The monster of terrorism stalks the land from one corner to the other posing an existential threat to the nation. Hardly a day passes without a terrorist incident taking place in some part of the country resulting in the loss of innocent lives and causing material destruction. Security establishments, mosques and markets have been the target of this madness. It seems that nothing is safe from the hands of the terrorists who pose a serious threat to the security and economic well being of the nation. The need of the hour is to face and overcome this challenge which otherwise has the potential to tear apart the social fabric of our nation. This would require an objective and dispassionate analysis of the genesis of this threat, the formulation of a comprehensive strategy to eradicate it and the resoluteness of purpose on the part of the nation and the government to implement this strategy. A successful strategy to overcome the evil of terrorism requires in the first place an understanding of the factors which gave birth to it. After all, terrorism is relatively speaking a new phenomenon in Pakistan's history. The country was more or less free of this evil till 1990's when it became the victim of sectarian terrorism. I cannot recall terrorist incidents now causing so much pain and sorrow to us taking place in the country with such ferocity or frequency even in 1980's when we were deeply involved in supporting the Afghan jihad against the Soviet occupation. The problem of terrorism, from which we are suffering now, took roots after the withdrawal of the Red Army from Afghanistan and the commencement of the civil war in Afghanistan between the Pashtuns and the non-Pashtuns after the fall of the Soviet-installed Najibullah regime in Kabul in 1992. Ideally, Pakistan, Iran and other regional countries should have steered clear of this civil war and allowed the Afghan people to decide their destiny without external interference. Unfortunately, that did not happen either because the political leadership in Pakistan and Iran lacked the requisite sagacity and farsightedness or because their security agencies, which were guided by short-term considerations and the goal of military gains instead of a political settlement in Afghanistan, became so powerful that they were able to defy the political leadership. Pakistan extended its support to the Pashtuns led initially by Gulbadin Hikmatyar and later the Taliban despite their retrogressive character while Iran aligned itself on the side of the non-Pashtuns led mainly by the Northern Alliance in the see-saw struggle for power in Afghanistan which continues till today. Unfortunately, Al-Qaeda was able to entrench itself in Afghanistan during the Taliban rule. The present political dispensation, particularly the composition of the security forces in Afghanistan, established after the fall of the Taliban regime in the aftermath of 9/11 when Pakistan decided to support the US invasion of Afghanistan, by far favours the non-Pashtuns and is the real cause of the deep and widespread dissatisfaction felt by the Pashtuns. It also underlies the continued Taliban insurgency and the conflict between the Pashtuns and non-Pashtuns in Afghanistan. A peace settlement between the two warring sides together with the withdrawal of the foreign forces is, therefore, an essential pre-requisite for durable peace in Afghanistan. Pakistan became the target of the current tidal wave of terrorism after it tried, under the American pressure, to deny sanctuary in its tribal areas to the Taliban/Afghan Pashtuns fighting the US forces and particularly after it tried to stop its Pashtun tribesmen from going to the support of their brethren in Afghanistan. The fury of the Pashtuns in Afghanistan and in our tribal areas which was to be directed against the coalition forces has instead been aimed now at the military and civilian targets in Pakistan. Thus, the presence of the US forces in Afghanistan and their efforts to bludgeon the Pashtuns in that country into submission in total disregard of their justified political aspirations and cultural sensitivities have not only destabilised our tribal areas but also pose a serious threat to the peace and security of the rest of the country. In a nutshell, the current tidal wave of terrorism in Pakistan can be ascribed to the following factors. Firstly, it can be attributed to our willingness, for a variety of reasons, to tolerate the continued existence on our soil of the ideological and training infrastructure which had been created initially for supporting the Afghan jihad against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Secondly, it is the logical outcome of our policy of involvement in the civil war in Afghanistan and our ill-conceived and short-sighted policy of support to the retrogressive Taliban regime in 1990's despite regional and international isolation. The current wave of religious extremism and terrorism in Pakistan is the blowback effect of those flawed policies. Thirdly, we have become the victim of terrorism because of our meek surrender in the face of the US demands to "do more" militarily without impressing upon the Americans the imperative of combining the use of military force against Al-Qaeda and other terrorist elements with political initiatives to engage moderate Taliban elements and promote a peace settlement in Afghanistan. A comprehensive strategy to overcome the menace of terrorism must be based on a judicious combination of the use of force and political initiatives. The first and foremost element of this strategy should be the dismantlement of the ideological and training infrastructure which we inherited from the days of the Afghan jihad against the Soviets. This infrastructure now poses a serious threat to Pakistan's internal and external security. Secondly, we should abide by a policy of non-interference in Afghanistan's internal affairs and support efforts to promote national reconciliation and a peace settlement in Afghanistan free from outside interference. Other neighbours of Afghanistan must be encouraged to follow similar policies. Thirdly, Washington must be advised to combine the use of force against terrorists with political initiatives aimed at promoting a just peace settlement in Afghanistan with the promise of the early withdrawal of its troops from that country. Fourthly, we should engage the moderate elements among the Pakistani Taliban politically to isolate and overcome the extremists within them while continuing the fight against the terrorists who refuse to lay down arms. In view of the cross-border links between the tribes in Afghanistan and those in Pakistan, the chances of success of the political initiatives by the US and Pakistan will improve if they are taken simultaneously. Fifthly, we must revamp our intelligence agencies which so far have failed miserably to do their job of identifying, infiltrating and eliminating the terrorist cells in different parts of the country. Finally, the nation and the government must promote the Islamic principles of tolerance and moderation in our society. This is the demand of the nation's internal and external security as well as of its economic progress and well being. The writer is a retired ambassador. Email: