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LATE ACTION HERO

It may not be entirely coincidental that both Pakistan and Afghanistan are seeing an increased spate of terror attacks. A vast network links the terror operatives in the two countries, where the non-state actors are looking forward to the drawdown at the end of 2014 as a step towards the fulfilment of their mission of establishing a larger Islamic State. The State authorities in both the countries are caught in a stupor when it comes to meeting the challenge. Despite the havoc the Taliban continue to wreak, the governments insist that talks are the only way to ensure peace. But like Afghanistan, Pakistan is finding it increasingly difficult to hold on to this avowed objective, especially now that the Taliban are showing less and less remorse in targeting the Pakistan military. Since September last year, army posts and personnel, including top officials, have taken a major brunt of the attacks. But the recent assaults ó near the army headquarters in Rawalpindi and a convoy in distant North Waziristan that ended in the death of around 20 soldiers ó seem to be proving the proverbial straw on the back of the camel. Pakistan has launched an unprecedented aerial assault in North Waziristan, allegedly killing scores of militants. What is startling is not the use of fighter jets that seem to contradict Pakistanís principled stand in its battle against the use of drones by the United States of America, but the determination to take the fight to an area that so long had been allowed the freedom to grow into a nursery for jihadists. Since the ceasefire of 2007, Pakistan has tried its best to avoid a military strike in this area that has been favoured as much by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan as the Haqqani network of the Afghanistan Taliban. No amount of cajoling by the US, a major aid-provider and Pakistanís partner in the War on Terror, had made Pakistan change its mind.

The North Waziristan operation could be a signal of larger changes in Pakistan. With the recently altered army hierarchy, it is possible that the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, is now finding it easier to push through a much-needed change in policy. The sustained attack on the army may have also forced the military to reconsider promoting select jihadists to gain strategic depth in Afghanistan. But Pakistan will still have to answer to its people why the large-scale civilian deaths could not force it to act earlier.