The images being transmitted from Swat and its adjoining areas have saddened us all making the national outlook far gloomier. One could imagine the agony and anguish of the people leaving their safe abodes to languish in the camps in this sweltering heat and scant facilities. Everybody is hoping and praying for an early end to their ordeal. The way things stand at the moment, suggest that military will have to stay in the area longer than our expectations. The good news is that collateral damage has been averted so far. We are yet to learn about loss of civilian lives since the military operation started. The reason being probably the huge migration of the people to safer places from the war zones. Already over one million people have fled from their houses to other areas, mostly taking refuge in the camps and got a new identity as Internally Displaced People (IDPs). The whole nation knows how it is felt when one is made to leave the comfort of his own house and starts living in makeshift camps and that too for no fault of his own. It seems that Pakistan is now paying heaviest price of its engagement in war on terror and blunders committed by its political and military leadership in the last eight or nine years with President Musharraf presiding over the destiny of nation. Several attempts have been made in the past before against the militants or Taliban but they were left in the middle for one reason or the other, allowing these elements to regroup and reassert. Since long we are being told stories of dubious people imposing their writ in the area. They roam about in the area with their guns dictating the local people their own way of life with impunity and yet nobody paid heed as to what is going on in their backyard. We have no clue why such elements were not challenged or checked before by the government despite hue and cry raised by the local people. More than that the state has made no conscious effort to bring the people of these areas into mainstream Pakistan. Successive governments have failed to integrate FATA and other parts of NWFP into the mainstream Pakistan. So much so that we had no data about this area, its people, its territory when 9/11 happened that changed the outlook of the entire world. An aerial view of this area revealed a vast barren land that has never seen any development. It was neglect of highest order that we left these areas undeveloped and at the mercy of criminal elements for most of time in our post-independence history. Interestingly instead of making amends for the past and establish the writ of Pakistan's government both the federal and provincial governments tried to enforce Nazam-i-Adal there to reconcile with the militants. Same is the case of Balochistan as its vast areas are excluded from the writ of Pakistan and so considered to be the safe heaven for the miscreants. No wonder we find now Pakistan being inhibited by the people with different outlooks and interests. We hardly paused and pondered for a minute to evaluate if participating in the war on terror suits our interests with international forces and agencies getting active in the area. We even accepted hostile government in Afghanistan now turning out to be the bane of all ill. Then we hardly bothered to insulate the country from international forces and agencies which could go to any extreme to achieve their interest. We granted unprecedented freedom of movement to them just to save the skin of a few rulers. These are the forces which turn an American war into war of Pakistan's survival. The world's priorities changed after 9/11. But have we made any adjustment in the country's foreign policy accordingly? Already we were quite late when the military launched this operation in Swat on the direction of a political government. First time a military operation has been launched in the frontier with both public and political support. The ANP government even wants excel further. It wants the military to engage the militants in areas other than Malakand and Swat for ushering in lasting peace in the area. The call from the provincial government suggests that it is not a mere touch and go operation. The army will be required to stay in the NWFP for a longer period to achieve its objective. Thus, it seems to be a longer haul, longer than most of us expected as happens in any gorilla warfare. The militants flushed out from Swat could go to other areas to challenge the government writ thereby justifying a longer engagement of military in the areas. These are most critical phases in the country's history. In order to achieve lasting peace in the country, the political and military leadership will have to take some big and bold decisions. Already we observe that military establishment is making some strategic adjustments. E-mail: nadeemsyed@nation.com.pk