That Pakistan is finally going in the right direction is echoing everywhere from TV talk shows to the opinion pieces to chatteratti of the capital and the bazar – the overall marketplace that determines the disposition of public opinion. Thanks to a very aggressive and out-of-the-box communication strategy adopted by the establishment, much of this ‘feel good’ effect in national mood is being attributed to the army and rightly so. It is because much of the crucial decision-making about many longstanding controversial issues for affecting a good change had to be made by the army.

The feel-good factors in Pakistan’s recent handling of itself include its decision to take on the terror haven in its restive tribal areas and elsewhere. Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan and assorted operations of different intensities throughout the country has produced a visible effect on country’s internal security situation that is hard to ignore. The terrorist networks are broken or have started breaking if the state institutions and Law Enforcing Agencies (LEAs) are to be believed. More evidence of which, however, would be needed to make an informed opinion.

Process of reforms in Madrassas has also been initiated reportedly. We are told that a conference of Madrassa administrations from all major sects is reportedly being held soon in Islamabad where important issues regarding curriculum reforms would be discussed. The reforms process, however, is much beyond these conferences. The basic issues of regulation are yet to be resolved.

Going by newspaper reports, a combing of madrassas is going on whereby search operations and raids are being made on suspicious madrassas, registered or unregistered. This has given very important leads to many terror attacks including the one on Punjab Home Minister Shuja Khanzada this month.

The communication networks previously available to the terrorists are being broken now. With massive exercise of mobile phone SIMs’ biometric verification, huge data is already available to the government. Scrutiny on other means has been tightened, albeit at the cost of civil liberties of the peaceful citizens of Pakistan. That probably is the cost that the citizens will have to pay for the wrong policies of some state institutions, which would just not go for accountability for those policies.

One can also see considerable progress being made on putting necessary constrictions on the funneling of terror financing. Terrorist organisations have been generating much of the cash through crimes, bank robberies, domestic theft, blackmail and kidnappings for ransom. Although decreased, the number and frequency of such crimes has not affected much.

This entire ‘change’ is being attributed to army. Which is actually a rightful thing to do. Whether it was about the long awaited military operation in North Waziristan or the tough decision to do away with the ‘assets’, all of it depended on a certain side on the civil-military equation. At a cursory look, it all seems good, very good indeed. Madrassas being corrected, terror networks being dismantled, terror financing being nabbed, militants being killed in custody, criminals (not only the terrorists) being executed, military courts established, military operation is underway in North Waziristan for more than a year. That is, after years and years of dillydallying and getting thousands of its citizens killed and soldiers martyred. We are finally doing it. All seems good. The direction seems right.

Anyway, keeping the unresolved questions of accountability of the security sector aside, the point is, Pakistan kept waiting for a ‘suitable time’ for the military action on North Waziristan while silently tolerating the mass murder and near genocide of its citizens belonging to different religious communities. We started it a year ago after years of stationing our troops miles away from the terrorist havens. More than ten months ago, we were told that almost 90% area has been ‘cleared’. Since ten months, we are on the same position. Ninety percent area cleared. During this period we have lost scores of our brave soldiers who embraced martyrdom fighting till their last breath.

Leave the accountability. Let’s just see the bigger picture.

Pakistan’s western neighbor Afghanistan is undergoing an unprecedented hype in terror attacks, claimed by Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network. The leadership of the two groups was in Pakistan weeks ago for making negotiations with Afghan government. Small victory. This was after all our long held wish to be on the negotiations table with Afghan government sans India and with Afghan Taliban as key negotiator of future. Applause.

The price. Murder of Afghan peace at the hands of unbridled Taliban and Haqqanis. The strategic policy elite of Pakistan should have known the track record of these groups in 1990s. When was the last time that they honored Pakistan’s requests of cooperation? Had they done it in 2001, there would not be so many years of Pakhtoon blood that both the countries saw.

The consequence. We have a disgruntled neighbor on the western borders. This side of our border has never been as hostile as it has been in last few weeks. Thanks.

And what’s brewing at the eastern border? With a rigid xenophobe and jingoist narrative in command, this side of our border should have been anticipated to be what it is. Rather than mitigating the threat, the Punjabi machismo of those in control of policy in Pakistan is hurling bravado on this side. Having seen LoC violations every now and then, and sacrificing citizens and soldiers, we should have been slightly more prudent than heating the side up.

Our long held ‘frenemy’ that keeps spending its tax payers’ money on us – errr… on our guns that is – is already threatening to roll back the aid money. That’s because she thinks we are not – once again – doing enough to leash Haqqani network. It was just last week that the USA sent a public jibe at us for not doing so. Not that our all-weather friend in the North East would be much pleased on all this. May be the macho heroes in the establishment need to spare a thought on the reason we are saving some dimwit brutal killers who have hardly obliged us with anything in past.

With both the borders vulnerable, world’s biggest power – whose sidekick we have been playing since decades – calling us out, our biggest province (yes, its Balochistan) under insurgency, our only economic hub hit with political and resultant economic instability, army being busy internally with Karachi, Balochistan and North Waziristan, who is making these decisions like an alpha male flaunting his false muscle? Hitting on the increasing radicalization and extremism is not even an issue under discussion. Xenophobia is still being used as a tool to get short-term objectives.

This reminds me of the Titanic when it was sinking in the Atlantic, some of the crewmembers were arranging the chairs in the back instead of making sure that the passengers on board were safe. That’s what is called Nero’s Syndrome. Not seeing the tightening noose around our neck while engaging in every other minor or major conflict under the nose, we are fast becoming a classic case of Nero’s Syndrome. Wither Pakistan?