The recent meeting between Obama, Zardari and Karzai in Washington on AfPak has generated considerable speculation/introspection. As the ground realities worsen in Afghanistan, US/NATO is feeling the heat thereof. Currently some relief is being provided by the advance of the Pak Army in the area wherein Taliban had been claiming suzerainty. The concerned provincial government was trying to find a solution there through traditional tryst. The federal government went along till it proved, prima facie, to be a wild goose chase. Feeling the approach of a dead end prompted by an inconsistent stand by the extremists in Swat, Buner, Dir and Shangla, the army was ordered to restore the writ of the state. As the army makes steady progress, Pakistan is faced with the prospect of having more than two million IDPs heading South in search of security and right of life. Their current number is reported to be 1.8 million. As many are held hostage to curfew imposed by the army, they can't even venture out in the open on the road to some safety. Reports indicate that the authorities concerned, due to lack of funds or will etc, could not respond effectively to this awful Diaspora of our people. Consequently the initial suffering has been woeful despite the bravado of local people in Mardan etc to alleviate the sufferings of their brethren in this hour of trial. Even in Islamabad, which has, so far, received a few thousand of such IDPs, the local people, the NGOs etc are going all-out to help in this august cause. I have myself been associated with an operation whereby more than two thousand persons have been provided basic necessities. As Pashto is also my language, I can interact with them meaningfully to convey the genuine concern which people here have for them. Our culture induces reliance on relations in case of serious trouble. As many persons from our province live in Islamabad, many have got such 'guests' in big numbers. A certain headmaster received 30 such 'guests' which I got to learn from a social worker. When I rang up their host offering him immediate food supplies, he told me that his neighbourhood was sending meals all the time so his demand was for beds etc. I promptly sent him the requisite material to make them comfortable. I also visited five camps in Mardan, Swabi and Takht Bhai yesterday along with another colleague to personally assess their pending requirements. Two camps are well provided i.e. Yar Hussain/Shahzad town. The other three, Jalala, Shah Mansoor etc are lagging far behind. Luckily basic food is being provided, generally, to all the IDPs. UNHCR appears to have done well so far but the local NGOs and charities are also chipping in. Interaction with the administration as well as the camp-dwellers underlined the necessity of providing better living conditions as heat is playing havoc with those having lower resistance. These people, generally, belong to hilly areas which experience milder summer. One would urge the US aid etc to intervene and provide palpable palliation to the sufferings of these people who are bearing the brunt of our policy. A local channel focused on the sufferings of about a lac of IDPs in Peshawar due to mismanagement etc. They showed long queues awaiting the issue of the wheat quota/ lentil to the families by only two counters which was Quixotic. As the affected people protested over such slipshod supply line, the police lathi-charged them which made it look bizarre. Unfortunately, the image of the government has remained tarnished on many counts. The mishandling, deliberate or by default, is going to present a bigger challenge than the teetering threat. Despite the all-out commitment of many, the image la integrity, among the people, generally, leaves much to be desired. True to the local culture, one spoke to the TV channel and condemned the mess organised in Peshawar. He was fully supported by others when he said categorically that they thought the official operatives would misappropriate their supplies by using vile tactics. This trust-deficit is more dangerous than even the worst perceived threat. The government will have to put its house in order to qualify for better reactions; otherwise, we as a democratic set-up, would start sinking straightaway. As we are not socially well-organised, one finds few well-briefed volunteers in these camps to facilitate the on-going process. If we had such dedicated individuals, the mess in Peshawar could be improved provided integrity was the dominant theme of all. As yet, we have a culture of ignorance, so our people suffer. I learnt that despite the faux pas, some sort of schools awaiting books were functioning in pitiable conditions. We saw two of these ourselves and met the children who tended to be quite playful despite the horrific adversity. US represents the culture of capitalist advancement which is now dominated by what President Eisenhower in 1960 defined as " the Military Industrial complex." Although the Americans are good-guys, per se, who back human/charitable causes compassionately, yet they believe that there is 'no free lunch' in life. Pakistan's Muslim culture is imbued with the principle of hospitality, despite the glitches etc, here the poorest would offer a stranger/guest 'free lunch' with no hope or expectation of a quid pro quo. No wonder US interests have to be pursued the world over at a cost. So major AID, generally, is linked to the furtherance of the stated-policy. It is tragic that highly scandalous stories surface about the misuse of 'aid' in Iraq/Afghanistan which may reflect a malafide systemic slant induced by 'special interests'. Such mal-practices associated with top players like Halliburton etc cause immense damage to US goodwill despite benefiting some influential quarters/lobbies. While Obama has no known links with such lobbies, unlike his predecessor, he is held hostage by their power to deter decisions which would save the US further losses. His AfPak approach amply attends to the concerns of such groups. Thus after the destruction caused in the area since 2001, he has to describe the aid as a "down-payment for our future." The clichs tend to rub in penny for penny concept which makes people in this part of the world particularly doubt American friendship. Unfortunately the way the US walked away after the collapse of the Soviet Union despite Pakistan's protests haunts our people. This makes them see US' interaction with our area as transactional rather than sincere/strategic. Pakistan and US have certain shared objectives in terms of democracy, economic development despite the irritants like Kashmir. Afghanistan being the round-about of the world can't be ignored. It is high time the Obama administration got down to doing justice so that peace is restored to everybody's benefit. That will allow all the partners in this venture to earn huge dividends from positive initiatives for exploiting great resources in the area including the Caspian Sea. The writer is a former foreign secretary E-mail: imnor@brain.net.pk