Punjabis like a strongman. Our folklore is full of fearless, at times rebellious characters standing up for the underdogs. Dulla Bhatti, Malangi, Jagga and Bhagat Singh are some of the prominent heroes. This trait endures till today and a strong leader’s imprint perseveres. Be it Nawab Kalabagh’s firm handling, or Tikka Khan’s law and order thrust; they earned begrudging respect. Even Shahbaz Sharif, a wolf in a sheep’s skin, is remembered for his long boots, cowboy hats and aggressive mode of governance. Then we got lumped with CM Buzdar and his wimpy style; it is depicting Punjab as a rudderless ship. I am certain that a day of reckoning will come when PM IK will say, “yaar bari ghultey howe.” For his sake, I pray that day never comes because by then it will be too late. Trained and steeped in municipal politics, our CM was fully aware of the importance of Tehsildar or SHO in his Tehsil. Expanding his experience to his present position, it appears he realized that bureaucratic appointments are a low cost, high returns proposition. If I can hear about such incidents sitting halfway around the world, why wouldn’t PM IK be informed of such happenings? I had termed CM Buzdar as PTI’s “Achilles heel.” It continues to be reinforced. Decisive actions are required to safeguard Punjab, the bastion of political power in Pakistan. PM IK’s recent visit to China was not a bilateral visit; rather it was a multi-lateral meeting. The opposition made a big deal about who received him at the airport. In China’s zero-tolerance COVID environment, it would be foolish to expect President Xi Jin Ping to be receiving 30 heads of states at the airport! However, the proof of the pudding is in eating it. A joint communiqué issued after the leaders meeting at Great People’s Hall confirms cooperation in every field conceivable and relations deepening in a strategic alliance. It includes energy, connectivity, technology, agriculture, industrialization, human development, employment opportunities and defence cooperation. All these lead to the furtherance of our Geo Economic goals. In the past, while the foreign actors acted as facilitators, the decisive role was played by the Establishment. Beyond Winter Olympics 2022, the attendance by leaders had a far greater significance than just a sports event. Meetings were going on the sidelines that were only partially reported. Most of the Western nations boycotted the event. We are witnessing a re-drawing of international alliances. It triggered the finalization of PM IK’s official visit to Russia. Co-operation with Central Asian states is improving. It has reverted to a bi-polar world with USA and China as main contenders. Our close involvement with the power bloc in Beijing is likely to irk the Western Alliance. Pakistan has to do some tight rope walking. It is like running with the hare and hunting with hounds! It will be a delicate task that needs some deft handling. Dropping out of our traditional role of a subservient front line state will bring its challenges. Stepping back in history, we have witnessed the exit of many of our leaders who started to display a streak of independence. Ayub Khan’s exit, Bhutto’s elimination, and Zia’s crash; all have footprints of international intervention. Have the means and methods of such blatant interference changed in the 21st Century? PM IK’s “absolutely not” position on the Afghan conflict, his cozying relations with China and ice-breaking with Russia will trigger reactions in many corridors of power. The sudden flare-up of the opposition’s activities in Pakistan and increased terrorist activities are an indicator. It is a phenomenon that needs close monitoring of events unfolding on our national scene. Nearly fifty years after Ayub Khan’s era, we are finally poised for an economic takeoff. The first one was destroyed by Bhutto’s reckless nationalization, ruining our economic fabric. Are we witnessing a repeat? It could be something similar being engineered by international actors unhappy with our assertive independence. Within the last few weeks, terrorist attacks have spiked and feuding opposition parties have come together with lightning speed. Are there any catalysts at play? PML (N), PPP and JUI have predicted the imminent departure of PTI on multiple occasions throughout PM IK’s tenure. Each time their efforts flopped. The recent failure of blocking the State Bank Bill in the Senate clearly demonstrates Opposition’s bluster is louder than the realities on the ground. Where are they getting their newfound confidence from? The parliamentary stage is the same, Punjab governance remains weak, and the baggage of corruption remains unresolved; yet the drums of war are growing louder. There appears to be one huge difference. In the past, while the foreign actors acted as facilitators, the decisive role was played by the Establishment. Which side of the divide do they stand now? PTI was elected for 5 years. Why is there a mad rush by opposition to remove PM IK now? Three reasons stand out. 1. If this Government continues, the accountability process could lead to convictions. 2. Replacing PTI with Opposition in Government would give them a role in appointing the next Chief. 3. Opposition has signed onto a thrust by powers seeking to derail Pakistan’s Geo Economic progress and our independent stance. Any which way, it is an attempt to halt Pakistan’s positively changing dynamics. It is time to rise beyond partisan politics and be a Pakistani first. Such efforts need to be exposed and resisted in full force. It is all about improving the economy for a better Pakistan in the future. The writer is the director of CERF, a non-profit, charitable organisation in Canada.