The All Parties Conference (APC) hosted by the Prime Minister in Islamabad last week was received with mixed feelings. The joint resolution passed by the participants has provided yet another guideline for the government regarding Pakistan's role in the conflict next door in Afghanistan and our problematic relationship with the US. Not long ago, a joint session of Parliament had unanimously passed a resolution calling for redefining the terms of the Pak-US relationship and it had suggested specific measures the government should take to halt drone attacks in FATA. The guideline from Parliament was practically ignored. The APC critics say the joint resolution did not go far enough to counter the threat emanating from the US and fear that, in the absence of political will on part of the sitting government, even the weak joint resolution will meet the same fate as the earlier resolution that had the backing of the entire Parliament. The APC might not be the defining moment in our country's history that we'd been waiting for, but it is one more small step in the right direction. The problem is that this is no time for small steps. While it was heartening to see virtually the entire spectrum of political parties coming together for a national cause and agreeing to a joint resolution, unfortunately they all fell short of articulating the charged-up public opinion against the US policies through their joint resolution, which was largely wishy-washy. The US charges were rejected as baseless allegations, but these dangerous allegations, rather than shaking the political leadership out of its partnership-slumber, were only considered derogatory to the partnership between the two countries. There was the usual rhetoric about friendly relations with all countries based on sovereign equality, mutual interests and respect, enhancement of ties with Afghanistan and promotion of peace on UN principles. The resolution included the usual call for the world to recognise Pakistan's sacrifices in the war on terror, affirmation of full support to the armed forces, no compromise on national defence and formulation of policies based on supreme national interest. Obviously, there is a national consensus on these issues in any case and the government did not need an APC for expressing it. Not that there was no substance in the resolution at all. In fact, some points included in the resolution, if followed up and implemented with sincerity, could lead to meaningful and positive changes. Take the points endorsing dialogue with the dissidents and giving peace a chance, for instance. If followed, this could break the vicious cycle of military operations and the resulting backlash of terrorism in the country. While the US is breathing down our neck to further expand the area and scope of military action against groups opposed to the US occupation of Afghanistan, killing, maiming and displacing our citizens in the process, it is obvious that such a policy could only mean more problems for us. The unscrupulous superpower, blinded by its colonial perspective and ambitions, has no problem with killing, maiming and displacing millions of innocent civilians, brushing them under the odious blanket of collateral damage. The resulting instability in Pakistan and the alienation of citizens might give the US more room for arm-twisting a weakened State, but for the Pakistani leadership it adds to the list of our many problems. Of course, dialogue should not mean giving in to the unreasonable demands of the dissidents and it should take place within a clearly defined framework that enjoys broad political support and cooperation of the security and intelligence apparatus. The dialogue should not only focus on bringing the militants to agree to a resolution of the Afghanistan conflict through political negotiations, but it should also address the issue of protecting communities from the lawlessness and violence perpetrated by some of these groups and their members. Obviously, the bottom line should be the writ of the State of Pakistan, which no group should be allowed to challenge, whether to impose its notions about an Islamic system on hapless communities or to wage war in another country. This is not going to be easy, but the new policy of dialogue will be greatly helped by a conducive environment. And to create it, the government must take concrete steps to bring an end to the endless drone attacks in the tribal areas. A guideline in this regard has already been suggested by Parliament in its joint resolution. The APC resolution calls for the implementation of previous resolutions of Parliament and the formation of a Parliamentary Committee for the purpose. The government is criticised for not paying heed to the unanimous voice of Parliament, an institution that it doesn't tire of upholding as a source of its power and the symbol of democracy. It is believed that the present situation would not have arisen if it had done so. In its unimplemented resolution, the joint sitting of Parliament had suggested zero tolerance for drone attacks and had asked the government to shoot them down and block NATO supplies, if the US persisted in its policy to attack Pakistani territory with these unmanned aerial vehicles. The drone attacks continued and, other than grumbling about it in hollow statements, the government did not take any suggested step to stop the bombardment of its territory and the killing of its citizens. Now the APC joint resolution has reinforced the parliamentary resolutions and given them a new lease of life. This is another positive outcome of the exercise. And, of course, the rejection of foreign aid as policy is another positive contribution of the APC. In fact, this is the single most important point in its resolution, as it would create enough space for Pakistan to formulate policies independent of the US diktat. So while the APC did not come up to the expectations of the nation to address the challenges of an openly hostile US in a more courageous and bold manner, it did play its role in strengthening the momentum that is slowly but surely bringing us out of the hypnotic curse of the crumbling superpower. The government would do well to follow its recommendations with sincerity, rather than using it as an eyewash, while continuing with its servile policies. Meanwhile, the nation would wait for the historical moment when our leadership would be able to raise a clear voice against the global badmash and its hegemonic imperialist agenda for the world. Hopefully, we won't have to wait long The writer is an independent columnist. Email: hazirjalees@hotmail.com