Within the next ten days, Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif is poised to become Prime Minister of Pakistan for the record third time,  as a consequence of the trust reposed in him by the people of Pakistan. It is indeed a matter of great rejoicing for all the democracy loving people--- as the transition of power is taking place through the power of the ballot--- more so for the leadership of PML-N and those who voted for the party. So far so good. But the enormity and gravity of the challenges that the country is faced with is such that there is hardly any time for the honeymoon. People’s expectations are very high and they would expect miracles from Mian Saheb to fulfill them. The catch is that high expectations can easily turn into frustrations if the promises are not translated into reality.

Speaking to the MNA and MPAs elect from all over Pakistan at Lahore, Mian Sahib did indicate the contours of his plan to deal with the challenges, although a detailed and comprehensive strategy might be unveiled after he is formally sworn in as  Prime Minister. In regards to tackling terrorism, he again repeated his stance of entering into negotiations with the Taliban to ensure peace in the country which he thought was absolutely necessary to revitalize the economy and to save billions of dollars that have been wasted on the war on terror. He however did not spell out the agenda of the talks that he contemplates will get them going towards establishing peace in the country.

His statement also impliedly suggests that he still stick to his view about the ownership of the war on terror which conflicts with what General Kayani said a few days ago at a ceremony held at GHQ, terming the war on terror Pakistan’s own war and his latest statement that the people of Pakistan voted to defeat the misguided minority. I believe is that the recent meeting between General Kayani and Nawaz Sharif at Lahore was about letting him know the perceptions of the army leadership about the war on terror and the security paradigm that it thought suited the country and to apprise him what was actually at stake in deviating from the adopted course, so that to avoid any showdown between the security forces and the elected government publicly. Similarly the Khakis also have well considered views on relations with India in the context of the security threats emanating from that country.

On the face of it, nobody in his right mind can take an issue with resolving issues through negotiations with the Taliban and improving relations with India, but unfortunately it is not as simple as said. There are innumerable and convoluted factors, including internal and external having bearing on these issues which cannot be removed from the way unilaterally despite the best wishes. Smoothing out the difference of perceptions on both these issues with the army leadership will be a great test of the political acumen and vision of Mian Nawaz Sharif. There is no denying the fact that being Prime Minister of Pakistan and elected leader mandated to rule for five years, the policies formulated by his government, including the foreign policy and security, will have to be and ought to be faithfully pursued by all concerned, but at the same time it is also incumbent upon him to accord due consideration to the inputs provided by the state institutions.

Mian Sahib promised to give top priority to tiding over the energy crisis and rightly so because this is an issue on which during the election campaign he has been castigating the PPP regime for plunging the country into darkness. He, unlike Shahbaz Sharif, very wisely avoided giving deadlines for eliminating the power outages because the problem is too acute for anybody to predict a time-line for getting over it. Pakistan has an installed power generating capacity of 23,000 MW of electricity from all modes of production including hydel, thermal and nuclear but we are producing only around 10,000 MWs at the moment against the current demand of 14500 MWs. The major reason for the short fall in production is the burgeoning circular debt and according to Nawaz Sharif more than Rs.500 billion will be required to pay off the debt to provide immediate relief to the masses, besides initiating new power plants and coal energy plants to overcome it in the long run. The country also has an internal debt of Rs.1600 billion which will have to be retired. The national exchequer being empty, this money surely will have to be raised through internal resource generation by widening the tax net and probably levying of new taxes, if as promised by Nawaz Sharif, the begging bowl has to be broken. 

Nonetheless, his resolve to tackle the energy crisis at all costs and not to leave it to the future government is quite commendable. As they say where there is a will there is a way. Fixing the economy and ending terrorism are the biggest challenges but every Pakistani would like him to succeed. Let us hope that he carries the day through sheer will. For now one can only wish him good luck in coming to grips with these intractable problems.

 The writer is a freelance columnist.