"At least 80 militants were killed and three soldiers martyred while 21 suicide vehicles, motorcyclists and bombers were eliminated during the...operation in Buner district....The operation in Buner is progressing smoothly...three soldiers embraced Shahadat, says ISPR Press release..."(The Nation, May 4, 2009). Pakistan's political and military establishment is "romanticising" the so-called "war on terrorism" - a war against its own people that has been going on for almost a decade now and which has its inauspicious origin in the dubious and odious American global agenda in this region of the world. The latest political tendency to "romanticise" this conflict is a dangerous phenomenon because the strategic contents of this policy do not offer a resolution to the issues involved - the logistics adopted here will only intensify and completely wreck the chances of a peaceful resolution of this country's problematics. This war poses the ultimate existential threat to this nation. Romanticism, in the realm of politics, is a perspective opposed to political liberalism. Political romantics and military strategists advocate war as a means to a nation's and a country's "honour," and "glory," and promote the notion of "war" as a battle between "good" and "evil." It resorts to the ideological manipulation of symbolic linguistic terminology to exploit national sentiments. At the same time it generates "war hysteria" as a device to create the illusion of the expression of national unity. However, the present-day "romanticism" of war in Pakistan is only a futile attempt to justify a war that has been unjust from the very beginning. Consider, for example, the use of specific language and terminology during the past few days: "...soldiers martyred...bombers were eliminated...the operation progressing smoothly... soldiers embraced Shahadat..." etc. On top of that, the Pakistani prime minister, in a nation-wide televised address, said: "To restore honour and dignity of the homeland, the armed forces have been called in to eliminate militants and terrorists." The international media has reported that the US has welcomed Pakistan's fresh military action and claims that this is a battle for Pakistan's survival. Why is there such hype for an internally-confined political conflict which is now being turned into a full-fledged military conflict? If one goes by simple and yet profound humanitarian standards and judgements and the understanding of the logistics of this conflict (continued War on Terror) then it is obvious that the dying Pakistani soldiers and the so-called villains being gunned down with their lethal firepower, rockets, aerial bombardments and heavy artillery shelling, on both sides of the divide, are truly victims of an unjust and unwisely-conducted war. The questions one might ask are: How can a Pakistani soldier or his adversary on the battlefield "embrace Shahadat" when both of them are "victims" and brethren in the blood and bonds of a common heritage? How can the "dignity" and "honour" of the country be restored by a war in which nearly a million of its own citizens' lives and families have been shattered, their loved-ones killed, their homes razed, and who have been turned into refugees in their own homeland? Contemplate on the following: Here are family-oriented men and women, old and young, who take pride in their privacy, veiled bodies, adherence to religious-cultural norms and a strict observance of Muslim values practiced and honoured in traditions of their specific community life. And yet this "romanticised" war is displacing these honourable people en masse into refugee camps absolutely and utterly devoid of the socio-cultural-financial imperatives of the said society. Consider their ultimate lack of privacy, the psychological-mental-emotional devastation, the horrors of the loss of family members and starving children, the absolute uncertainty of a decent future, creeping illness, the denial of normal daily life amenities, restless nights, the helplessness that haunts the horrifying life experiences of a refugee camp. These are Pakistani citizens - people of the mountains thrown out under open skies and the wilderness of the blazing sun. How have things gone so wrong? Incompetence, vested interests and a total lack of political capabilities and resourcefulness, isn't it? My questions to the entire Pakistani political establishment, decision-makers and national managers are: Doesn't anyone care? Do you know what it is that you are doing? Is this how the restoration of national "honour" and "dignity" to be accomplished? Do you realise the enormity of the humanitarian catastrophe that the "romanticising" of this war has inflicted on innocent Pakistani citizens? Why don't you "romanticise" peace instead of war? But the most important and agonising question is: Why is war cheaper than peace? The Pashtuns' struggle, both in Pakistan and Afghanistan, is against Anglo-American occupation: "Military force will not win the day in either Afghanistan or Pakistan; crises have only grown worse under the US military footprint....Occupation everywhere creates hatred....War induces visceral and atavistic response.... Anti-American impulses in Pakistan are at a high pitch, strengthening radicalism," wrote Graham E Fuller, a former CIA station chief in Kabul, in a recent article. Continued "romanticising" of this war will stroke further radicalism and violence. The fact of the matter is that this war is not our war - it never was, nor will it ever be Secondly, a perceptive leadership never wages a war it cannot win; a war that alienates its own people cannot be won as it cannot win over people's hearts and minds. Thirdly, a conscientious leadership never imposes a war on its own people because it causes a nation to disintegrate politically, philosophically and geographically - a war of this kind has its political-military strategic history and its tragic consequences embedded in the chronicles of the East Pakistan debacle - there are lessons to be learned here. And yet, the entire Pakistani leadership is doing exactly all of the three ceaselessly: it is waging a mindless war against its own people, it is alienating its own citizens in a losing battle for their hearts and minds, and its decayed cynicism is leading to separatist movements in Balochistan and the NWFP. If this war continues, soon we will be doing "ethnic cleansing" in Balochistan, Punjab, Sindh and the NWFP. The strategy of "romanticising" this war is ill-conceived. It is about time that Pakistan's political establishment restore a sense of community to its nation which has been torn by a conflict that has been entirely the making of a foreign power and its allies. It is also crucial that Pakistan, as a sovereign state, espouse a policy of "zero tolerance" against foreign intervention in its internal and external affairs. No less important is the structuring of a new foreign policy, skilfully detaching ourselves from the dubious global agenda of our traditional Anglo-American allies and creating a brave new world for ourselves It is time to put our trust in our own people and move forward as an independent sovereign nation It was Henry Kissinger who once said: "It is one thing to have the USA as an enemy, but to its friends (it) is deadly" It is time to finally close our doors to American intervention - or else "Villagers who survived the bombing of houses packed with terrified civilians said by telephone dozens of members of one extended family alone had died. They wept as they spoke of orphaned children and burying loved one's fragmented remains." This is how the US operates. To quote Graham E Fuller: "Will the US have more of the same? Or will there be a recognition that the American presence has now become more the problem than the solution? We do not hear that debate." Let us start this crucial debate in Pakistan now It is time to "romanticise" peace and not war The writer is a professor, political analyst and a conflict-resolution expert. E-mail: hl_mehdi@hotmail.com