To effectively address the needs and problems of its people, Pakistan has to establish the writ of the state and strive for peace as a basic requirement for political and economic stability as well as social integration. The concept of a just, ethical and egalitarian society has to be understood clearly after having removed all fallacies and properly evaluating what the situation demands.

In Pakistan, there is deep confusion in public discourse on issues of religion, modernity and the challenges the country faces. It is above all, an intellectual crisis that needs to be addressed to secure the country’s survival, to allow for progress, and a constructive role in the region. In-depth analysis of the interests of various regional players in Afghanistan, especially in the context of the Pakistan – Afghanistan relationship in this regard, becomes a necessity.

An incremental or fire-fighting approach has not produced the desired results. Proactive approach and firmness in decisions is required of visionary political leadership. It is time to resort to “a fight-to-the finish” military action in case negotiations with militants fail on an absolute scale. Decisions have to be made in the background regarding developments in Afghanistan since the withdrawal of Soviet troops in February 1989, including the conflicts that ravaged Afghanistan, and the interests and concerns of external powers. These conflicts first involved the Mujahedin groups, later the Taliban, and finally the U.S and NATO military intervention.

The Afghanistan conflict has had a deep impact on Pakistan. The Pakistani Taliban and other militant groups wreaking violence in the country have drawn succor from the Afghan Taliban. At the same time, the rise of religious militancy and extremism has indigenous roots. In this context, a study by Riaz Muhammad Khan, a former foreign secretary of Pakistan looks at Pakistan’s policies and their evolution; the much-debated role of Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment and the country’s ability to contain extremism and militancy and neutralize Al-Qaeda. The situation in Pakistan and in Afghanistan are not quite parallel. Pakistan is a far more complex country having relatively well established institutions and a strong army. Pakistan is capable of, and will have to, address the challenges of extremism and religious militancy through its own means.

There is need to understand the circumstances that have spawned religious militancy and the violent extremism practiced by the Pakistani Taliban. These relate to a number of factors, including the unique traditions of the autonomous tribal areas, the transmutation of militant groups meant to support the Afghan and Kashmiri Jihadis, the proliferation of madrassas with narrow religious education; the depressed economic conditions, and the increasingly malfunctioning administrative and judicial systems, including the absence of speedy justice.

Over the years, beyond the alliances of expediency and convenience between the political elite and religious elements, Pakistani society gradually ceded intellectual ground to activist religious conservatism and orthodoxy.

An important psychological factor that weakened the ability of the government and the army to take forceful action was the loss of clarity within Pakistan regarding the nature of militancy. Endless media and public debates inhibited recognition of the gravity of the problem. The discourse intensified during 2007 as Musharraf’s political position faltered.

While it would be sinful to be complacent, a number of fundamentals appear to work in favour of Pakistan’s ability to ride out the current wave of extremism and militancy. Establishing peace is essential for political and economic stability.

It is time to give real meaning to the oft proclaimed 3-D policy of the government i.e. dialogue, development and deterrence. Pakistan is the most terror-hit nation. United, we have to be free of the menace of terror and terrorists. Recent steps taken by the government are most relevant to the current situation. These include the decision to initiate dialogue, and the approval of the internal national security policy. There are surely steps in the right direction.

There are problems that need be taken care of to make the TTP dialogue process a success. Workable options have to be found. It is not an ordinary situation of negotiations. The constitutional state of Pakistan and its lawful government is confronting outlaws who are organized and well armed in possession of latest weapons.

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan has been, in many ways, a victim of circumstances (and geography), especially after 9/11 and the US invasion of Afghanistan.

In spite of all the odds, Pakistan needs to proceed from a position of strength towards the talks to end terrorism, and to restore peace which is essential for political and economic development, public welfare and justice.

We must remember, that all that needs to be done, has to be for the sake of peace alone.

The Writer is a former director NIPA, a political analyst, a public policy expert and an author.