A day before leaving for the US, Prime Minister Gilani made a number of important observations aimed at underlining the stability of his government and the satisfactory working of the system under him. He made it clear that he was in full control of the administration and was free to take decisions without interference from outside. The assertion of independence was meant to dispel the perception that vital decisions were being taken by party Co-Chairman Asif Zardari. He also made it clear that none had the power to dissolve the assemblies. The clarification was presumably necessitated by statements issued by politicians like Ch Shujaat Hussain that the government was not functioning properly and that it could in fact be sent home within the next few months. These were liable to give birth to uncertainty and needed to be rebutted. The President's critical observations about the government's performance on the economic front and in dealing with militants too had contributed to uncertainty. As he was leaving for the US it was necessary to convey to all who matter in unambiguous terms that the elected government was secure and he was a Prime Minister fully empowered to take decisions. Matters of mutual concern are going to be taken up with the Bush administration during the visit. While Pakistan faces food shortage and needs funds to balance the forex shortage caused by high petroleum prices, Washington's principle concern remains the rise in militancy in Afghanistan which it considers is being exported from Pakistan's tribal areas where the Taliban and Al Qaeda have supposedly established training centers. As the statement by Dr Condoleezza Rice would indicate the pressure on Pakistan continues to do more. What Washington demands is all out military action to eradicate the militants' sanctuaries. While it was easier for Washington to deal with a compliant President who considered himself not answerable to anyone, it is finding it difficult to pressure the elected government to pursue a policy, which is against the country's interests and is opposed by the people. The coalition government has decided to follow a multi-pronged policy, which stresses dialogue followed by economic and social development and the use of force only as a last resort. As Advisor to PM on Interior Affairs Rehman Malik has pointed out the approach has paid off. Once the extremists have been isolated through these measures, it would be easier to ensure peace in the tribal areas and stop crossborder militancy. One hopes the PM would be able to convince the US that only a holistic policy can eliminate militancy on a long term basis and that what the US needs to do is to invest heavily in the uplift of the tribal areas instead of insisting on military action.