Because of a massive disconnect between the government claims and the ground reality secured from independent sources, the level of faith in the prospect of any early peace returning to the restive areas in the North-West is fast disappearing. Only in the recent days and weeks, numerous conflicting statements have emanated from various functionaries of the government regarding the commencement of the return of the displaced persons to their homes. These claims have proven hollow as intense battles rage on in practically all areas where the forces are engaging the militants - and these areas are on the rise with each passing day, laying further stress on the already over-stretched limits of the security forces, both in terms of men and material. It is the people who are being made to suffer the symptoms of this malaise as more and more barricades are appearing at every corner. In Islamabad alone, there is not a road where your vehicle is not subjected to a few checks. After being stopped, the most frequent question that you have to answer is regarding your destination: "Where are you going?" This is as inane as it can get. At times, the boot of your vehicle is subjected to a mundane visual check. I fail to understand the efficacy of this routine that is only causing immense discomfort to the commuters without improving the security prospects one bit. All operational indications reflect that we are being sucked deeper into the quagmire with the exit options decreasing rapidly and the chances of an outright success diminishing fast. Among other factors, this can also be gauged by the number of dead among the security forces. This reflects the intensity of the combat and the high stakes involved for the protagonists. While there have been persistent indications regarding the involvement of foreign players in the conflict, the government has neither been able to project it properly, nor has it appeared to use it to garner support to secure a conducive and favourable image in the international arena. The reality, if it does exist at all, has gone by the wayside like so many other opportunities by the incumbent conglomerate that shows exceptional efficiency only when it comes to obeying the commands from the masters. Rest of the time, it is caught in deep slumber. It appears the emerging strife is of a perpetual nature and the country and its hapless people would continue to suffer its effects endlessly. While about three million people stand displaced from their homes, the rest suffer the agony of a conflict in multi-faceted ways. Their peace of mind has disappeared as they watch helplessly the gradual ruination of any prospects of progress in a fast deteriorating security environment. The abnormal power situation is causing further anguish as it has virtually brought the industrial wheel to a halt. The schools, offices, hotels, market places - every corner of the country is under a threat of assault. There is no instrument that would gauge the adverse impact this situation is having on the common people. The worst aspect is that the government is showing little to no sensitivity to the present and the emerging crisis. On the contrary, it is adding to the problems by persisting with an approach that is riddled with a myopic vision and a thrust that is mostly self-inflicting. The operation that started off with the claim of being clinical and short has already extended beyond the worst feared limits in terms of intensity and duration and there are increasing signs that it is heading towards a painful stalemate. There is a dire need to revisit the rationale behind the military drive as well as its operational mechanism. In the pursuit to eliminate the people carrying forth the mantle of militancy, the concept, reasons and legitimacy behind the menace are being strengthened. From the standpoint of the military commanders, it is a fight to eliminate terrorists while, from the other end, the struggle is being projected as a war against the widely-perceived anti-Islam US and its unholy allies. Mere elimination of individuals would not uproot the deep-seated hatred of the US and its intentions in this part of the world. The recent ignominious exit of the US from Iraq's major cities is an apt reminder of the shape of things to follow in Afghanistan and the militants fighting the US-NATO-Pakistan onslaught would be heartened from this retreat which would also lend further support to the rationale of their mission. What is needed is to confront the thought process behind the wave of militancy sweeping the region. Bombing from a few thousand feet up in the air and the frequent drone attacks are only fuelling the hatred that already runs deep. The need is for us to come to terms with the ground reality in the restive areas, de-link ourselves from playing the US slave and work on evolving a credible and all-encompassing strategy that would suit our national security interests. In the process, one would have to take stock of the twin curses that plague the prospects for this country to emerge from the crisis any time in the near future: the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) and the predominant US influence. The two are interlinked as well as interdependent: the former was enacted by a military dictator to facilitate the latter. For the US to be told to pack up from this region, the NRO and the consequent lack of legitimacy among the ruling hierarchy would have to be tackled first. That is where the restored judiciary faces an immense challenge that would impact the national destiny in the near and the distant future. At this critical juncture, Pakistan needs a capable, competent and committed leadership that can show imagination and initiative in terms of disengaging the country from the tentacles of a cancer that is spreading at an alarming pace. This leadership should also be capable to generate a process of genuine national reconciliation and soothe the long-lacerating wounds that have estranged the smaller provinces of the country, most notably Balochistan. The symptoms of this cancer would have to be tackled with urgency and precision without dismantling the democratic edifice. The route, therefore, goes either through the sitting Parliament or the restored judiciary. With the legislature having being auctioned at the altar of convenience, the only remaining option would be the judiciary. The NRO case is already sub-judice and the need is for the honourable court to move fast before the cancer is rendered incurable. If the process continues to be marred by unnecessary delays and expediency, let it not be forgotten that, along with its institutions, it is the state of Pakistan that would suffer irremediable damage. The writer is an independent political analyst based in Islamabad E-mail: