MUSHFIQ MURSHED The increased frequency of terrorist attacks in Pakistan, particularly in Peshawar, has created an environment of fear and uncertainty within the country, thereby, achieving the primary objective of the extremists. Yet, on the flip side, there has been an upsurge of anti-Taliban sentiment. These emotions have to be galvanised to further strengthen the peoples resolve to combat and eradicate militancy once and for all. The Pakistani people are seeking a leader to follow. At this moment, however, the ship is rudderless. According to some estimates, in 2009 alone, over 1800 civilians and 800 security officials have been killed due to terrorist related incidents and the number of suicide attacks has crossed 60. After every incident, the ticker that runs at the bottom of the television screen on most news channels displays a message of condolence by the various leaders of the country, after which a certain fund is allocated and announced as compensation for the lost lives. The people need more. Politicking on issues such as the NRO, a minus-one or two formula and the Kerry-Lugar Bill has taken precedence over providing the masses respite from their miseries. Even if the threat of terrorism, which has the potential of escalating into urban guerrilla warfare, cannot be eradicated in the near future there are numerous other issues that need urgent attention. Inflation is looming at an average of 22 percent despite government affirmations to the contrary. Cartels with strong lobbies within Parliament have manipulated the demand and supply graph of, amongst other things, staple foods, thereby, creating artificial shortages, and simultaneously, escalating prices. The stipulations behind the bailout IMF packages have resulted in soaring energy prices. Potential large-scale projects are being abandoned not because of security issue but because the prospective investors cannot afford the kickbacks being demanded by the authorities. According to Transparency International, Pakistan is now ranked as the 42nd most corrupt nation in the world. As a result, to add fuel to the fire, the job market is also constricting. Yet, the government stubbornly refuses to budge. The Zardari-Gilani administration, despite its constant rhetoric on the need for the nation to unite and face wartime hardships, has, through its inaction, demonstrated a lack of will to address the problems afflicting the country. It seems to be under the misperception that its relative success in the general elections last year, largely because of the sympathy vote after Benazir Bhutto's assassination and the groundswell of support it received for military operations in Swat and South Waziristan, is irreversible. Out of the leaders of the various coalition parties, i.e. President Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Altaf Hussain and Asfandyar Wali Khan, the most visible is the prime minister. Unfortunately, his credibility as an independent and visionary leader and the credibility of the office of the prime minister have been undermined primarily due to his previously unquestioning subservience to the president. As a result, contrary to the Forbes list where he is ranked as the 38th most powerful man in the world, he may not even have been the 38th most powerful man in Pakistan. The recent disclosure of the NRO list, however, suggests that the prime minister may be pursuing a more aggressive and assertive role by undermining President Zardari's concerns. The implications of this newfound assertiveness from Prime Minister Gilani are likely to undermine the president's authority. The opposition, till now, has been equally lame. Under the guise of not rocking the boat and strengthening the system, Nawaz Sharif has adopted a conciliatory approach, whereby, he has turned a blind eye to the current administration's follies, blatant mismanagement and misuse of authority. Contrary to their argument, an effective and vocal opposition is essential for true democracy to flourish. Constructive criticism of an ineffective government is not synonymous to derailing the system. This unusual alliance of convenience is, in actuality, the impetus that will accelerate the process of bringing the system down. If the nation's elected representatives are unwilling to address the legitimate and foremost concerns of the people then the latter will have no option but to look for alternatives. Successive administrations have consistently been negligent of their duties in providing desperately needed socio-economic welfare to the nation. The subsequent void is being filled by seminaries and mosques and a number of them preach an extremist ideology. The provision of charitable services by these seminaries is only a smokescreen for obscurantist indoctrination and the creation of a radicalised segment in the country. The leadership of this country needs to stop dithering and provide a reason for the people of Pakistan to have confidence in the democratic process. Military might on its own is not sufficient to eradicate extremism from the country. The civil government has to provide its support in alleviating the miseries of the people through proper governance, sound policies and jump-starting the economy. The writer is the editor-in-chief of Criterion Quarterly. Email: