AFTER the Taliban in Malakand Division refused to put down their arms and started targeting the symbols of state despite the setting up of the Darul Qaza, the government ran out of options other than enforcing its writ with the help of the state's coercive machinery. Prime Minister Gilani has declared an all out war on the insurgents while President Zardari has said the operation would continue till normalcy is restored. Meanwhile, Gen Kayani has vowed to achieve decisive ascendancy against those who have taken up arms against the state. An anti-insurgency operation in populated areas is the least desirable option for any government as it invariably causes collateral damage, which at times could be excessive. What is more, this leads to a massive displacement of the population. The material losses incurred by both the population and the state are also prohibitive. This explains why the NWFP government had called for an end to the military operation that was being conduced in Swat and reached a negotiated settlement with the Taliban, which led to the enforcement of the Nizam-e-Adl. Despite international pressure the federal government too agreed to support the regulation, which it got through the National Assembly, posthaste. Instead of acting responsibly, the militant leadership then started opposing democracy and constitution and indicated that after Malakand they would go for enforcing their extremist views on the population of the entire country. No military operation can succeed without the full backing of the civilian population. There was a need on the part of the government to bring all major parties on board before launching the operation. Had the government convened an APC, as proposed by Mian Nawaz Sharif, before taking the decision, this would have strengthened its hands. The Parliament too should have been taken into confidence. As this was not done, there have been discordant reactions to the PM's announcement from some political parties. So far the government has received wholehearted support only from the ANP and MQM who are its coalition partners. As the decision was taken abruptly, the government's critics have ascribed it to Washington's pressure. What the government needs to do is to urgently call an APC with the aim of seeking support from a cross-section of the population. It should also get the operation endorsed by the National Assembly at the earliest. The government should also gear up to deal with the consequences of the operation. The humanitarian crisis created by the addition of lakhs of people to the already extra large pool of IDPs must not be allowed to turn into a disaster. Provinces should be advised to take additional security measures to save the people from the wrath of militant extremists who are likely to turn desperate as a result of the operation.