A fearful picture of armed bands roaming the land of Pakistan emerges out of President Asif Zardari's interview with CBS if, as he said, the Taliban had their wish fulfilled. Talking to the TV channel correspondent Steve Kroft, he assured him that the battle Pakistan was fighting against them was a battle for its own survival and thus there could be no doubt about its commitment. Mr Zardari denied the common impression in the West that the army and the intelligence services were not behind his government in rooting out the menace. As a proof of his assertion he pointed out that had the army not acted with full force, the militant groups would have had extended their sway to Islamabad. He was right in maintaining that the previous regime had operated against the militants by fits and starts, which provided them the much-needed opportunity to grow and expand, with the ominous result that they now had their presence in large parts of the country, not merely in FATA but in settled areas far beyond as well. That indeed has given them the confidence in their ability to have their will imposed with force, posing a veritable challenge to the writ of the state and threat to its survival. The truth of this claim of Mr Zardari is very much evident from the several suicide attacks that have taken place even in federal and provincial capitals, let alone in a number of other towns. This is also true that it is the present government that has openly and clearly been acknowledging the existence of this mortal threat. The previous regime had been in a state of denial, trying to make the world believe that the militants posed no serious threat. Mr Zardari's words reflecting the former government's stand are: "They (the militants) are weak and won't be able to take over." But actually the threat was potent; it materialised with grave consequences to the nation, to him and the family when PPP Chairperson Benazir Bhutto was mercilessly murdered. One could not possibly, therefore, doubt the strength of his feelings against the militants. The country, he said, had lost 2,000 of its citizens in around 600 bomb blasts. Hundreds of troops have died in battling against them, mostly in FATA. Only on Saturday, two soldiers lay dead in the violence-torn Swat valley. Under the circumstance, one would expect Islamabad to persuade Washington of the tragic pitfalls of pursuing military means (drone attacks, for instance) alone and the need to evolve a comprehensive strategy not only to score decisive gains on the battlefield but also to win "the hearts and minds" of the people. That is only possible with massive welfare works for the uplift of the masses and an unambiguous indication of respect for their sense of independence by laying down a roadmap for the withdrawal of foreign troops.