THE decision not to launch any military operation to eliminate terrorist strongholds, that some suspect are located in south Punjab, is, indeed, welcome. It seems obvious that the participants at the high-level conference, convened by the Prime Minister at Islamabad on Monday, were conscious of the fact that the charge of terrorists presence in the area, and their deadly forays into the rest of the country, has been inspired by factors that have less to do with the reality on the ground than ulterior designs. The conference, attended by Chief Ministers, Chief Secretaries and Inspector-Generals of Police of the four provinces, representatives of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan and heads of intelligence agencies, left it to the Punjab government to take stock of the situation and act in whatever manner it deemed necessary to curb militancy in the province. One would do well to recall, in this context, that the American media, think-tanks and even some official circles in Washington first began giving currency to the fear that there were terrorist hideouts in south Punjab, as a means of pressure to induce Pakistan to extend its military operation to North Waziristan. The hype that militants have shifted their bases there after the successful operation of the Pakistan army against them in South Waziristan was mainly motivated by the failure of the US-led NATO forces to make much headway in Afghanistan. If President Obama were to withdraw troops by mid-2011, well before the time he would have to go to the voters to seek re-election, he has little time to listen to Pakistan Armys plea that it would be imprudent to extend its resources until it had consolidated its gains in South Waziristan. The hue and cry is also an attempt at hiding the ignominy of the superpowers setbacks in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, certain political elements in Pakistan, which did not see eye to eye with the PML-N, in the saddle in Punjab, on certain domestic issues, took the cue and began drumming up the words, 'Punjabi Taliban, pointing a finger at south Punjab and hinting at the need for military action. It is good to hear that the idea of military operation, which would have proved to be a destabilising factor in the province, and hence the country, and served enemy interests only, has been thrown out of the window by the conference. There is need to pursue other decisions of the conference to their logical ends as well. The APC should be called at the earliest, the National Anti-terrorism Authority made active, prompt exchange of intelligence between different federating units ensured and legal loopholes filled. It must also be seen that the order banning certain organisations does not adversely affect the good, humanitarian work some of them have been engaged in.