The fact that the army had to start a military operation in Dir, Buner and other adjoining areas ostensibly to flush out militants within less than two weeks of the proclamation of the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation is a case that calls for the government's trial for sheer incompetence in comprehending the ground realities. While every one was crying hoarse about the evil intentions of the gun-touting militants, the government succumbed to the pressure of the merchants of religion to piece together a mechanism for personal survival. Lingering doubts persist with regard to the government's sincerity in dealing with the spreading menace. These doubts emanate principally from the timing of the launch of the operation that coincides with the departure of Mr Zardari for the US. Ever since the signing of the so-called peace deal, Pakistan has been subjected to increasing pressure for its annulment, as the document was perceived to be a patent sell-out to those whose aim it is to loot, murder and generally terrorise people. If the government had failed to deliver, there was the harrowing threat of an expansion of the theatre of war all along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan and stretching deep inside its sovereign territory. Consequently, the latest operation is being seen as an expedient ploy to stave off the mounting pressure as well as prepare favourable ground for Mr Zardari's trip to the United States. Will it work as the government hopes, or will it provide the rationale for further escalating the operation against the militants with the objective of maintaining the pressure on them, this saving the rest of Pakistan from their dreaded tentacles? Both scenarios are smitten with pitfalls. In the former event, when the operation is called off either with the claim that the desired objectives have been achieved, or when Mr Zardari's visit to the US is completed with the necessary dole-outs in the basket, it would herald swift advances by the militant hordes causing the demise of a free and progressive Pakistan as well as subjecting it to frequent forays of the US drones that may, just as well, be followed by operational incursions inside Pakistan's territory as is being repeatedly threatened. In the latter event, if the scope and intensity of the operation were increased to please the US and other 'friends of Pakistan', it would cause serious bleeding of the state's fast-disappearing claim to sovereignty. This hands-you-win tails-I-lose situation is the direct outcome of the government's ineptitude, unwillingness and consequent inability to formulate a coherent, long-term strategy to confront the spectre of militancy. The paradox is that, instead of penalising the one who sits atop the Interior Ministry and who is more responsible for this sordid mess than any one else, he has been rewarded for it through elevation to the rank of a federal minister. The recent murder and loot spree in Karachi could also be an offshoot of the situation in the FATA region. It could also be an effort to shift the theatre of war away from where the heat is, thus diluting the government's pressure in the wake of the launch of its operation against the militants. At the same time, other actors to the equation also cannot be overlooked whose interest is aptly served by keeping the fires burning. The recent history of Karachi as well as what had happened there in the not so distant past are indicative of the mindset of these actors who desperately want to cling on to their advantageous positions irrespective of the national interest and the safety and security of the residents of the city. The effects of the slightest unrest in Karachi are felt throughout the country. It also has serious repercussions for the national economy, which already seems to be in a state of irreversible collapse. Consequently, who are the actors who precipitated the crisis in Karachi and whose interest does it serve? Is there a beyond to where we have reached, or does this signify the end? In the quagmire of the imponderables is the prospect of national collapse. Never before was the state of Pakistan drained of hope as it is today. Never before its people lived in the grip of fear and despondency as they do today. Never before was the state structure rendered so wobbly and so erratic as it is today. Never before were the national fabric and character subjected to such multi-faceted assault as is the case today. Never before did the national leadership display such utter bankruptcy of ideas and action as it has so repeatedly and so persistently demonstrated in the recent past. Never before was enacted such an unforgiving exhibition of callousness and disinterest with the fate of the country as we witness today. The inherent illegitimacy of the national leadership has started impacting the state in terms of its diminishing options to survive. This illegitimacy was built into the manner and mechanism whereby the current incumbency was allowed to ascend the throne. It was bound to unravel and cast a tragic shadow on the fate of the country. Unfortunately, it is come too soon and there is little at hand that can help us escape the impact of its dagger. It is poised to administer the fatal blow. But such was not the fate envisioned in the wake of the creation of Pakistan. The slide started with the adoption of the Objectives Resolution as a part of the Constitution of Pakistan. This should be viewed against what Quaid-i-Azam had in mind for the new country in his August 11 speech to the members of the Pakistan Constituent Assembly: "You are free. You are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or any other place of worship in the state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, cast or creed - that has nothing to do with the business of the state. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state. I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that, in due course of time, Hindus would cease to be Hindus, and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state." Who could imagine that, in just over six decades, these venerable ideals would plunge to be overtaken by a reign of terror unleashed by a horde of uneducated, unenlightened and obscurantist marauders who want to drown all opposition before the burst of their guns. It is time to rise and revisit the ideals of our creation. Well beyond the competence of the incumbent aberration, it is for the people of the country to rekindle the hope that had signalled the birth of Pakistan. The writer is an independent political analyst based in Islamabad E-mail: raoofhasan@hotmail.com