"Little minds are tamed and subdued by misfortune; but great minds rise above it." Washington Irving Terrorism is a phenomenon that is condemned throughout the world. The war on terror has cost trillions of dollars; an amount, which if put to productive use, could have ensured education for each and every child, who lives in this world. After 9/11, the Americans have been pursuing assertive diplomacy and in the process first occupied Afghanistan and then Iraq. What they have failed to understand is that suppression is never a solution. This was the primary reason why they lost in Vietnam and may once again lose in Afghanistan. The recent uprising in several African and Arab countries have been encouraged by the US not for any high ideals, but for the simple reason that the change in regimes would help American companies to exploit their natural resources, especially those who have vast reservoirs of oil and gas. For example, it is now realised that Pakistan - after losing more than 35,000 persons in approximately 300 suicide attacks and a much bigger number of bomb blasts, with nearly four million people displaced from their homes - has suffered more than any other country in the last 10 years, as 19 members of the Bin Laden brigade hijacked four planes and flew them into the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon and a field in rural Pennsylvania. Pakistan with its weak economy has also suffered a staggering loss of nearly $70 billion since the 9/11 attacks. While there is no denying the fact that the international community stepped in to help the country, nonetheless, it was Pakistan that ultimately faced the brunt of the never-ending war on terror. Although many attempts have been made to analyse the post-9/11 situation, yet no worthwhile study has been undertaken in the country to formulate a balanced foreign policy, especially in the light of emerging political realities in the region. This has led the country into a quagmire and there are no signs of an early exit from the present state of affairs. The situation has worsened due to USAs hypocrisy and the proxy wars, which are being fought on the country's soil by some foreign countries. The time may soon come when Pakistan may be forced to take drastic measures. Otherwise, the situation could become completely unmanageable where the present democratic dispensation may be replaced by dictatorial rule. The US administration on the advice of neoconservatives has continued to pursue a policy of unilateralism, which has not helped the world become a safer place. As a result of its policy, a new breed of warriors or extremists, which are mainly responsible for a variety of atrocities being committed on the helpless people in Afghanistan and Pakistan, have emerged. The decision by the dictator, General (retd) Pervez Musharraf, to initiate military action in the tribal areas has cost the country dearly. It would have been better, if the General had followed the local tradition of jirga system to solve the issue, but he ignored it; this was, indeed, done under US pressure. And now when the Americans talk of engaging the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Pakistanis are waking up to the reality that a mix of military action and political negotiations if initiated earlier could have resulted in the achievement of desired results. However, bloodshed and turmoil continue both in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and an internal conflict has erupted between the forces which are considered loyal to the US administration and the militant groups. This in turn has resulted in not only Pakistan being isolated in the international community, but also triggered a serious crisis that has badly affected the law and order situation, evaporated foreign investment, and damaged the role of democracy in the State. The question is: Has the ruling elite in Pakistan learnt its lesson? Since there has been no change in the countrys external or internal policy, the situation continues to worsen. That has, unfortunately, been exploited by certain political groups, which are already engaged in fierce turf wars. If not stopped, there is a possibility that they can easily degenerate into a civil war, which could deal a grievous blow to the motherland. Our policymakers must remember what happened to Lebanon where ethnic and gang wars ruined the entire country, and it took nearly three decades before it could recover. A similar situation has emerged in Pakistan's financial hub, Karachi; more so, there is a breakdown of law and order in other major urban areas of the country. All this can be attributed to policy blunders; however, since the mistakes have been identified, swift measures must be taken to rectify them. Pakistan must revise its policy on the war on terror, and it would be prudent if side by side with military action, negotiations are opened, with the militants so that peace can return to this country. It must also formulate a more aggressive foreign policy and make it clear to its Western allies that if they do not take Pakistans interests into account while withdrawing their troops from Afghanistan, Pakistan will be well within its right to formulate an independent policy to protect its interests. Islamabad must also resist Washingtons attempt to cow down Pakistan by withholding the military assistance that is vital to combat terrorism. The PPP-led government needs to place its national interest first and also weigh other options that are available to continue its effort against extremism. The most regrettable attitude of successive governments in Pakistan has been that they failed to take the people into confidence. The government, the armed forces and the people of Pakistan should remain on the same page as far as serious issues are concerned, and this can only happen if a transparent and vibrant form of external and internal policy is put in place as early as possible. The writer has been associated with various newspapers as editor and columnist. At present, he hosts a political programme on Pakistan Television. Email: zarnatta@hotmail.com