LAHORE - Though much belated, the decision to launch an all-out operation against terrorists in North Waziristan Agency is a step in the right direction, which almost all political parties will ultimately support in the larger national interest. They will be left with no other option. And the parties that still opposed the operation will stand isolated – and be looked down upon as allies of the miscreants.

Now the army should continue the operation till the last terrorist is eliminated. They pose a serious threat to Pakistan, and if Pakistan has to survive the militants have to be crushed at all costs. Enough is enough. They cannot be allowed to go on killing the innocent people any more.

The decision to go for the operation, throwing away the policy of talks that failed to deliver, also calls for the government to review the ‘moratorium’ on executions of the condemned prisoners, most of them the Taliban operatives. The hangings had been stayed about six years ago by the PPP government, mainly to please the human rights organisations, and the PML-N government did not alter the decision in the hope that a ‘soft approach’ will serve as an incentive to the Taliban to behave and stop killing the people through suicide bombings.

Since the government has now decided to get tough with the Taliban terrorists, there is no justification left for it not to take the pending court orders to their logical conclusion – and take to the gallows all those awarded capital punishment on account of their involvement in heinous crimes.

The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan brought a bad name to both Islam and Pakistan. It was because of their terrorist activities carried out in the name of Islam that non-Muslims regarded this sacred religion as one the followers of which, especially belonging to Pakistan, are terrorists. And Pakistan was considered as a safe haven for the killers and outlaws. Pakistanis in most countries, including Muslim, are treated like suspect terrorists and humiliated.

Although most parties wanted a stern action against the TTP terrorists, there were many that believed that talks were a better way of dealing with them. They included the ruling Pakistan Muslim League – N, the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf, the Jamaat-i-Islami, and both factions of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam.

Needless to point out that at one stage when the TTP terrorists were active in various parts of the country, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had said while addressing a ceremony at the Jamia Naeemia that they should spare his province as his party and the Taliban had the same ideology.

Because of this harmony of thought between the two sides, some leaders alleged that while the Taliban targeted the rallies of other parties, they allowed the PML-N to hold the 2013 election campaign quite peacefully. A fearless campaign had also played an important role in improving the PML-N’s performance in the elections.

During the past many years the Taliban terrorists targeted such buildings and installations that caused tremendous embarrassment for the government at the international level. They targeted even the General Headquarters (GHQ) at a time when then COAS Gen Kayani was present inside. Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, Kamra, and Naval Base, Karachi were also attacked.

The recent attack on the Karachi airport exposed the vulnerability of the country’s biggest city and its airport.

Such daring attacks provided other countries with an opportunity to raise questions about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear assets. Some expressed apprehensions that weapons of the world’s only Islamic nuclear state could be seized by terrorists, a situation nightmare for them.  The government had to assure the world community again and again that Pakistan’s nuclear assets were fully safe and there was nothing to worry about them.

Ironically, the Taliban talk of the Islamic system but they never felt any remorse when they targeted the innocent people in mosques, Imambargahs, railway stations, airports, shrines or elsewhere. In fact, every successful attack reinvigorated their determination to hit the future targets even more brutally.

Foreigners, especially the Chinese working on various projects in Pakistan, have been the favourite target of the Taliban. This was a deliberate attempt by them to sour relations between the two countries, who regard their friendship stronger than steel, higher than Himalayas, sweeter than honey and deeper than the ocean. Because of the deteriorating security situation, foreign investments came drastically down. Many industrialists shifted their units to other countries due to the law and order situation, and partly because of power and gas shortages. As a result, the economic progress was seriously affected.

It will be difficult for anyone to calculate the damage caused by the Taliban terrorists to the country in various fields because of their atrocities. And unfortunately the more the country suffered, the more proud the Taliban felt about their victory.

The PML-N government set up a committee to hold talks with the Taliban, but the latter set such tough conditions which appeared like an attempt to bring the government to its knees. For example, it demanded an end to US drone attacks (something that was beyond the power of the federal government), enforcement of Sharia laws, Islamic education, release of the Taliban prisoners, compensation to all those hit in drone attacks, handing over of tribal areas control to local forces, withdrawal of army from tribal areas, and withdrawal of criminal cases against Taliban leaders.

Now that the country is at war with the Taliban, the government should employ all means at its disposal to annihilate them, the enemies of Islam and Pakistan. It should keep all political parties on board and move forward through consultations. The country cannot afford the reemergence of the evil force.