges and response

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Kaleem Dean

Governments all over the world have the disadvantage of incumbency. Their political opponents and detractors always find it convenient to denigrate the policies of the sitting government to gain political mileage. Pakistan is no exception to this phenomenon. It is then left to the independent analysts and commentators to give a clear and impartial picture to the people.The PML-N government has completed three and half years of its rule, which are long enough a period to evaluate its performance. The best touchstone for judging how it has fared in changing the profile of the country is to look at the outcome of its efforts in dealing with the challenges that it inherited and the difficult situations that might have arisen along the way. That would surely warrant enumerating the perils and problems that confronted the country when as a result of the 2013 general election, the PML-N government won the franchise of the people to rule the roost to fix those problems.When the PML-N government assumed power — hardly anyone would tend to disagree — the country was engulfed in an ambience of gloom and despondency. The economy was in complete shambles marred by the debilitating energy crisis. The snowballing terrorism and religious extremism posed an existentialist threat to the country; Karachi, the industrial capital of Pakistan and a jugular vein of the economy was ruled by terrorists, target killers and the land mafia; and Balochistan was seething with insurgency and sectarian killings. Ostensibly, they were egregious and intractable challenges that needed political will and vision to take them on to turn the gloom and despondency engulfing the country into a vibrant hope. While evaluating the performance of the government in regards to the inherited challenges, it would perhaps be appropriate to have a glance over the condition of the economy first. The Prime Minister speaking to the media persons on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davosclaimed that the economy of Pakistan was gaining strength day by day, unemployment rate was declining, and foreign direct investment in Pakistan was increasing, GDP was rising, and consequently the confidence of the world in the economy of Pakistan was also being strengthened. It is really hard to contest the assertions of the Prime Minister in view of the fact that the World Economic Forum has declared Pakistan and China ahead of India among the developing countries in the inclusive development index. A State Bank report reveals 44 percent increase in the foreign investment during the first seven months of the current financial year. The World Bank recently predicted 5.1 percent GDP growth rate for Pakistan.The macroeconomic and structural reforms have indeed produced encouraging results. The veracity and authenticity of these claims have also been endorsed by the international institutions like IMF, Asian Development Bank and the global ranking agencies like Moody’s as well as the international media. Transparency International in its three successive reports has indicated a nosedive in corruption in Pakistan.In regards to the energy crisis, the situation has improved gradually. Nearly 3000 MW electricity has been added to the system. A number of power projects have been initiated under CPEC with a cumulative production capacity of 10,640 MW, which is likely to come on stream by the end of 2018. The import of LNG from Qatar has already started creating a positive impact on the energy situation in the country.As regards to dealing with terrorism, the government notwithstanding the constraints and the presence of debilitating factors, showed extraordinarycommitment and courage to take on the terrorist entities. It launched Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan in consultation with the military establishment and subsequently also put in place the National Action Plan to deal with the situation in the backdrop of an attack on APS, Peshawar. While our valiant armed forces executed the operation, the federal government and the political parties extended national ownership to it and the support that it required. The state institutions like parliament and judiciary also paved the way for the establishment of military courts through the 21st Amendment and its endorsement respectively that formed the most crucial element of NAP among other variables.Within two years since its commencement, Operation Zarb-e-Azb achieved its objective of clearing North Waziristan of the terrorists and their infrastructure. That could not have been possible without the unflinching commitment and the sacrifices rendered by our brave soldiers and their role in reconstructing the destroyed infrastructure and rehabilitating the TDPs. During the operation, 3,500 terrorists were killed, and 992 of their hideouts were destroyed. In achieving this, 490 troops lost their lives while 2108 were injured. The nation owes unqualified gratitude and appreciation to our armed forces for what they have done to winch the country out of an incredibly diabolical situation. The rehabilitation of the TDPs is in progress and to help them to restart their lives, mosques, schools and roads are being built with the full support and active participation of the troops. The macroeconomic and structural reforms have indeed produced encouraging results. The veracity and authenticity of these claims have also been endorsed by the international institutions like IMF, Asian Development Bank and the global ranking agencies like Moody’s as well as the international media.The Army has constructed 700Kms of the road in North Waziristan. To make sure that the terrorists do not stage a comeback to the area, new wings of FC and para-military forces are being raised to man the check posts along the Pak-Afghan border to regulate the movement of people through a process of verification of their antecedents. Alongside operation in North Waziristan, the army also undertook 19347 intelligence based operations in other parts of the country to pre-empt the backlash and to eliminate the sleeping cells and supporters of the terrorists in which 213 terrorists were killed. These operations have helped a great deal in curtailing the incidents of terrorism and contributed immensely to the improvement of law and order in the country.The situation in Karachi has vastly improved. As a result of the targeted operation, 1203 terrorists belonging to Al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, TTP and Tehrik-e-Swat have been arrested, including 636 target killers belonging to proscribed organisations and political parties — though the remnants of the terrorists are still carrying out sporadic terrorist attacks and target killings, as a retaliatory action. The insurgency in Balochistan has been checked in its tracks. Hundreds of insurgents have surrendered before the authorities, and the province is fast returning to normalcy. The precedingverifiable facts prove it beyond an iota of doubt that the PML-N government has been successful to a great extent in tackling the formidable challenges that it inherited. What was remarkable about the achievements so far is that they were accomplished in spite of diversion of enormous resources towards the implementation of Zarb-e-Azb, large payment of debts inherited by the government and economic losses incurred during the PTI and PAT sit-ins in Islamabad.

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