Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has taken suo motu notice of the video that had apparently been taking the rounds on the Internet for sometime, but was recently reported in the media, private channels running the now notorious flogging of a young girl ostensibly by the Taliban in Swat. The film clip itself lacking sharpness and definition did nevertheless convey the barbarity of the incident. Since then it has become the subject of angry comment the world over. The issue involves the problem of extremism, and the failure of a state where the writ of the government has been challenged by the Taliban. A few years ago the Taliban controlled most of Afghanistan and their government had been officially recognised by Pakistan, Saudia and UAE. The incident of the 17 year old girl being flogged has now incensed the world although men have also been flogged by the Taliban routinely as punishment for various offences. But hidden behind this issue is the ongoing battle in Pakistan between the so-called liberals, endemically corrupt/inefficient governments and the religious lobby who support the enforcement of Shariah as a declared policy. The Taliban represent the Shariah enforcing group. Battle hardened in Afghanistan they fought the Soviets and drove them out of that country. After the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, the West walked away leaving behind a chaotic Afghanistan that the Taliban movement controlled. Considered heroes, they were projected in Washington, London and Geneva as the great - if somewhat enigmatic - new leaders in Afghanistan. After long years of violent strife in the region, they brought a sense of relief all around. But things changed dramatically after the terrible tragedy of 9/11. Although not one Pakistani was involved in the attack, the Taliban were placed on the same footing with the Al-Qaeda who had been held responsible for the tragedy by the US authorities. From that point on, the western community has been zeroing in on the Taliban along with Al-Qaeda. Over the years since then, Pakistan has been the subject of world criticism for harbouring Al-Qaeda fighters in its NWFP province. The Taliban, the other group identified with the Al-Qaeda for its religious faith, has been the target too. Thus the other issue is the madrassahs that flourished in Pakistan, churning out zealots who went around the world carrying out suicide attacks. Briefly, it is these two faults of Pakistan which have today placed it in the eye of the international storm of terrorism, all fingers pointing at it. Since 9/11 and the subsequent occupation of Afghanistan by foreign troops, with active Pakistani assistance, forces of terror seem to have targeted Pakistan on an unprecedented and escalating scale. The simple truth is that before Musharraf who chose to side with the US in their War On Terror, Pakistan did not know terrorism. But being lost in Afghanistan, this war is being lost in Pakistan as well. The president down, everyone bemoans that they can do nothing about terrorism. The citizens' lives in constant danger, fortunes are being spent on the security of these helpless political managers. Since the attack on Ms Benazir Bhuttto's mammoth reception in Karachi when she returned from exile in October 2007 when bomb explosions caused hundreds of casualties of innocent people, terrorism is on the rise in this country, paralysing normal civil activity under an impotent government. It is becoming difficult to keep count, but the most recent examples are the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team and the one on the Police Training Academy in Lahore, both, incidentally, when Governor Taseer had the controversial charge of the administration of the province. This was followed by an attack on a Frontier constabulary post in a central district of the capital Islamabad three days back. In the meanwhile the Taliban influence in Swat and the neighbouring tribal area has increased. They have administered the kind of justice the people of Swat, tired of corruption and complicated legal proceedings, quietly welcomed. The army was sent in to restore the government's writ in the area, a mission that did not succeed in months of operations. By now, in agreement with the provincial government, the Taliban have introduced the Shariah in Swat. It is against this background that the CJ has notified the government over the issue and asked for reports from principal functionaries of the provincial and federal governments. Since then, various statements from different government officials and the spokesmen of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have caused considerable confusion over the incident. Befittingly, the CJ has taken notice of a major issue. The proceedings before the Supreme Court, I hope, will clarify the following questions. One, when, where and how did the incident occur? Two, how did Swat pass into the hands of the Taliban? And three, are we harbouring terrorists in the tribal area? These are critical questions for our future today. The writer is a former ambassador at large