Addressing a conference on media, militancy and fair elections organised by the South Asia Free Media Association (Safma) at the Presidency on Sunday, President Asif Zardari dealt with several issues, almost all pertaining to one of Pakistan’s central concerns i.e. the curse of terrorism. And in this context, the most significant part of his utterance was that unless there was a nationwide consensus, there would be no military operation in North Waziristan. In addition to that, there was need to “analyse our capability to deal with their retaliatory moves”, keeping in mind also the fact that the seminaries, which are in no small number in the country, would quickly react and unite in opposition to any such action. The President went on to underline the frightening position on the ground and cited the instance of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, who was murdered in broad daylight by a religious bigot, but no lawyer was willing to fight his case; however a former Chief Justice volunteered to defend the murderer. It was a manifestation of the society’s state of polarisation on this vital issue of tackling militancy. Mr Zardari also pointed out that as the general elections were approaching fast, political parties were not inclined to annoy the religious right; they, in fact, wanted to be in their good books. About the common question why Malala Yousafzai had not been provided security when she was so outspoken about the girls’ right to seek education and known for her anti-militant views, he said that the offer was, indeed, made, but her father declined. The President added, however, that the environment was such that no security could have been adequate enough to have protected her against the barbaric attack. Mr Zardari committed to continue opposing the drone strikes.

Indeed, the picture of the situation in the country drawn by Mr Zardari conforms pretty close to reality, but it is also evident at the same time that during the past four years and a half that the PPP-led government has been in power, it has done nothing to lead the country out of the worrying variety of crises we are faced with. The only possible explanation is the government’s reluctance to reach a conclusion about the best means of beating the scourge out of Pakistan and a reluctance to take the lead in forging a consensus. There seems to be no planning, short term, medium term or long term, about rooting out terrorism either through fighting out the immediate threat or changing the mindset of the strayed population by means of education in the long term. It was significant that the President called China the only country that had sincerely helped Pakistan in fighting terrorism. We must reiterate here that there is urgent need to get closer to Beijing in this hour of crisis. China has proved more than once that it is, beyond doubt, a genuine friend with no axe to grind.