The change of wind in Pakistan bringing a new coalition of political leadership to power has set alarm bells ringing in the US political and journalistic circles about the course the war on terror will take should Islamabad decide to review its military approach on the issue. The political parties in Pakistan, which have secured majority in the National Assembly, have been elected on a mandate to bring peace to the tribal region through dialogue rather than armed action. Besides already, the attempts to seek military solution by the Musharraf regime have backfired, rendering areas much beyond the tribal region unsafe and subject to suicide attacks. The developing scenario compelled high-ranking State Department officials to come scurrying to Islamabad and meet the leaders of these parties to argue in favour of force and against negotiation. The superpower's reliance on force stems from the arrogance of its military might that considers the opponents' tradition of bravery of little consequence. This attitude has taken a high toll of its morale and prestige. The over six-year long ruthless war in Afghanistan has given it anything but a sense of success. Ordinarily, it should have learnt a lesson and but the superpower ego keeps impelling it to persist on the aggressive course. For that reason, the US has decried right from the start the peace accords the government of Pakistan reached with the tribesmen, giving little weight to the historical reality that the Pushtuns straddling the Pak-Afghan border would rather lay down their lives than accept dictation or foreign dominance. Persuasion and peaceful methods have, on the other hand, good chances of success. Islamabad should have known better than meekly accepting Washington's pressure to launch military operations, but it learnt to its ignominy and backed off the first time when the toll of its servicemen rose to around 800. Among the tribal people, there were also a large number of casualties, including ordinary civilians. Missile attacks by US Predator drones, killing scores of innocent people, coupled with the offensive by Pakistani forces provided fuel to the fire in a climate of mounting resentment and revenge. Genuine peace efforts must be made before Islamabad could think of another option. Terrorism, as Prime Minister Gillani pointed out, is also Pakistan's problem. In that sense, the ultimate aim of both governments is the same; only the means to achieve it differ. The new set-up does want to have as good relations with the US as the outgoing government but not at the cost of the nation's sovereign right and dignity. However, the US official circles, the media and think tanks have been going to great pains to stress that the peace interlude given by the tribesmen-government agreement has led to the resurgence of Al-Qaeda that has made the region its safe haven. They orchestrated the dangers they saw in dialogue and the imperative need of a decisive military push. The open and persistent advocacy of this line served to intensify bitterness against the US and contributed to the defeat of pro-Musharraf elements at the polls. However, the former government was positioning itself before the general election to make another try with force, characteristically ignorant or deliberately mindless of the nation-wide feeling of anger and opposition to military action against own people. While there were clear signs that the ruling parties would have to eat a humble pie at the bar of public opinion, it remained stuck in the belief that its supporters would carry the day and the policy it intended to pursue at the behest of the US would not be interrupted. Hence, NWFP Governor Aurakzai, a firm exponent of dialogue and peaceful means, was asked to resign barely a month before the elections and in his place was brought Balochistan Governor Awais Ghani under whose stewardship military operations had been conducted in the province in which a fairly large number of people were killed, including Nawab Akbar Bugti. In this background, the contesting opposition parties vied with each other to affirm their stand of taking a peaceful course to calm the frayed sentiments among the fiercely independent tribesmen. Now that they were in the process of forming government to run the country, they could not possibly go against the mandate. Nevertheless, the Bush administration was asking the Pakistan government to do something that went against the grain of the people here because they would not countenance military operation against their compatriots. Not only that. The despatch of Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte and Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher at a time when the would-be coalition partners were preoccupied with sorting out their differences and had yet to evolve a common approach on issues of vital importance to the country was greatly resented by the people. It was a visit undertaken at an inappropriate time. And it was hard for Washington to avoid the impression that the superpower was exercising pressure to bend a smaller power's policies to suit its strategic goals. The Americans are overlooking another fundamental reality: the pervasive and growing hatred Muslims the world over have of their policies. The US moves are perceived not only against Muslims, but also against Islam as a religion. The anti-terrorist operation is widely regarded as a mere faade, and not without reason. The manner in which top Bush administration officials pressurised the intelligence agencies and doctored the dossier on Iraq to justify the invasion of the country is proof of its bad intentions against Muslims as a community. They cannot, therefore, be blamed for an outright disbelief of the American accusation against Iran of having a programme to manufacture nuclear weapons. A look at another end of the Middle East - the wretched and helpless state of Palestinians facing the indiscriminate bombardment of their towns and villages and targeted killings of their leaders routinely carried out by the Israelis with total immunity and open US backing - further confirms their conviction that the US policies are designed to cripple the Muslim world. Closer home, the bleeding Afghanistan where ordinary Pushtuns are being randomly killed and termed as the Taliban does not help change 'the hearts and minds' of Pakistanis in favour of the US; just the reverse is the effect. The war on terror cannot be won in Afghanistan just as it has been lost in the killing fields of Iraq. Continued military operation in, and foreign occupation of, Afghanistan would deepen the feeling of hatred and enmity just as a similar scenario in Iraq has caused the resurgence of terrorism. An overwhelming majority of the US intelligentsia holds this view despite a thinning number of officials touting Mr Bush's line that increase in armed strength has brightened prospects of peace. It is time to grasp the truth. The American and Western allies have to accept that force cannot subdue an indomitable will. They must vacate Muslim lands in letter and in spirit. Not only physical occupation ought to end but also the exploitation of their resources. They cannot make up for the historical injustice Imperialist powers had caused, but they can stop their neo-imperialist bent of mind. The Muslims do not resent the freedoms Americans enjoy. They only demand democratic rights for themselves. The root causes of hatred of the West and militancy lie in past and present discrimination they have suffered. It is time to grasp this truth to the end of terrorism.