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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.

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