Having passed through some critical times in history, Pakistan has had more than its fair share of turmoil and mayhem. Shifting geopolitical scenario, decreasing resources, latest war techniques, all changes and challenges ask us to plan and adapt.
The post-NATO Afghanistan poses looming questions for Pakistan’s foreign policy. Fighting the war on terror has rendered Pakistan vulnerable internally, and it cannot afford possible fallout from Afghanistan’s political instability into its neighboring provinces. For this reason, Afghanistan’s peace, stability and territorial integrity is extremely desirable.
Deadlock on the Kashmir issue and the continuing tensions on the line of control are reflective of another external security dilemma Pakistan has been facing since its creation. With India’s growing position as South Asian leader, Indo-Israel nexus and the US’s leaning towards India to contain the increasing power of China, Pak-India strategic equilibrium is likely to be disturbed.
As the world grows apprehensive of another cold war between Russia and America, Pakistan’s talks with the Russians are a vital development. With Russia’s aim to play a balanced role in Asia with counter-terrorism and economic plans, Pakistan has to be careful in dealing with the two rival powers.
Starting with the news of pledging alliance and gathering recruits from the region, the presence of the ISIS is a key security concern for Pakistan. Already combating militancy through a full-fledged operation within its borders, Pakistan has given top priority to countering terrorism. Another daunting task ahead is taking control of the war-trodden area and the rehabilitation of the internally displaced families.
On the nuclear front, Pakistan is said to have the fastest-growing nuclear program in the world. By 2020, Pakistan can have a stockpile of fissile material that if weaponized, could produce as many as two hundred nuclear devices. On the nuclear threat initiative nuclear material’s security index, Pakistan stands the most improved state when it comes to securing its nuclear assets. In case of a nuclear accident, however, the emergency preparedness needs improvement.
Political contestation is being shifted from the parliament to the streets and the common man is losing his trust in a democratic government. Restoring his confidence through good governance, handling correctly the civil-military-judiciary relations and bringing back political stability amidst the current chaos are some of Pakistan’s immediate challenges.
The lingering Pakistani economy hopes to see better days as GDP growth rate is likely to increase to 5.85% from the current 5%, by 2020. But it has to overcome three major problems. Pakistan imports more than it exports, the latter being constrained by low productivity and limited access to reliable energy. Political instability has kept private investment low. The ever increasing foreign debt needs proper management for a sustainable economic growth. Solving the water and energy crisis, overhauling the tax infrastructure and accelerating progress in human development, especially education, are demands that need immediate attention. The Pak-China economic corridor, spanning over the next six years, is a promising venture for Pakistan in terms of energy and infrastructure projects. With better preparation and management, Pakistan can reap utmost benefit from this plan.
Pakistan will have the fifth largest population by 2050. The country must not only feed each one of the citizens, but should also have to make the citizens employable and obtain the demographic dividend through the skill sets needed for the 21st century. All these challenges will need to be managed within the competition for resources.
In addition to economic, security and political challenges, Pakistan faces psychological, social and diplomatic challenges on the non-kinetic battlefront. In this age of information, manipulating the minds is a greater victory than physical destruction. Our instabilities are heavily exploited to organize chaos.
Social injustice, ethnic and sectarian divide, corruption, mob mentality and extremism are problems which we have seen increase over the years. Confidence in state-run institutions, intelligence agencies and the military is being replaced with a perception of institutional decay. In the cyber domain Pakistan has being subjected to attacks and will continue to be prone to such threats. A cyber attack at a critical time on our nuclear facility, data networks, telecommunication hubs and electricity grid may be the worst case scenario. Hearts and minds are being controlled through foreign aid and our culture is being blurred through entertainment channels.
It is our sincerity, strategies, and implementation techniques that will differentiate us as victors from victims in the testing times ahead.