PRESIDENT Zardari continues to dither over the issue of expanding the country's anti-terror policy to include dialogue. At the trilateral meeting in Istanbul, he declared that the government would be prepared to dialogue with "those people" who gave up their way of life and were "reconciliable". This goes even beyond the Karzai demand, on the same occasion, that dialogue was possible with those who lay down their arms. The truth is that in the context of the Taliban, the Pakistani and Afghan leadership has been left behind as the US and UK are already making moves to dialogue with them with no preconditions. In fact, it is the UN that is seeking to make a proactive goodwill gesture by removing the name of some of the Taliban and other militant leaders from the UN's terrorist list. If history can be a precedent, then it would be worth recalling that the success of the Northern Ireland Good Friday Agreement was to a large extent a result of the fact that no preconditions were demanded before the dialogue commenced. In fact, deweaponisation was to follow the agreement. But it is normally understood that while dialogue was going on, no one would take up arms. But to ask people to change their way of life simply to participate in dialogue is a tall order - especially when we cannot even get our leaders to change their habits of nepotism and corruption While Karzai's options are limited, regardless of his grand declarations, given that Afghanistan is effectively under occupation, President Zardari has the choice of moving Pakistan out of the US hold and initiating a comprehensive anti-terror policy to include dialogue with Pakistani militants and tribals who are prepared to delink from the foreign terrorists. The US position that Pakistan continue to expand its military operations while America alters its Afghan strategy and dialogues with the Taliban will spell disaster for Pakistan even as it leaves it isolated as happened the last time it entered a US-led war as a frontline state in the region. In this connection, Zardari also needs to realise that the London Conference has little to offer Pakistan. Even the UN seems sceptical about the outcome. There is a general feeling that the US and ISAF will use the Conference to get support for their policies including giving India a larger military role in Afghanistan. Undoubtedly, now that both Gates and McChrystal have recognised the need to bring in the Taliban in any future Afghan state structure, this issue will also come up in London. What exactly will Pakistan be seeking under these circumstances? Judging from our past performances on this count, it appears that as usual we will be caught off guard.