The year 2015 proved to be a game changer for Pakistan in several aspects. Although it would be ignorant to forget major critical problems related to governance, economic growth and the general law and order situation in the country, it is important that important feats be acknowledged. And not just any accomplishments; the 5 selected achievements I have highlighted below are milestones in themselves.
I say this not out of sheer enthusiasm but because up until a few years ago, even thinking of these feats was considered next to impossible.
1. Promulgation of National Action Plan
After the devastating attack on Army Public School (APS) Peshawar, Pakistan’s civil-military leadership huddled together to develop a nationwide counter extremism and counter terrorism strategy to rid the country of the menace once and for all. Although the 20-point National Action Plan (NAP) was announced by the Prime Minister during a televised address to the nation on December 24, 2014, it was only after the passing of 21st Constitutional Amendment by the parliament on January 7, 2015 that it was formally put into effect.
The amendment gave military and security forces the legal mandate to smoothly execute their cleanup operations across the country and establish military courts for the speedy but just trial of suspected terrorists.
2. Announcement of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor
President Xi Jinping visited Pakistan on a historic visit in April 2015 to discuss issues of mutual strategic interest with his hosts. Among those overtures by China was the agreement to build a China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a critical sub-component of China’s larger Maritime Silk Route geoeconomic project. The agreements signed under CPEC promised investments of upto $46 billion.
This investment was almost triple the entire foreign investment Pakistan had ever received since 2008. It would help Pakistan in developing landmark infrastructure in under-developed and developed areas, improving the Gwadar port, establishing high speed fibre optic cables, Special Economic Zones (SEZs), industrial parks and a long highway from Kashghar in China’s Xinjiang province to Gwadar.
3. Zimbabwe cricket team’s tour
After the brazen terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in 2009, the African nation of Zimbabwe became the first country to ‘break the taboo’ and tour Pakistan after a gap of 6 years in May 2015. By entrusting Pakistan with the safety and well-being of its team players, Zimbabwean authorities helped remove the fears of insecurity looming among International Cricket Council (ICC) and Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations (FICA) who had lost confidence on Pakistan’s security practices. Then Punjab Home Minister Col (Retd) Shuja Khanzada Shaheed had personally supervised the strict security measures put in place to ensure that the team played and then returned home safe and sound.
Zimbabwe cricket chief Ozias Bvute told reporters during a press conference: “We had a meeting in the morning and we talked about the tremendous effort PCB and the Pakistan government has put in. We are grateful to them for keeping us secure. We have also experienced international isolation. Team would say we won’t visit Zimbabwe due to security concerns. But we won’t let that happen with our brother. You can’t kill the spirit of cricket.”
4. Induction in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization
Prime Minister Sharif visited Ufa, Russia in July to attend a meeting hosted by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). It was during this that Pakistan, along with India, was approved as a member state of the multilateral regional organization. Previously, Pakistan was just an observer but with the signing of CPEC and now entry into SCO, Pakistan was on forward track to cement ties with Russia and Central Asian states with whom it hasn’t had the required considerable state-level interaction in the past.
In the near future, it is expected that Pakistan will join the SCO’s Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS) Council, a coalition of member states who work closely together to eliminate the menace of Extremism, Terrorism and Separatism.
5. Peace efforts in Afghanistan through Heart of Asia summit
In the first week of December 2015, Islamabad hosted the fifth Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process Summit which witnessed participation by all regional and extra-regional stakeholders involved in Afghanistan’s affairs, most prominently US, India, China, Kazakhstan and Russia. The theme for 2015 was ‘Enhanced cooperation for countering security threats and promoting connectivity in the Heart of Asia region’.
Participants in the summit deliberated upon their policy perspectives and how a broad consensus could be developed to ensure peace in Afghanistan which ultimately guarantees peace in the entire region. It was in this meeting that, after several years, an Indian External Affairs Minister (Ms Sushma Swaraj) visited Islamabad. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had expressed profound gratitude to Pakistan for hosting the talks and making sincere efforts for peace in his country.