In 2010, Pakistan still faces fundamental questions of identity, governance, state and nation-building. Asif Ali Zardari, co-chairman of Pakistan Peoples Party and widower of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, was elected Pakistan’s president in an indirect election on 6 September 2008. Zardai’s foremost challenge was to be best in restoration of peace and stability in Pakistan. The most critical challenge that Pakistan, under the leadership of Zardari, faces is geographically concentrated in the country’s western border region with Afghanistan, a challenge that maintains both regional and international dynamics.
Since 1947, Pakistan has had hostile relations with both its eastern and western neighbors – India and Afghanistan. Over the past six decades, the mutual relations between these two countries have been held inmate to larger regional and global alignments, pressures and interests. To improve the relationship with Afghanistan the president, Yousaf Raza Gillani, promised to bring “economic, social, and political reforms” to the tribal areas, where illiteracy and poverty have created conditions for terrorism to spread.
One other big challenge for Pakistan is the rise in sectarian violence between extremist Shiite and Sunni militant factions. The Shiite-Sunni conflict started in Pakistan in the mid-1980’s and has since resulted in an estimated 5,000 deaths. Though the extremists are supported by Saudi Arabia and the Sunni Gulf states on the one hand and revolutionary Shiite Iran on the other, innocent people are the most common victims of the violence unleashed by them.
Despite the centricity of the post-9/11 ‘war on terrorism’ and the current security concerns in the tribal regions bordering Afghanistan, India has always been Pakistan’s main agonize. The 1947 partition of India into two states, Pakistan and India, both solved and created a range of problems from ethno-religious to territorial. Real and tangible peace has yet to be achieved between these two states that have waged three wars over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, and continue to spend considerable portions of their national wealth and political energies on advancing their particular goals over the future of Kashmir.
The emergence and declaration of a chirpy civil society, the spirit of the business community and the moderation of a very large segment of the Pakistani population are key assets that Pakistan can utilize in establishing a vivacious democracy with stable public and political relations. This may, in turn, provide Pakistan with additional international leverage and add to constructing an environment conducive to negotiated settlements with its neighbors and the international community at large over the variety of issues currently impeding Pakistani development.
In the long-term Pakistan will also have to engage in human development to follow the economic development models of its Asian neighbors to its east. This implies that a larger part of its GDP should be spent on the welfare of its people instead of the financially draining political & military lobby. Most significantly, Pakistani privileged has yet to agree on a unified future vision and work hard to achieve it. Again this implies the active support of the international community, which must recognize that for the sake of international peace, prosperity and stability, Pakistan must be engaged with and not isolated.