MIAN Shahbaz Sharif is absolutely right: only unity among the ranks of the various forces, which are active in Pakistans society, can overcome the kind of trying challenges confronting it at the moment. Speaking at the 22nd annual ceremony to award gold medals, held under the joint auspices of the Pakistan Workers Trust and Nazria-i-Pakistan Trust on Saturday, he warned that our predicament was so grave that unless we were able to forge the required unity and strengthen the country, it carried the risk of a death warrant for us. As, sadly, this imperative has been missing from our socio-political fabric for quite some time, he would be also aware, as a wide-awake and experienced politician, how difficult, indeed impossible, the task becomes, especially since the very lack of unity in the first instance has brought us to this pretty pass. The primary ingredient of unity, there can be little dispute, is the national outlook. A cursory look at the Pakistani scene would shock anyone to note that even the political figures, who hold the fate of the country in their hands, have been driven to think in parochial terms. If coming from one end there is the unseemly threat of 'the Sindh card, from another, there is a call for change in the name of the province, and from yet another, the dangerous thought of separation - as if these were pertinent to the solution of issues of the day. And if the patriotic citizen was not yet baffled by this outright sacrilege to the golden principle of unity, faith and discipline, set out by the Quaid-i-Azam, there came an unexpected bombshell from the largest province in the form of a call to the terrorists to spare Punjab in pursuit of their nefarious goal. Luckily, the slip was quickly realised and clarified. Addressing the peoples problems would automatically strengthen the spirit of patriotism. Their economic woes that continue to aggravate would prove lethal to the cause of national interest. The other challenges - terrorism, the Indian threat, especially, in the form of water terrorism that stems from the Kashmir dispute and energy shortages - call for, apart from internal unity and cohesion, efforts at the international level. The US, which is doling out its favours to India, must be made to realise that its affirmation of friendship with Pakistan would carry little meaning if it turned a blind eye to New Delhis machinations aimed at striking at the root of our agricultural system and threatening our very existence. Washingtons help in getting a satisfactory solution of these real issues of Pakistan today alone can demonstrate that it means business in developing a strategic partnership with us. The forthcoming US-Pak meeting must raise tangible hope, if the anti-American tide in this country has to ebb away.