Challenging Times

Challenging Times

The year 2021 presents a host of internal and external challenges for Pakistan. The country not only has to fight the biggest health crisis in recent history in the form of a widespread pandemic but the changing regional geopolitics, the widespread uncertainty in neighboring Afghanistan, a dwindling economy and rising inflation, and the politics of division collectively pose a serious threat to national security.

The superpower rivalry and changing geopolitical realities present serious foreign policy challenges for Pakistan. As the US shifts its focus towards containing China, Pakistan being a Chinese ally is prone to hostility by the US and its Western allies. In addition to this, the Biden administration views India as a key ally and strategic partner as part of its
renewed efforts to hinder China’s rise. The situation is complicated by the fact that Pakistan is in dire need of resumption of the suspended IMF program where the US and its allies have considerable say. Moreover, the country also has to graduate out of the so-called Grey list of FATF in the coming review meeting of the watchdog. This is particularly concerning given there is a piece of considerable evidence that the platform has been used as a geopolitical tool by India and its strategic partners to defame Pakistan. The situation demands a careful and in-depth analysis of foreign policy choices. Pakistan has to tread with extreme care and vigilance in order to maximize its national interests.

Secondly, the evolving situation in neighboring Afghanistan is yet another matter of grave concern for Islamabad.
The Taliban’s failure to deliver on their human rights commitments and the resultant denial of international legitimacy and financial assistance from Western capitals for the war-torn country presents a bleak picture. A humanitarian crisis is inevitable in case of a continued deadlock between the Taliban regime and the Western alliance. Such a situation could have negative spillover effects for Pakistan in the form of a massive refugee influx. The country with its meager resources and a downtrodden economy is hardly in a position to accommodate further refugees. Hence, it is imperative for Islamabad to convince the neighboring newborn regime to deliver on its commitments as per the Doha agreement and continue to advocate for humanitarian assistance for the Afghans on all
international platforms.

Thirdly, in the wake of the global hike in prices of essential commodities, the common citizenry has to bear the brunt in the form of ever-increasing inflation and skyrocketing prices of commodities. There is a piece of substantial evidence from the past that when essential commodities become out of reach for the majority there is a high risk of criminal tendencies among the masses. The government needs to intervene and provide relief to the poor and marginalized sections of society on an urgent basis. Staunch policy measures coupled with ramped-up administrative efforts to keep inflation in check is the need of the hour.

Finally, the widening gap between the ruling party and the opposition and their disagreement on matters ranging from electronic voting machines to the newly promulgated NAB ordinance poses a serious threat to national unity. The rising domestic discontentment among the masses and strong criticism from various sections of the society should compel the leadership of the country to rise above the politics of confrontation and set aside the political differences with the opponents for the sake of the common good. The political bickering and name-calling are doing the country no good. The incumbent government and the opposition need to form a united front in order to combat the ever-mounting internal and external challenges. The country needs this now more than ever.