Countering terrorism in a holistic manner is often difficult because the easier option is to simply resort to the use of overwhelming military force which is always available to the state. Unfortunately, as in any asymmetric or unconventional conflict, this response undermines the effort and creates a more enabling environment for the militants/terrorists. After all, while foreign sponsors may play a critical role in providing funds and weapons for the terrorists, most of the manpower involved is local which is why they are able to hide amongst the population. In the case of Pakistan there are a number of strands of militancy and terrorism that are prevalent today within the country and unless the critical difference in the characteristics of each strand are recognised, it will not be possible to develop successful counter strategies. However, the one common prerequisite for operationalising an effective counter-terrorism strategy is to create an enabling environment. An enabling environment implies the prevalence of a situation on the ground where there is public trust and support for the government and its policies so that the terrorists are denied refuge amongst the people and denied future recruits. In terms of typology of terrorism, in Pakistan presently there exists the post-9/11 extremist militancy now coming under the broad label of Al-Qaeda-Taliban; then there is the already existing current of sectarian terrorism that, to some extent, may well be enmeshed with the former but has its own roots in the country; finally there is the sub-national terrorism of separatists which is purely political in nature and has been flourishing because of disastrous federal policies and massive external support for dissident leaders from overseas sources. Finally, there is the now increasing threat of suicide terrorism coming not just from extremists, but also from the growth of poverty in the country which is pushing people into increasingly desperate acts. The overall environment is also not an enabling one so the state has been unable to deal with any of these types of terrorist threats and the major reason for this has been not only a lack of clarity of policy post-9/11 but in fact a lack of national policy because the successive governments have chosen to follow the US-led military-centric approach to combating terrorism which has already shown failure in Afghanistan and which has left Iraq in the throes of violence and sectarian rifts - and has provided a growing space for Al-Qaeda globally. In the case of Pakistan, this alliance with the US has also created a new type of terrorist threat - that of state terrorism from US drones and other covert activities - as well as being a major factor in vitiating the operational environment for combating domestic terrorism. So as a first step towards formulating a national strategy for combating terrorism, the government needs to delink itself from US policies in the region. This can be done by reducing the number of US personnel present in Pakistan; calling for an outright halt to drone attacks and if this does not happen, actually using the PAFs growing capabilities to bring down the next drone over Pakistan; and removing the military from FATA to be replaced by paramilitary forces as the military is redeployed along the eastern border and the western one to ensure no intrusions by either Afghan militants or US/NATO military forces; and a halt in the NATO military transit route. Bases given to the US must also be immediately taken back. Without a move to create this visible delinkage, no counter-terrorism strategy will work because of the negative operational environment. However, the moment the Pakistani public perceives this policy shift on the part of the government, the entire environment on the ground will become operationally positive for the state to tackle the menace of terrorism. Of course, what may take longer to dismantle are the octopus-like inroads the US has made into Pakistani society and intelligence agencies. Step two should be the formulation of a cohesive counter-terrorism policy that goes beyond the hunt and kill approach to the establishment of better human intelligence networks, moving in to first provide safety and security to the population that is opposed to militants but cannot stand up to them in the absence of state security. Here one has to divide the population into three categories and deal with them in different ways. While the anti-militant majority has to be given visible protection and shown that the state is responsive to their needs - including economic needs - those sitting on the fence waiting to see who emerges victorious must be shown in no uncertain terms that unless they delink from and isolate the terrorists, they will be the losers as the state will win the war. The third group are of course the passive and active supporters of the extremists and these have to be shown the costs of their violence. Step three should be to immediately deal with the sub-national political strand of terrorism through corrective political action, especially in Balochistan where the political government needs to reach out directly to the people with economic incentives including immediate economic relief. The tribal chiefs role should be minimised over a period of time so that benefits go to the people and not to the chief families alone. One way of doing this effectively is to actually develop the communications infrastructure of the province, as well as bringing in investment, which directly employs the locals. If the military insists on maintaining a presence in that province it needs to do it solely through its school and medical facilities, rather than its guns and armour. Local recruits into the paramilitary forces and strengthening the local police would be far better ways of improving the law and order situation. The role of foreign powers in Balochistan also needs to be exposed. Finally, a general amnesty for the political dissidents at home and abroad needs to be given serious consideration with just one conditionality: that they disown the way of arms and violence. All missing persons information has to also be made public. There has to be closure on this issue for the nation to move forward. Step four requires an immediate economic and political mainstreaming of FATA - instead of waiting for the US and its ROZs. If we are spending millions of dollars on F-16s from the US which we cannot use against our main external threat, India, but are being forced to use against our own people or in Afghanistan, then the money could have been spent more effectively by being spent directly for the betterment of the FATA people through educational facilities, health services and economic opportunities. Imagine what the cost of one F-16 could have provided. Meanwhile, we could continue to develop our missile delivery systems which are our own and have no strings or conditionalities attached. Unless the drone killings and PAF bombings stop in FATA, the locals cannot be won over and the militants cannot be isolated. Again, if the military is to maintain its presence, it should be through provision of educational and health services. As for the rest of the country and step five, a major issue is the problem of education and poverty. In earlier columns suggestions have been made on how to bring in the private sector to deal with the madrassah issue in the short-term based on data collected extensively from three southern Punjab districts - DG Khan, Rahimyar Khan and Rajanpur. Apart from establishing transparency of funding - which will happen quicker if the private sector becomes involved - the poverty of these institutions can be relieved also by brining in the locally-based private sector industries so that a link is built between the education imparted and provision of jobs locally. Ironically, my data shows that the better equipped madrassahs in these districts are those which have some links to more militant organisations and where the funding is coming from the Gulf region. These are just some proactive steps that need to be part of a more comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy which by definition has to be all-encompassing and where the use of force must always be circumspect and intended to convey a political message. Most of these steps need greater detail and scrutiny which cannot be done in this column - but we can still get a grip on our terrorism menace if we can find the courage to say no to outsiders and develop our own indigenous solutions that are staring us in the face.