Javid Husain The recent terrorist attack on the shrine of Data Ganj Bakhsh was the latest reminder of the serious threat that the menace of terrorism poses to our national security, economic well-being and internal peace and harmony. It also highlighted once again the massive failure of our intelligence agencies, the incompetence of the federal and provincial governments, and the negligence and unprofessionalism of our law enforcement authorities in coming to grips with this existential threat. Right now there is nothing more important or urgent than the task of the eradication of terrorism which is eating into the vitals of our nation. What is required is the unity and determination of all the political forces, the resolve of the federal and provincial governments, the shaking up of our intelligence agencies which have been more interested in political shenanigans rather than the performance of their professional duties, the revamping of our law enforcement agencies, especially the police, and increased public awareness to eliminate terrorism. To ones utter dismay what one sees instead is mutual exchange of recriminations between the federal and provincial authorities, the telltale sign that they are at their wits end. The origins of the wave of extremism and terrorism, which is currently sweeping the country, can be traced to our disastrous pro-Taliban policy of the 1990s, despite the Talibans obscurantist character. It is true that our military establishment holds the primary responsibility for the flawed pro-Taliban policy which prolonged the armed conflict in Afghanistan, alienated us from the non-Pashtun communities in Afghanistan, isolated us at the regional and international levels, thus, endangering Pakistans security, tarnished Pakistans image internationally, encouraged extremism within the country, and sowed the seeds of terrorism which is now threatening Pakistans very existence. However, both the PPP and PML-N also bear their own share of the responsibility for having gone along with this pro-Taliban policy which was pursued from 1995 till 9/11. If our governments of that period had encouraged the Taliban towards the establishment of a broad-based government instead of supporting their drive for monopolising all power in Afghanistan, the history of Afghanistan and our region would have been much different. If we wish to overcome terrorism, we must begin by rallying the people and all the political forces in the country in support of a carefully thought out anti-terrorism policy. Nawaz Sharifs proposal for the convening of a national conference to discuss terrorism, which Prime Minister Gilani has accepted, is a welcome though belated initiative. Besides holding the proposed national conference, a well considered campaign should be launched through the media, as well as through political and administrative channels, to enhance public awareness of the dangers that terrorism poses to the countrys security and economic well-being, highlight the fact that acts of terrorism which take the lives of innocent individuals go against the basic tenets of Islam, and recommend security measures and precautions that the people should take as individuals and at the local level to counter terrorism. Under the supervision of each police station, mahallah/village committees should be formed to keep an eye on the activities of outsiders and suspects, and report their findings to the police station as often as necessary for further appropriate action. Side by side with these efforts, we should encourage moderation and tolerance in our society through the media and educational institutions. Alleviation of poverty, economic progress, creation of employment opportunities and rapid expansion of educational facilities should be part and parcel of any anti-terrorism strategy. The terrorist incidents also reflect a massive failure on the part of our intelligence agencies whose primary responsibility should be to identify, infiltrate and neutralise the cells responsible for the planning, training and funding of terrorist activities besides giving advance warning about impending acts of terrorism. It is obvious that our intelligence agencies, particularly ISI and IB, have miserably failed in the discharge of these responsibilities, may be because they have been distracted by their un-called for involvement in political affairs. The possibility also cannot be ruled out that rather than they infiltrating the terrorist cells, they themselves have been compromised by the terrorists. In any case, both the ISI and IB are overdue for a major overhaul and reorganisation to streamline their functioning and enhance their effectiveness. As part of that process, the internal political wing of the ISI which in the past has been responsible for manipulating the political process in the country should be abolished. Instead the capacity of both the ISI and IB to deal with terrorism should be enhanced through training, provision of requisite resources and technical equipment, screening of their personnel and improvement in their leadership. The performance of our police at the provincial and local levels leaves a lot to be desired partly because the police forces are poorly trained, equipped and led, and partly because they have been historically misused by our governments and senior bureaucrats for political and personal purposes. There is hardly any accountability for negligence on their part as shown by the lack of punishment of those police personnel whose carelessness enabled the terrorists to attack the Sri Lankan cricket team last year. The police must be sha-ken out of the state of lethargy and ineffectiveness into which it has descended. The government should also provide adequate resources, training and effective leadership to the police in fighting terrorism. The terrorist incidents currently taking place in the country are also partly a reaction to our support to the US in its fight against the Taliban in Afgh-anistan and our military operations against our own tribesmen to prevent them from going across the border into Afghanistan to the help of their tribal brethren fighting against the foreign forces. As far as Al-Qaeda is concerned, one cannot disagree with the need to defeat it because of its terrorist character. However, the case of the Taliban, mostly Pashtuns, is different. The US attacked Afghanistan and overthrew their government after 9/11 because they were accused of providing sanctuary to Al-Qaeda. However, despite their retrogressive ideology, it must be recognised that the Taliban enjoy widespread support of the Pashtuns, who constitute half of the population of Afghanistan, and, therefore, are a political force to reckon with in any poli-tical settlement for the restoration of durable peace in Afghanistan. The need of the hour in Afghanistan is national reconciliation and the establishment of a broad-based government in which the Pashtuns, the Tajiks, the Hazaras and other ethnic communities have their due share in power. Encouraging the US to open lines of communications with the Taliban for the establishment of a broad-based government in Afghanistan free from foreign interference, therefore, should be an important element of our strategy to eradicate terrorism. Hopefully, the incorporation of the Taliban in the mainstream of the Afghan politics would have a moderating effect on their ideology. The restoration of durable peace in Afghanistan would also remove a major factor responsible for terrorism in Pakistan. The writer is a retired ambassador. Email: javid.husain@gmail.com