From Pakistan's perspective, the most coveted remedy for the scourge of terrorism would be the peaceful means. That would save life and property randomly lost in wanton attacks by the militants and their encounters with the security forces. The people's daily routine, social interaction, economic and commercial dealings, the care of the sick and the students' focus on studies would remain undisturbed. In short, the orderly business of life would continue to function. Keeping in mind the paramount need for restoring normal life, the authorities have tried to engage those militant groups, which can be persuaded not to disturb the peace in return for the acceptance of their minimum demands. The agreement in Swat between the NWFP government and the Tehrik Nifaz-i-Shariat Muhammadi, led by Maulana Sufi Muhammad, is one such attempt. No doubt, similar deals in the past, which initially appeared to be bearing fruit, proved only transitory and the hiatus of ceasefire came to an end. Both sides, the militants and the government, began accusing each other of reneging on commitments, the peace deals fell through and violence erupted again. This unsavoury experience has led the US and NATO allies to oppose such peace arrangements, arguing that they tend to provide the terrorists an opportunity to muster strength, collect arms and gather more converts to their cause, and thus make the task of eliminating the menace even harder. They believe that military operations ought to continue till the militants have been softened up enough to offer themselves to surrender unconditionally. That poses a real dilemma for the Pakistan government, which is rightly inclined to handle its citizens in a way that ensures lasting peace. The American preference for military operation might be justified in hardcore cases but generally that does not represent solution in the long run, and that objective cannot be lost sight of by Pakistani strategists. Hence their stand that avenues of peaceful accommodation must continue to be explored. And that is what the government has done in the case of Swat where Maulana Sufi Muhammad has come round to, what is generally believed here, making a few reasonable demands. It is true that the sensible course of bringing about reconciliation through negotiations is not without pitfalls when the enemies of peace are ruthlessly uncompromising, not hesitating to go to any length to ensure the enforcement of a set of fixed, and even retrogressive, religious ideas. That an overwhelming majority of people do not subscribe to their philosophy and have moderate views further inspires them to wage a 'holy war' to bring this 'misguided' lot back to 'the right path'. These fanatics' objective does not end there; they have deeper designs: beginning with the enforcement of Sharia in their area, they aim at covering the whole of Pakistan and from that base spread the message across to the entire world ultimately. It is this genre of religious exponents that presents Pakistan with a real dilemma. In the Swat arena, there are two main players, one moderate and the other hardliner: on the one hand, Maulana Sufi Muhammad held peaceful protests for the return of Nizam-i-Adl in Malakand Division and on the other his son-in-law Maulana Fazlullah, inspired by the Tehrik-i-Taliban of Pakistan whose chief he is in the valley, was for violent means. Sufi Muhammad gave a public undertaking that if the government were to implement the agreement, he would make sure that Fazlullah got on board. Although the exact terms of the agreement are not known to public, its basic points (the enforcement of Nizam-i-Adl (reversal to the pre-1969 system of princely days, the laying down of arms by militants and accepting the writ of the state, the reopening of schools for male and female education) have been talked about. In view of the high stakes that the country has in spreading peace in the strife-torn north, it is extremely necessary that both sides stick to the letter and the spirit of the peace deal. At this moment in particular there is a crying need for developing genuine trust between the two sides in the valley, and before the reported strains on account of the government's alleged inaction or slow action in executing the accord assume an irreversible shape, it should demonstrate sincerity in honouring its commitment. All efforts should be directed towards ensuring that peace takes hold on a lasting basis in Swat to serve as an effective answer to the US reservations on this score. And only with this example in place, the forces of peace and accommodation will be able to spread themselves beyond the valley. E-mail: