Black swans. Thanks to the irascible Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the world is now familiar with the term. But perhaps few places should beware of the black swan like Pakistan should, or at least those in the business of making predictions about Pakistan.

Since March 2007, when Musharraf (remember him?) clumsily tried to sack the chief justice of the Supreme Court, the country has been convulsed by crises few predicted (or could have, even in hindsight). The Red Mosque crisis; the assassination of Benazir Bhutto; the come-from-nowhere performance at the February 2008 polls of the PML-N; the ouster of Musharraf; the presidency of Asif Zardari; the pressure created by the Mumbai terrorist attacks; the Swat/Malakand crisis; the restoration of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry – the list of high-impact, hard-to-predict events, i.e. black swans, is long.

Of course, not everything is unknown. 2010 is the year the next change of guard in the army high command is expected (General Kayani’s three-year tenure as army chief expires in November), an event always fraught with risk in Pakistan. President Zardari will continue to be under a great deal of pressure to resign or to relinquish his presidential powers or even to exit politics. A great part of Obama’s “surge-and-exit” strategy in Afghanistan will unfold, as will what the U.S. is willing to do about Pakistan’s Al Qaeda/Taliban “problem” – events that if not handled with care by the U.S. and Pakistani security architects are almost guaranteed to have serious destabilizing effects on Pakistan.

But the black swan is what worries me the most. What would be the impact on Pakistan if another serious attacked is mounted in the U.S. and is traced back to Pakistan’s tribal badlands? Will tensions between India and Pakistan escalate again over some unforeseen event? Will the madness that is Pakistan’s politics stagger towards another crisis leading the army to abandon its hands-off approach?

The only thing that is certain is this: Pakistan still desperately needs political and economic stability and a solution to its militancy problem. It’s a separate matter, altogether unknowable, if that is what Pakistan will get in 2010.

Cyril Almeida is Assistant Editor and Columnist for Dawn, a Pakistani newspaper.  This essay is part of the 2010: A Watershed Year for South Asia web forum, a collection of expectations about the greater South Asia region in the coming year.