Shaista Pervez Malik The history of Pakistan can be divided into two distinct struggles of epic proportions; the struggle for independence and the struggle for survival. The struggle for the independence of Pakistan culminated in the creation of Pakistan albeit at great human cost. The ideological and physical journey by millions of people who opted to make Pakistan their home was a traumatic experience characterised by countless pre- and post-independence events. However, the struggle for survival continues despite the nation having sacrificed a lot, both in terms of precious human lives and socio-economic development because of heavy security costs. Indeed, many nations have undergone and continue to struggle for their survival but only great nations survive and emerge stronger from their most challenging struggles. The people of Pakistan have lived through difficult times. The country survived despite many odds and its dismemberment in December 1971, the event shattered the soul of this country and the promise that it held for the millions that participated in the movement for independence. But somewhere down the line, in the struggle to survive, our policy- and decision-makers forgot to learn how to make appropriate policies that do not undermine national security and cohesion. Since the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan in the 1970s, the focus of national security policies has been on maintaining strategic depth beyond the western borders and in the process forgetting the potential backwash and its impact on society and polity. Three decades later Afghanistan remains a theatre of war that has now spilled over into our own border. Previously the threat from the enemy was from beyond our borders. Now the country is at war within the borders. Have wars ever created winners especially those that are fought within? Such wars disproportionately hurt innocent civilians. Fighting the extremists in and around Swat Valley has while causing enormous collateral damage also displaced more than 2.5 million innocent civilians including women, children and elderly. The economic cost of war is also estimated to be in excess of US$35 billion, too big a cost for a country with very poor social development indicators. The UN is reportedly comparing the refugee situation in Swat with the displacement caused by the 1994 Rwanda genocide. The militant casualty toll continues to rise on a daily basis. The ISPR has put the number of militants killed in Swat since the operation began at over 1,700. Notwithstanding that, if the enemy external or internal is out to hurt Pakistan this war had to be fought. So far, it seems that our armed forces, entrusted with the task to eliminate the external and internal enemy have done a remarkable job, which is in sharp contrast to the earlier operation launched in the valley. No nation can survive if the writ of state's key institutions is trampled upon as has been the case in Swat amidst unchecked influence of extremists. Unfortunately, there are far too many groups and elements that challenge the writ of the state throughout the country on a daily basis. Usually, the writ is established through its civilian institutions and leadership that is immune from vested interests. The military operation in and around Swat valley is mainly aimed to establish the writ of the state in that part of the country. The major question though is how effective the military action will be in the long-term? Despite the great job done by the army in Swat, there is still a long way to go before normalcy returns to this valley. Militant groups there were known to be well armed, fully trained and mobilised. During the period of negotiations with the government, they took the opportunity to systematically mobilise themselves by preparing trenches, storing food, water, arms and ammunition. If the current military operation in Swat which has been extended to South Waziristan is to reach its logical end, it is vital that extremism is dealt with a whole-hearted approach to eliminate its masterminds. In this situation, political parties representing the will of the nation must rally behind our armed forces. But many political voices have rejected the military operation in Swat and Malakand calling for dialogue. This political confusion can create problems for the military fearing the loss of public support if the operation is prolonged. Indeed, the army and the government have a limited time for the completion of the operation and rehabilitation of the internally displaced people (IDP). The real fear is that political confusion can allow extremists time to regroup as it appears from several reports that the militants are getting reinforcements from Waziristan, Punjab, Afghanistan, Arab States and Central Asia. Although the operation is now in its third month it still remains difficult to say whether we have succeeded in this war. The people are also unaware of the existence of a concrete plan for the rehabilitation of the displaced people. How and when the reconstruction of the war-torn areas will begin has also not being addressed, so it seems. When will this latest round of the struggle for survival end and when will we start to make real and meaningful efforts to win the hearts and minds of millions of displaced people? Rebuilding the trust of local communities in state institutions including the law enforcement and security agencies is also critical. Today, many of the displaced people are unsure about differentiating between friend and foe. Our troops while being on the ground have to make that distinction very clear. In the meanwhile, the nation can only hope and pray that our armed forces succeed in protecting Pakistan from both external and internal threats. We have to stop blaming others, especially the United States of America for leaving Pakistan high and dry following the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in the late 1980s. Because this has never been and never will be the true solution of all the security problems we are faced with today. The writer is senior vice president of the PML(N)