THE Islamabad suicide attack should send alarm bells ringing not only on account of the large number of casualties but also because it is the first major act of the kind after the takeover by the present government. There was a perception that the respite to suicide attacks was caused by widespread hopes that the new government would bring a healing touch that would remove the grievances created by the anti-terror policy of the previous administration, which relied on indiscriminate force. It was also hoped that figures associated with the high-handed policy would be brought to justice and the President impeached. What is more, the coalition, which was seen to represent the collective will of the nation, inspired widespread respect. Unfortunately, within weeks of the formation of the government the PML(N) left the federal cabinet. The policy of talks with the militants was abruptly changed within a couple of months, leaving many yo wonder at which forum the policy decisions were being taken. It is significant that the suicide attack took place after the dispersal of the gathering which was commemorating the anniversary of the killings in Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa. Leaders of certain religious parties, apparently keen to extract political mileage, had no doubt delivered provocative speeches at the time of the siege last year, but the military action that caused the deaths of over 250 girl students could have been avoided, had talks instead of brute force, been used to resolve the matter. Another spurt of suicide attacks could destabilise the government. The administration currently faces pressure from Washington, which opposes talks with the militants. The militants on the other hand demand a total break with pro-US policies. There are complaints from the NWFP government that the establishment creates hurdles in the implementation of peace accords. The problems being faced by the government that include terrorism, inflation, surging gas and fuel charges, and the lawyers movement cannot be handled by an administration run in the main by a single party. There is an urgent need for the PPP and PML(N) to mend fences, and for the latter to return to the Cabinet, instead of disowning government policies. They should also consider inviting parties currently in the opposition to form a national government. What is paramount however is to get all policy decisions approved from the National Assembly. Unless these steps are urgently taken, the government cannot hope to deal with the multifarious challenges and pressures it currently faces.