Pakistan is nowadays in the grip of terrorism and suicide bombing. In the Pakhtoonkhwah's areas adjoining Afghanistan especially, the writ of government is challenged. The Taliban have launched a 'religious' war against the government of Pakistan that is causing thousands of casualties on both sides. The continued military occupation of Afghanistan by the NATO forces to contain Taliban has actually boosted the sagging spirits on this side of the border because the militants have been able to gain public support. People here think of NATO offensive as an affront against Islam. To their mind, anyone who cooperates with the West in these circumstances is their enemy. That is the justification the militants have for targeting the Pakistani state which provides the main supply route of the NATO forces fighting in Afghanistan. Had the West taken the timely step of withdrawing the forces after limited military action in 1992, the position would have been a lot different. But the US chose instead to consolidate in Afghanistan, sent in its experts and volunteers "to assist in rebuilding and developing Afghanistan into a modern liberal country" and the rubble of mutilated corpses is what we have instead. Now the menace of extremism, militancy and the horror of suicide bombings that they bring in their wake is spreading like a cancer into other areas of Pakistan and the government of Islamabad seems helpless to contain it. The Taliban are deftly exploiting the religious fervour of the innocent local people to gain ground and the image of Pakistan as an Islamic state is being tarnished along the way. Any military action against these extremists would result in more recruits rallying round them from local ranks as in common perception, Pakistan government is well and truly cast as an ally of America intent upon eliminating them. The Afghans are fiercely independent people. Even the British could not colonize them and had gained only a very precarious foothold by dividing the tribes on either side by drawing a Durand Line as a last resort. NATO so far has also gained nothing through military action except death and destruction of Afghanistan. Innocent civilian among Afghans, mostly women and children, are getting killed but it's the proper-well-trained soldiers that are falling dead on the other side among the Allied forces. With the cost of war mounting on either side, the good intentions of eliminating Bin Laden and his terror network and promises of building a democratic Afghanistan seem getting more and more distant with each passing day. The Taliban view that Afghanistan is being colonised by the West is the resurgent view here. There is some talk of understanding with the Taliban which might be a good step. But for any good to even start happening, the West would need to withdraw forces rather than increase boots on the ground. That would provide the beginning for an understanding with the Taliban. Then they have to increase the economic aid a substantial lot in order to develop this poor and war-torn country into a proper, modern state. That should also bring peace to Pakistan. -SYED SADRUDDIN HUSSAIN, Canada, July 1.