A friend of mine called me a couple of days ago sounding rather disturbed. He asked me if I had taken note of two statements that had appeared in the press the same day. The first of the bloomers was by Mr. Zardari, who recently returned from a three-week hiatus away from troubled Pakistan, vowing that the war in Swat would be taken to the fiercely independent tribal belt of the country bordering Afghanistan. Speaking to The Sunday Times, he said: "We are going to go into Waziristan, all these regions, with army operations. Swat is just the start. It is a larger war to fight." This is the same area where according to some unconfirmed reports, Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar may be hiding. The other bloomer was attributed to none other than our inimitable Czar of the Interior Ministry, now sitting with the lapels of a full federal minister, saying that the militants were after Pakistani nukes. This wild swipe is adequately reflective of our leadership's blatant pandering to the American perception that the Pakistani nukes are in danger of falling into the hands of the militants. This, inter alia, means that the nuclear arsenal is either to be rendered in-operational, or secured in a manner that Pakistan would be deprived of its use even as a deterrent against any possible aggression. These outbursts fit in well with the larger game plan that has been unmasked as part of the US AfPak stratagem. The principal ingredient of the approach is to bog Pakistan down in incessant internal strife and internecine warfare where its national army is pitted largely against its own people in a battle that is hard, even impossible to be won. The continuing drone attacks serve as a reminder of the clear but un-stated understanding that exists between the governments of the US and Pakistan with regard to recourse to excessive use of force to subdue these elements. The reward that the Pakistani leadership reaps as a dividend comes in shape of more dollars, but only with yardsticks and conditions to be exclusively spelt out, even implemented, by the donor states. There are even suggestions that the funds should be spent either through the United Nations, or by a special group comprising of representatives of the donor countries to oversee the utilisation of these funds in areas and in a manner they consider appropriate. The killer approach is two-pronged. On the one hand, it aims at bleeding Pakistan to a point of abject submission before the US diktat while, on the other hand, it encapsulates the use of aid in selective areas in a selective manner as a means to creating disaffection with mainland Pakistan. This approach has to be viewed in contrast to the one in Afghanistan where there is a perceptible and concerted thrust towards achieving a level of national stability. The reported meeting between Robert Gates and a former ISI chief to facilitate a dialogue with the militants is a glaring example of the dichotomous US approach towards the two neighbours. While there may be a need for use of force as a potent weapon by the state as a last resort, its continual and optimal use would be grossly counter-productive. The collateral damage of an operation of the nature that has been unleashed in Swat is bound to arouse bitterness. While there are largescale civilian casualties to be contended with, there is also the vast displacement of people from the war zone and the gigantic task of looking after them through the duration of the strife. According to one UN appraisal, over two million people have already left their homes in Swat and other areas, looking for temporary abodes elsewhere. The government's preparedness in handling this task has been found dismal to say the least. They neither have the funds, nor the wherewithal, nor an effective mechanism, nor the spirit to handle a tragedy of such mammoth magnitude. The government has also failed in providing answers to some relevant queries with regard to the nature, scope and the duration of the military operation. One understands that an answer to the last of the queries may be difficult to provide at this stage, but the government could have won some hearts by taking the people into confidence with regard to the former two. Even that has not been done and the manner of the briefings that are being provided are quite in line with those leading to the disaster in the former East Pakistan: the shocking news of the surrender was preceded by the 'all-is-well' syndrome accompanied by unsubstantiated claims of the Pakistani forces effectively denting the enemy's onslaught, even making advances in some sectors While a military surrender may not be on the cards in the current event, even a stalemate would be tantamount to defeating the critical purpose of launching such a vast military operation. The recently held All Parties Conference (APC) also went by the wayside: it failed to delineate a clear strategy to deal with the threat of militancy and insurgency. While it extended inconsequential support to the government's policy in dealing with the crisis with a few exceptions from elements that are not adequately represented in the Parliament, it fell way short of recommending a credible and cohesive plan as a long-term mechanism for dealing with the scourge. While foreign elements that have infiltrated into the local militant gangs may need a more aggressive handling, the principal ingredient of any effective strategy has to aim at eliminating the breeding grounds of extremism and militancy. These grounds are scattered right across the expanse of the country in shape of hundreds and thousands of madrassahs that are the hotbeds of inculcating militant ideas into the minds of those who go there. These madrassahs are part of a well-organised network that the government is either unwilling to deal with, or finds itself incapable of doing so. In either of the two cases, the problem would not only remain festering, but would multiply with the passage of time as more hordes dripping with militant ideology continue walking into the mainstream of national thinking. While a limited army operation may remain an essential ingredient of dealing with the militant bands that have taking hold of some areas in the country, greater stress should be laid on devising a fuller, more comprehensive strategy for handling the menace of extremism in the long run. That is where the need of eliminating the nurseries of militant thought and addressing the inherent contradictions that plague the society would have to be given a priority consideration. Without saner thinking and a viable dose of legitimacy, we would continue to fall prey to the militant onslaught, one way or the other The writer is an independent political analyst based in Islamabad E-mail: raoofhasan@hotmail.com