On cue, Pakistani fighter jets have bombed military hideouts on the Afghan border, hours after the army released records of over 100 soldiers being killed by Taliban forces since last September. Try as one might, it is hard not to see it as a quick rap on the knuckles as the PM gives some leeway under immense army pressure to act. Entirely too reminiscent of the daylong military operation following the Bannu convoy attack and the Rawalpindi bazaar attack near the GHQ exactly a month ago, at least we can be sure that the army is clear on what to do; you attack our soldiers, we come after you.

Many are hoping that the strikes of late Wednesday night will usher in a real army operation in North Waziristan, and that this time, a clear-headed Government coming clean on the failure of negotiations, will be at the helm of it. If the operation is to get underway, it will have to be a concerted effort at all levels, not just at the military level. Raids on the TTP will be limited to the border areas, but Taliban strongholds now exist in every main city and this calls for a heightened level of preparedness for backlash, which will inevitably be unleashed on urban centers. Any sort of operation then, cannot function in isolation without the involvement of the paramilitary agencies- the Frontier corps, the Rangers in Karachi and the National Guard. There is no single front for this war any longer; there hasn’t been for a very long time. The war will take the guise of civil war; it has and will come into the cities, into densely populated civilian areas, and the state and civilian agencies must be ready to do their jobs.

Without a united effort, without the support and willingness of every security agency, any operation will unravel too quickly, bringing at least one party (no points for guessing) cowering under the negotiation table once more. One thing is for certain: If the military operation goes ahead, the Government no longer has the option of declaring a ceasefire and coming back to the talks table without losing everything. Perhaps this is the risk that keeps Nawaz up at night. If it happens, the war is lost in every way.