The US Secretary for Defence has threatened Pakistan that the badmash superpower would do everything to defend its forces from Pakistan-based militants. Pakistan army is under pressure for a while now from the US to launch an operation in North Waziristan from where it says the Haqqani network is staging attacks inside Afghanistan, and the recent statement by the Defence Secretary is obviously meant to increase that pressure. Around the same time, the US Special Envoy for International Energy Affairs, who brought his energy team to Islamabad to discuss the energy crisis in the country but refused to give any concrete commitment to support the initiatives of the government in that direction, also warned Pakistan not to go ahead with the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, waving UN sanctions in our face. Thank God, these threats and warnings do not seem to be working. The military leadership has refused to be cornered by the tough-talking US and on his recent trip to Iran, Prime Minister Gilani announced that work on the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline would be expedited. There are clear indications that the US stranglehold on our policy is broken and we are not dancing to its tune. But that is not enough. As the country that has suffered the most due to the US involvement in the region, Pakistan must act as a catalyst to mobilise international support for a regional initiative for peace in Afghanistan. The pieces of this initiative are already there, but they need to be brought together in a comprehensive strategy aimed at relieving the US of its self-proclaimed responsibility to lead the process of peace-building in Afghanistan and to show it the door. Instead of responding to the possibility of a permanent US presence in Afghanistan, we should be talking about the ways to send the American troops back before 2014. The tenth anniversary of 9/11 was marked by a flood of articles in the international media that sought to put the last decade in perspective and analyse the US response to the tragedy in New York. There is a near consensus that the war on terror has not made our world a safer place. In fact, we live in a world that is far more dangerous and divided due to the ill-considered and malintentioned policies of the so-called sole superpower. Instead of focussing its attention on eliminating the root causes of terrorism, the US used the 9/11 attacks as an excuse to bomb, invade and occupy Afghanistan and then Iraq on flimsy pretexts. Islam and terrorism were lumped together as a policy, giving rise to Islamophobia. The wars and this linkage, coupled with a refusal to address longstanding issues related to Muslims like Kashmir and Palestine, provided the perfect ammunition for Muslim extremist groups and strengthened them. The result is that we live in a polarised world where the deafening sounds and deadly fury of the war between the poles has made it very difficult, if not impossible, for any sane voices to be heard. In the past decade, the US has defined the debate and created conditions to keep the debate confined within the parameters that it has set. This is despite the fact that there are gaping holes, inconsistencies and contradictions, in the narrative that the US establishment has used to polarise the world and to keep it in the state of perpetual war. This might have worked wonders for the CIA budget, the sales of the Military Industrial Complex and the profits of private security and building contractors, it might have added tremendously to the funds for the international development brigade, but it has certainly made our world a far more dangerous world where millions of innocent people have been killed, maimed and made to suffer. There is no hope for peace in the world if we remain shackled within the parameters of this spurious and simplistic narrative; the good guys (read the US-led NATO) fighting the bad guys (read Muslim terrorists) who want to impose their barbaric order on the world through terror. It doesn't seem to matter that the good guys have been funding the bad guys and that even after so many good guys have been killed defending the modern civilisation, there are a larger number of bad guys who want their blood. It doesn't seem to matter that the wars and occupation seems nowhere near ending and there is talk of permanent presence of the good guys to keep the bad guys under control. It doesn't seem to matter that the problem that the NATO had come to sort out in Afghanistan has not been sorted out after 10 years of war. In fact, it has spilled across the border and infected Pakistan. The demands and pressure coming from the US are essentially supported by the crutches of this fallacious narrative and instead of responding to its individual blackmailing points, it is imperative for the Pakistani leadership to take away these crutches. The US-led NATO needs to be told that it is a destabilising factor in the region and that it should start thinking about going home, allowing the countries in the region, especially Afghanistan's immediate neighbours, to sort out the mess that has been created there. Of course, Pakistan on its own cannot take such a bold stand and it does not have the capacity to deal with the challenges in Afghanistan that have become more daunting after a decade of foreign occupation. It has to be a regional initiative. Already, there is uneasiness on part of countries in the region about the prospects of a permanent US presence in Afghanistan. But an expression of the uneasiness is not enough. Subtlety is lost on the global badmash, and it is unlikely that it would be sensitive to the reservations of countries in the region to what it does here. It will continue to harp on its fallacious narrative while advancing its undeclared agenda of appropriating world resources and imposing its hegemony, blackmailing and arm-twisting others to fall in line with its plans. Pakistan and other countries in the region must put their heads together and create a blueprint of freeing Afghanistan of foreign occupation and building peace in the country that has been ravaged by imperialistic intervention for decades. It should not be difficult for them, unlike the US-led NATO, to give more importance to the lives and interest of the Afghan people than their narrow small-time interests. Eventually, this would be in the long-term interest of not only Afghanistan, but also for the entire region. The writer is an independent columnist. Email: