As the situation heats up around Bajaur, causing heavy casualties of the militants as well as the security forces, which fought each other for three days, official sources have claimed that the besieged Frontier Corps personnel were freed on Saturday and had returned to the Khaar base and, later, the troops beat a "strategic" retreat from the Loyi Sam town, a few kilometres west of Khaar. However, the Taliban triumphantly maintain that they repulsed the attack in which for the first time helicopter gunships, Cobra helicopters, armoured vehicles and tanks were used. The figures of the dead, wounded and taken hostage given by the two sides widely differ, making an intelligent guess of the number involved rather difficult. However, both have confirmed efforts by a local jirga to retrieve dead bodies. Several vehicles and at least one tank of the troops were destroyed and some taken away by the militants. Whatever the truth behind the claims emanating from the either side, there remains little doubt that the militants in the tribal region have gained strength and become bold enough to increasingly harass the soldiers, ambush, besiege, abduct or take them on. The Tehrik-i-Taliban, Pakistan, have been threatening to unleash suicide bombers to create mayhem in different parts of the country, if the troops were not withdrawn from the tribal areas. This is indeed a scary scenario. While on the one hand, it is imperative for the writ of the state to prevail, on the other, it is equally desirable to make the best of efforts to see that the loss of life remains the minimum and, as far as possible, the innocent civilians are spared of the sufferings of actual combat. Even when the use of force becomes inevitable, the avenues of a negotiated end to militancy must continue to be explored. The coalition partners have so far been engrossed in battling internal political issues and the mounting challenge of militancy has not been duly addressed. In the meantime, the US has been showing increasing impatience, with the ISI being charged with sympathising with the Taliban to the discomfiture of the NATO forces in Afghanistan. Missile hits and air violations of our territory have become more frequent. Recommendations of some policymakers in Washington that the NATO troops should adopt an aggressive hot pursuit policy that permits their intrusion into Pakistan have come to light. It is time, therefore, for the public representatives to have a full-scale debate in the Parliament and devise a well-thought-out policy to tackle the menace of militancy.