LAHORE  - The killing of CID SP Chaudhry Aslam in a suicide attack in Karachi, the responsibility for which has been claimed by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, shows that terrorists are still strong enough to target the very man who was working to ‘annihilate’ them.

It also means that the operation going on in Karachi, which was launched on September 5 and is in its third and last stage, will have to be continued for quite a long time to get the desired results.

Top government leaders, including the prime minister, have condemned the tragic incident in strongest terms, which is a ritual in such situations. Statements that the government will not give in to such ‘cowardly’ acts of terrorists are also predictable.

The law and order situation in Karachi remains serious despite all steps taken jointly by the federal and the Sindh governments under the captaincy of Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah. Extortion is also going on as before. Traders allege that they are receiving chits from extortionists, inscribed with the amounts of money the recipients are supposed to pay the outlaws.

The question is why the state agencies have failed to crush the criminals despite the fact that they enjoy all powers.

Perhaps the wavering policy of the government towards the Taliban is responsible.

More than four months ago an all-party conference had been held to review the situation and decide measures needed to control killings and bomb blasts in Khyber Pakhtunwha, Karachi and elsewhere. Convinced that the Taliban are responsible for most of such activities, the APC participants recommended the government hold talks with them.

The participants wanted that peace should be given a chance. And in case it doesn’t bring the desired results, a full-scale operation should be launched to crush the outlaws.

The government started taking steps for talks with the Taliban. However, the TTP leaders deny that such an initiative had ever been taken. They also say talks with the government are not possible because they are ‘slaves’ of the United States, interested more in seeking dollars than anything else.

The government claims that talks were to be held on the very day TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud had been killed in a drone attack. It was termed an attack more on peace talks than the TTP leader.

The ‘process’ derailed then has not come back on the track.

The prime minister recently held a fairly long meeting with Maulana Samiul Haq, the JUI-S chief who calls himself the father of the Taliban. At the end of the meeting, the JUI-S chief told reporters that the prime minister had asked him to start talks with the Taliban.

The day the news was published, chief of the rival JUI faction Maulana Fazlur Rehman opposed the prime minister’s decision to involve Maulana Samiul Haq in the ‘peace process’.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Maulana Samiul Haq have little tolerance for each other, their sermons for unity among ‘Muslims’, notwithstanding.

This forced the government to announce that the JUI-S chief had not been tasked to approach the Taliban.

This brought the situation back to square one.

Everyone knows that the TTP had expressed its willingness to hold talks even with the PPP-led coalition provided Mian Nawaz Sharif, Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Syed Munawar Hasan of Jamaat-i-Islami acted as guarantors. This showed that the TTP trusted the then opposition parties more than they trusted the government.

But now that Mr Sharif is the prime minister and Maulana Fazlu Rehman his coalition partner, talks with the Taliban have become a serious problem.

Some say that the government is not serious in talks at all, but while talking of talks wants to crush the Taliban through a military operation.

Maybe, this is being done as a strategy. If so, pro-Taliban parties will not back it. And until they are fully on board, desired results can’t be expected.

It is also possible that the Taliban continue to strike at their targets to ‘remind’ the government that it should finalise its policy at the earliest.

Unless there is a clarity on policy, there is little possibility of the suicide attacks and killings coming to an end.