The Prime Minister’s over five-hour exchange of views with the intelligence and military top brass on Pakistan’s most gnawing concern – how to restrain the genie of terrorism from rampaging the land at will – was a key link in the chain of his consultations to frame a national security policy that would earn the support of all concerned. Mian Nawaz Sharif paid a scheduled visit to the ISI headquarters on Thursday where, reportedly, the army rated ‘surgical operation’ as the only possible way to restore peace. The generals felt that it was opposition to military intervention by the political leadership that had given the militant and insurgent forces a free hand in Balochistan and KPK. Besides, there was need for a military campaign against foreign sponsors of these non-state actors. Whether Mian Nawaz felt convinced of the logic of militarily confronting the militants is not known. Some reports, though, suggest that he might be inclined to review his stand to find solution through talks because the Taliban have disillusioned him by their continued murderous strikes, knowing full well his preference for a peaceful way out. Nevertheless, he was emphatic that there could be no compromise on security and integrity of the state. His view that he intended to eliminate the scourge with the help of different government institutions acting in unison could not be questioned either. Our dilemma has so far been an unthinking spouting of half-baked ideas about the agenda of the terrorists, an absolute failure to comprehend the real nature of the phenomenon and unworkable ways to effectively deal with it. Confusion has been the hallmark of most of the politicians, whether in the corridors of power or not, and anaylists. Hopefully, PM’s interaction with different stakeholders, culminating in the all parties’ conference, would clear the air and a clear-cut, coherent policy that would spell the end of militancy is adopted.

Meanwhile, the 336-page document containing the findings of Abbottabad Commission keeps affording new insights into the culture of incompetence and inefficiency that prevails in official circles, both civilian setup and army establishment. Former ISI chief Ahmad Shuja Pasha conveniently alleges that no one, not even the defence minister bothers to study the country’s defence policy. This may be because defence ministers are often the least influential people in the structuring of such a policy, which is handed down from on high for unquestioning implementation. He may have been trying to point to reasons why recourse is usually had to a haphazard policy. The upshot is that we have to do serious thinking about how to set our house in order. The indications however, are that the government is not in favour of surgical operations. What success talks have had thus far, are in front of everyone to see.