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Hoping for a better year... By F Z Khan

09 January, 2014

The year 2013 has ended with a feeling of little success and many failures. The hope for the new year is that it will bring a brighter future. This is possible if the new leadership in the government, military, judiciary, along with the nation, go hand in hand to face the challenges. The challenges are on four major fronts: combating terrorism, strengthening political stability, overcoming energy shortages and dealing with unpredictable situations on our borders. Our fight against terrorism has entered a crucial phase; most of the credit for clearing the tribal areas of terrorist outfits goes to the army but the ulema, politicians, media and the intelligentsia need to do a lot towards fighting sectarianism and extremism both ideologically and intellectually.

This nation has to straighten its outlook by shedding sectarian prejudices. Besides, the trial of General (retired) Musharraf is to be seen in its true perspective, without putting the blame on the army. On the political front, a well-managed general election was held, which helped strengthen the roots of democracy. On the foreign policy front, the more serious challenge is going to emerge as observers see opportunities as well as dangers when the US-led forces leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014. However, the UN General Assembly's resolution on drone strikes is considered to be an achievement on the part of the government. On the economy front, years of campaigning in Brussels have finally paid off with an EU Parliament vote confirming wide-ranging trade concessions for Pakistan's exports under the EU's GSP-Plus scheme. Besides interacting with the world's financial institutions and pleading for an inflow of foreign assistance, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's priority list also seems to be focusing on improvement in bilateralism with India. The two countries need to work towards setting aside their baggage of history, prevailing mistrust, and lack of flexibility. We have no option but to normalise relations for the sake of peace and betterment of our people according to the message of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to India.

The most significant of all was the rendezvous of the DGMOs of both the Pakistan and India militaries, a rare event at the Wagha border that was enthusiastically highlighted by the world media. The Directors General of Military Operations, in their meeting, pledged to uphold the 2003 Line of Control (LoC) ceasefire accord which had been left in tatters. The two countries agreed to a number of steps to keep the ceasefire accord intact. It is expected that such meetings at the level of military commanders would lead to further contacts, believing that mutual trust and confidence once restored would result in taking up the bigger issues as indicated in the agenda of the composite dialogue.

F Z KHAN
Islamabad

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