The primary hesitation and political inhibition before Operation Zarb-e-Azb commenced, was based on the premise of an enormous backlash, especially in the major cities. Suffice to say, an urban backlash of the scale and scope feared has not yet come. However, there have been steady waves of attacks in the tribal belts and KPK, with a death toll that is largely played down. Let us be clear, that despite infrastructural damage, the militants are fighting back, the backlash is here, and the frequency of blasts in the agencies and parts of KPK including Peshawar mean that they are not doing so badly for an enemy the army claims they have almost completely eradicated from North Waziristan. The armed forces have been updating the country with a daily counter of the number of terrorists killed in the operation, and are confident that they have cleared out 80 percent of NWA.

And yet, a suspected suicide bomb led to the death of at least five people with seven injured in Khyber Agency on Wednesday. Last week, there were eight separate bombing attacks in Peshawar, with one succeeding and killing seven people in a passenger van. While blasts in restive areas are not taken as seriously as an explosion in one of the urban centres of Pakistan, and while all of us sit and await the grand urban backlash, citizens of Pakistan in remote and other areas of the north are under increased and continuous attack since the operation began.

The frequency of the blasts is indicative of the limitations of an area-specific operation. Even if they are driven out of North Waziristan, militants will find new places to hide and plot. Financial channels, safe havens, sympathisers and the supply of weapons must also be unearthed by intelligence forces as part of the operation against militancy, because finishing the fight demands more intelligent manoeuvres than a blind carpet bombing of tribal regions.