The return of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) marks an auspicious occasion in the context of the immense suffering that over 2.5 million people have been made to endure as a consequence of the launching of the military operation in the restive tribal areas. But, there are numerous doubts that remain lurking with regard to their security, consequently advisability, once they return to their homes. A friend of mine who has his estate near Khawaza Khela told me that, about a week ago, military personnel broke open the house and gave the servants till midnight to pack up and leave. They were there in large numbers who took over the houses as well as the adjoining orchards and proceeded to set up their base forthwith. The step is reflective of the continuing military operation in the area that makes one wonder with regard to the level of security that can be accorded to the returning IDPs. There are a large number of such stories doing the rounds, spreading a wave of palpable fear among the IDPs. The rationale and the dynamics of the military operation notwithstanding, its ongoing state makes for a dangerous environment to survive in. Every day, there are handouts of strikes against the militants over a vast area of unrest and casualties reported on both sides which is indicative of the severity of the confrontation. There is also the news of the militants having gone underground in the wake of the operation and the possibility of their re-emergence once the intensity subsides and people return with the hope of picking up the pieces of their shattered lives. That would be the time for the terrorists to strike again. Consequently, would the decision of the IDPs return be construed wise, or should the authorities have waited longer for the areas to be completely cleansed of the presence of militants before ordering them back? The developments in the coming days and weeks would determine the wisdom of the decision as well as the ostensible success that may have been achieved with regard to the government claim of having eliminated militants from some areas where the operation had been launched. Another factor that is causing concern is the reluctance of a large number of the IDPs to return to their homes. This could be easily attributed to the reported ongoing state of the operation and the consequent dangers that the IDPs fear to confront when left to fend for themselves with little to no security apparatus in place. This fear is further substantiated by statements emanating from various government quarters reiterating their resolve to continue the operation till the complete elimination of the militants from the entire theatre of war. With the state infrastructure having been destroyed, standing crops ravaged, orchards mutilated and the schools and hospitals bombed out, one shudders to think of the environment to which the IDPs are being made to return and the level of their comfort amidst an aura of fear and insecurity. The spread of the terror network to Southern Punjab adds a chilling dimension to the saga of the menace. The fact that the reported terrorist had been running a madrassah next to his residence and acting as a conduit and facilitator for the terrorist outfits in the area speaks volumes of the inefficiency, even complicity of the intelligence and security organisations in tackling the cancer of militancy in various parts of the country. The utter deprivation of people from access to the basic amenities of livelihood creates for an immensely conducive environment for the spread of extremism, particularly when the offer comes laced with substantial financial benefits. Launching of a large scale military operation to eliminate individuals preaching the gospel of violence would, therefore, not be enough to eliminate the curse of militancy. For that to happen, a more coherent, rational and result-oriented strategy would have to be devised that addresses its breeding causes. One sees no indication of such a realisation as various organs of the government are exclusively committed and engaged in a counter-productive effort to eliminating the manifestations of militancy without addressing its roots. Therein may be hidden the germs for the policy not yielding the desired results, now or in the future. What is required is a complete review of the ongoing state policies with regard to the manner and mechanism of confronting terrorism and its attending symptoms. A perpetuation of the current mindset that accords little to no importance to ameliorating the causes that spread militancy would only yield more problems in the future. It is the nurseries of terrorism that need to be eliminated rather than individual perpetrators. Once the outfits that throw up stocks of extremists are no more, we would have taken the first meaningful step in our effort to eliminate militancy from our midst. Former commissioner Malakand may be a collaborator who must be questioned, but effort should also be made to unearth the hands that feed, nurture and protect the scourge of terrorism. It is here that we have a blind spot. Through years of following and encouraging a grandiose vision of deception and self-destruction, we have gone a fair distance in forfeiting the rationale to develop a comprehensive strategy that would effectively deal with the cancer of militancy. As long as the national mindset continues to suffer from the remnants of this vision, we would only deal with the immediate task of eliminating the few militants who may be visible, but allowing the concept of militancy to continue prospering. In the process, we would only succeed in erecting another deceitful edifice that, in its own time, would become a potent instrument in the hands of the criminals who preach violence and extremism to hordes of innocent and perpetually deprived sections of the society. There are emerging indications that, soon, the plague would spread so far and so deep that it would take over the entire functioning of the state machinery and the nation would plunge to a bottomless dip with little chance of ever raising its head again. As per surveys conducted recently, a predominant section of the society is not ready for such disgraceful oblivion. They look upon acts of violence and militancy with strong distaste and disapproval. They also expect of the government to immediately initiate policies that are aimed at eliminating the root causes of militancy rather than dealing only with its sickening manifestations. Is the government geared to deliver? I have my doubts The writer is an independent political analyst based in Islamabad. E-mail: raoofhasan@hotmail.com