Prime Minister Gilani did a wonderful job of bringing on board all political parties to discuss the grave crisis caused by insurgency in the Malakand Division, which resulted in the displacement of 1.9 million people. The All Parties Conference held in Islamabad earlier this week managed to achieve a broad consensus on curbing the elements threatening the writ of the state while relegating to the back seat the smaller parties not supporting the military action. They were few and far between and appeared unconcerned about the fallout of the spreading menace. Granted, the 16-point resolution adopted by the conference at the end of a marathon session did not explicitly support the current military offensive to wrest back the control of the troubled region from those trying to impose their will on others through coercive means. But it did condemn all violent actions against the Constitution and the State of Pakistan. The perception that the decision to launch the operation to flush out extremists operating in Malakand Division was taken under pressure from the Obama administration cannot be ruled out especially as it coincided with President Zardari's visit to the United States. But then Prime Minister Gilani had a point in saying: "The militants attempted to impose on us their engineered regulations. The government's sincere effort to establish peace were construed as its weakness and the militants began challenging the entire system." Pakistan is at the crossroads of its history. The presidential assent to the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation after its adoption by Parliament was an attempt at resolving the issue democratically. But after having exhausted all political and peaceful means the government was left with no option but to call in the armed forces to deal with miscreants who not only refused to abide by the 'peace accord' but continued to expand their activities. The so-called Taliban sympathisers now expressing their reservations about the ongoing military action maintained criminal silence over the incidents of public flogging. They simply looked the other way when the militants subjected innocent citizens to torture or their beheaded bodies were found hanging from trees. They cannot be so callous as to remain unmoved by such horrifying and nerve-wracking incidents. Nevertheless they kept playing to the gallery and refused to admit the fact that in any civilised society such things represent a deep-seated rot and, if allowed to go unchecked, would only lead to disaster. The Americans' fascination for him might have constrained Mian Nawaz Sharif to gradually distance himself from the religious rightwing but he was being ambivalent about dealing with insurgents through the use of force. It was disturbing to find him making guarded statements about the threats to the country's sovereignty but at the same time letting party hawk Ch Nisar Ali Khan give a dressing down to the PPP leadership for waging a war against its own people. But it was good to see him finally throw his weight behind the government and sign the resolution backing military operation against militants. There is no doubt that the APC turned out to be a success in achieving a broad consensus on the issue. But it is going to be a long way to win the greater battle of rehabilitating hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons enduring hardships at the makeshift camps set-up in Mardan. The government cannot abdicate its responsibility of taking care of the IDPs to foreign donors whose track record of helping the victims of the 2005 earthquake was pretty poor. It also has to prescribe a timeframe for ending the counter-insurgency operation lest these camps should become a breeding ground for militants. It is equally important to rescue the people still trapped in Northern Swat who are neither getting food to eat nor a passage to move out of the areas under the control of insurgents. The scepticism about the army's ability to deal with insurgents may be misplaced. But there were disturbing reports from certain areas about the troops being more responsive to the calls from the insurgents rather than to those held hostage by them. If these rumours have any truth behind them then not only Operation Rah-e-Rast would prove counter-productive but it could also put the whole objective of uprooting militancy to jeopardy. Those at the helm of affairs need to find out the truth without wasting any time.