TROOPS backed by air cover and supported by tanks have started pounding targets inside Mehsud areas in South Waziristan. Speaking at a press conference in Peshawar Prime Minister Gilani has expressed determination to continue the military operation till militancy is completely rooted out, dismissing any possibility of a dialogue with the Taliban. But for the obstinacy of Baitullah Mehsud, there would have been no need for a military operation in Waziristan, which has by and large been peaceful after a deal brokered last year by Ahmadzai Wazir tribe with the government. As former corps commander Alam Jan Mehsud has put it, the Mehsud tribe has rendered sacrifices for Pakistan while Baituillah is playing in the hands of mostly non-Mehsud extremists. He has set up a centre for suicide bombers in the area under his control where young men, brainwashed by handlers, are trained and launched against targets inside the country. From his safe havens Baitullah Mehsud has choreographed several high profile attacks in major cities that caused scores of deaths and made international news, creating panic in the country and driving away potential investors. His minions were also involved in daring acts of kidnappings, the latest being that of several hundred students of Razmak Cadet College. For months the entire law and order machinery has been at tenterhooks to counter the threats, and red alerts were issued in a number of cities including Islamabad. Baitullah is not amenable to sound counsel. He has reportedly ruled out the advice by his erstwhile mentor Mullah Omar to stop terrorist attacks inside Pakistan and divert all energies and resources to fight the US troops. If the news is correct, this would indicate a split in the ranks of the militants. The TTP chief has also remained unmoved by opposition from local commanders like Turkestan Betani and his own co-tribesman Qari Zainuddin Mehsud who failing to dissuade him from attacks inside Pakistan, have accused him of acting for all practical purposes as an agent of the countries hostile to the Muslim world. Extremist militants are gradually losing sympathy among religious circles also. Attacks on mosques, disinterring of the corpses of opponents to be hanged in public places and targeting innocent citizens are highly repulsive acts, which are being widely condemned. On Friday, ulema from Deoband deplored the blasting of schools, mausoleums and barbers' shops by the Taliban who according to them were ignorant of the teachings of Islam. Earlier a number of ulema, including Maulana Sarfraz Naeemi who subsequently fell victim to a suicide attack, had denounced these activities. It is time the extremist militants drop their weapons and learn to live peacefully. The government should also call off the military operation in case they agree to do so.