Nation is aghast at what is happening. Where are we heading. How have we landed into this chaotic situation? Who is responsible? Is there a way out? This is the most talked about issue anywhere in the country. One is reminded of the quotation of a sage that "It doesn't matter what happens to you, what matters is how you behave while it is happening." This article is an attempt to suggest what we should do to meet the challenges threatening our very existence. Before we suggest a way let us recapitulate how we have arrived at the present situation. While doing that it will also be evident where did we go wrong. This is only to set the stage for the final argument. Struggle for Pakistan as a separate nation state was spearheaded by Quaid-i-Azam and was opposed by religious parties on the grounds the Muslim Umma transcends geographical boundaries. Since then we are caught between being a Muslim first or a Pakistani first. Quaid's early demise was a big blow to the political development in the country. Foremost in his mind was to frame the constitution. Nehru in India managed it in 1949. Since we had no constitution, the office of the Governor General Quaid held it as interim measure assumed far greater importance than being a mere ceremonial appointment. The other hard luck with our fledgling democracy was the squabbling of our inept politicians. The vacuum was filled by the bureaucracy. Democratic process received a massive jolt at the hands of bureaucratic Governor Generals Ghulam Muhammad and Sikandar Mirza. The latter in his quest to strengthen his hold inducted Army Chief Ayub Khan as the defence minister. Our foreign policy from the beginning was aligned with the west. Recall Prime Minister Suharwardy's unequivocal support to the British-French led Israeli attack against Egypt in 1956 despite widespread and massive protests in the country. We have not changed much ever since except our developing close ties with China. In the economic field our policies were flawed from the beginning. Compare our wrong priorities as opposed to India in this regard. She is almost self-reliant and we are hugely dependent on others. Ayub Khan imposed martial law and put the first nail in the coffin of democracy in Pakistan. Other opportunistic military rulers followed suit and it is only now in 2008 that we are witnessing the dawn of democracy albeit with problems of infancy. Ayub's 1962 constitution was presidential in form. It might have worked had the electorate was universal franchise. However public apprehension against it was strengthened when presidential elections were unabashedly engineered in favour of Ayub Khan. Then came 1965 war. A war which was politically ill-planned and strategically ill-conceived. That armed forces fought bravely and thwarted the Indian aggression and nation gelled behind our valiant soldiers is demonstrative of our potential. However the war hurt our economy and also sowed seeds of further discontentment amongst East Pakistanis. Ayub Khan became highly unpopular and was replaced by an even worst military man, Yayha Khan. He held general elections in 1970 in which the Awami League swept in Eastern Wing and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) got the majority in the West. Awami League should have formed the government but leadership in West Pakistan did not let it happen. Army was called to suppress the revolt in East Pakistan. India exploited the opportunity and dismembered Pakistan. Peoples Party led by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto formed the first civilian government in truncated Pakistan. New constitution was framed in 1973 which was federal parliamentary in character. PPP had governments in the centre and two larger provinces while the National Awami Party (NAP) controlled North West Frontier Province and Balochistan. Through political manoeuvring NAP governments were dissolved in1974 and army was called in to quell armed uprising of Balochi sardars and their tribes. It was a sizeable involvement and the army was withdrawn only after Gen Ziaul Haq, the army chief, imposed martial law in 1977 owing to massive political upheaval and public unrest in the wake of rigged elections by PPP. In the general elections of 1977 there was widespread reporting of rigging and manipulation of results. Opposition parties managed to stir up massive rallies, protests and congregations which paralysed the civilian government. Army chief intervened and imposed martial law. Initially, Ziaul Haq stated it would last for only three months but it carried on for eleven years till the military ruler was killed in an aircraft crash in 1988. In this period the most significant development was the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. Pakistan became a front line state of the West waging a war of liberation. There were more than three million Afghan refugees who came to Pakistan. A large number is still here. It caused a huge drain on our meagre resources besides spreading a menace of religious extremism and drug and weapon running. Afghan mujahideen were recruited, supported, trained, equipped and launched by our military and intelligence agencies. America spearheaded the war effort financially and materially. Afghanistan has been a buffer state in the Great Game between Russia and Great Britain. Its people have developed a fiercely independent character despite poverty and backwardness. Similarly our tribal areas have been deliberately left minimally governed by the British while they ruled with iron hand rest of India. Hence similar lifestyle of our tribal people. Demographically Southern Afghanistan which forms almost half of the country is of Pashtun ethnicity like our tribal belt. Therefore, Pakistan and US did not find much difficulty in finding the requisite and proper manpower to challenge the Russian forces. However, since it was seen as Muslims fighting the infidel invaders, previous Russian ventures in mind, many volunteer jihadies from other Muslim countries or nationalities joined the Afghan struggle for liberation. These people were well supported by the West and us. Later on a majority of these joined hands to form Al-Qaeda under Osama Bin Laden. When Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan there was no proper arrangement to run the country. America left Afghanistan in indecent haste without providing assistance for reconstruction or overseeing the rehabilitation of the refugees and uprooted population. Had it treated Afghanistan like Germany and Japan after the Second World War or like Korea and Vietnam the story of Afghanistan would have been vastly different. Instead civil war started in Afghanistan amongst warring tribes. Pashtuns were supported by their brethren from our side just as support was coming from the north and east to their respective kins. This prolonged and inconclusive war led to the Taliban phenomena that were nothing but the disenchanted war veterans of a simple kind educated in the seminaries of the Frontier who in disgust and frustration formed their own group which soon became a popular movement. Mullah Omar like a pied piper led the march and established a government in the whole of Afghanistan. Unfortunately he could not control Al-Qaeda whose agenda was to overthrow non-representative regimes in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Arab countries and to hurt west especially America which was seen as backing these regimes. Al-Qaeda was hurting US but 9/11 changed the whole scenario abruptly and once for all. Mullah Omar in keeping with the tribal traditions of hospitality did not hand over Osama nor shut down Al-Qaeda. Pakistan had recognised the Taliban government despite world opposition and was a source of great support to them but exercised very little influence over Taliban owing to their rigidity and obduracy. Despite the grievous hurt, invasion of Afghanistan by the Americans and their allies was premature to say the least. There were numerous other options short of full-fledged invasion of Afghanistan. The adverse ramifications of this folly were further accentuated by the US war on Iraq. America, for the time being, is inextricably involved in Afghanistan. Afghans, unmindful of what Al-Qaeda is doing, are fighting a war of liberation just as they did against Russia. That there is an unrepresentative, inefficient, corrupt and unpopular puppet regime of Karzai is further strengthening their resolve to fight. Russian interest to embarrass the Americans for what they did to her earlier on and the Indian interest to undermine Pakistan's so-called strategic depth is now amply evident in the situation on either side of the Durand Line. Now coming to what is happening in our Tribal Areas and the Frontier province in particular and the terrorist activities in the rest of the country in general. This is as a result of firstly the liberation struggle in Afghanistan. Past and present governments are seen as partners of occupation forces in Afghanistan. Secondly Al-Qaeda has also joined hands with local Taliban in motivating them, training them, providing expertise and know how in clandestine activities. Thirdly local criminals, absconders, drug smugglers and some extremist religious outfits have also penetrated their ranks. Fourthly material, financial and technical assistance from India and Russia is also apprehended. Finally and most seriously are those factors which are within our control. There is an abject state of poverty, unemployment, lack of basic necessities, and very inefficient and corrupt local administration and judicial system. In order to support the War On Terror the Pakistan army along with other law enforcing agencies such as the Frontier Corps and civil police have been employed in the Tribal Areas, Swat, Dir, Bajaur and adjoining areas since last five years. Latest weapons and equipment including air and gunship helicopters have been used. Americans are also launching missiles and air attacks against the militants. This is a full-fledged counter insurgency operation. Maximum losers are the innocent civilians who are caught between the devil and the deep sea. On top of this the spreadsheet of suicide attacks has engulfed the entire country. Nobody feels safe. This is not to mention our other vows which need a separate discourse e.g., economy is in a melt down. Industry is collapsing , power shortage scarcity of food stuff and skyrocketing inflation etc. As a student of military history it will be worth mentioning that except one no counter insurgency operation has been has been successful using the instrument of military power alone. Malayan Emergency which lasted for twelve years from 1948 to 1960 was the only one in which the British managed to control the communist insurgent movement. It will be worthwhile for our political and military leadership to study that example even though the circumstances are much different now. All other such struggles have either been military failures, Vietnam and Afghanistan being the most recent, or resolved politically through multi-pronged, synergetic and concerted actions. This long overview has been carried out to suggest a response. President Zardari has stated that Pakistan is at war. His Advisor on Internal Affairs has said that we are in a war situation. The question arises then where is the War Cabinet? Mere joint sessions of the Parliament are no answer. Will it develop a consensus is highly unlikely. Peoples Party is representing 37 percent of the votes cast. Add to it those of its coalition partners. Even then it is less than 50 percent of the electorate. At this critical juncture of our survival there is a need to take the maximum of our elected representatives and their political parties on board. In order to meet the challenges and threats to our security and existence we must develop a unified response. This is only possible through a War Cabinet. When United Kingdom went to war in 1939 Neville Chamberlain, the then Prime Minister, formed a War Cabinet comprising members from both the parties, even though he was from the majority party (Conservative). He was soon replaced by a more dynamic leader Winston Churchill. Churchill led the War Cabinet till the end of the War and had Clement Attlee, leader of the opposition Labour Party, as one of the key ministers. As we know Britain won the war .The entire war effort was orchestrated by the combined will of the nation manifest in their united War Cabinet. This was the body which not only formulated policies and strategies but also ensured implementation single-mindedly. That is the majesty of democracy, that it is versatile enough to meet any challenges with the collective will of the people. Britain had a similar dispensation in the First World War and so did Australia and United States in keeping with their situations. It will be interesting to note that after the War Churchill and his Conservative Party lost the elections and Attlee became the prime minister heading the Labour Government. We in Pakistan right now need a War Cabinet, or call it by any other name such as Joint Cabinet or United Cabinet or National Cabinet, in which representation is given to Muslim League (N) in particular, and also to other political parties of the Parliament. If everyone agrees that Pakistan is at the most crucial juncture of its survival then all political parties or at least the major parties must freeze their differences for the time being. Agreed that they can not budge from their professed principled stands. So be it. Let them stick to it but only put these on hold till we get out of this mess. They can agree to disagree for the time being. One major issue which resulted in the parting of the ways between PPP and the Muslim League is the restoration of judiciary. What is the harm if Iftikhar Chaudhry is restored as Chief Justice of Pakistan with a request to him or an understanding with him, which should be possible in this new arrangement, that he would also move forward and not batter old cases such as NRO or the trial of Gen Musharraf. After all he too understands the gravity of the situation. There will be many more opportunities which will come up where the judiciary can play a positive and assertive role. Aitzaz Ahsan and his forum of 'lawyers' can also freeze their differences to join the nation and lend strength to the unified War Cabinet. Is it not possible if the powerful president as at present makes Nawaz Sharif his prime minister and they form a War Cabinet of few but representative, effective and competent ministers. A larger cabinet can still be there to run requisite government departments but this smaller cabinet which essentially is a subset of the larger cabinet meets more frequently and conveniently to frame polices and ensure implementation. War Cabinet and the larger cabinet, both, should not only be answerable to the Parliament but should also seek guidance from it. Parliament remains supreme. Going a step further, effort should be made to ask people like Qazi Hussain Ahmed and Imran Khan to join as advisors, for which the constitution allows. What is the harm if they negotiate with the so-called Taliban The bottom line is to make the people in the opposition stakeholders in national decision making. In this way the collective will and wisdom of the nation will be reflected. One can give a long list of advantages of this recommendation. It will unify our nation. If our leadership sets an example of thrift and austerity, far reaching vision and judgement, resolve and determination, nation will follow. West will take our opinion seriously. Our bargaining position will improve and be credible. We will be respected and feared by our friends and foes for being united. After all we are a nation of 170 million people with credible defence and well-secured strategic assets. We only need a unified, strong, sincere, honest, efficient and patriotic leadership which fortunately we have if we join hands together as suggested. According to Oriana Fallaci history of civilisation is the history of deeds and misdeeds of few persons and the ordinary mortals remain at their mercy. Will they rise to the occasion? Quran says God helps those who help themselves. The writer is a retired lieutenant general E-mail tariprai6@yahoo.com