WHILE the military operation in Swat is in full swing and the government and the entire nation are trying to cope with its aftereffects in the form of over a million IDPs, Prime Minster Gilani has convened the overdue All Parties Conference on Monday to discuss the situation. Many think the best time for the exercise was when the militants had refused to lay down arms, rejected the courts, parliament and democracy as un-Islamic and vowed to continue their attempts to enforce an extremist version of the Shariah all over the country through the barrel of the gun. Belated as it is, the move is nevertheless welcome as it would provide the government the benefit of inputs from parties representing a cross section of society. The in-camera briefing by the COAS to the heads of the parliamentary parties would help them realize the gravity of the situation and to evaluate various aspects the military response. The country's internal security is under threat as never before. While a full-blown military operation is being conducted in Malakand Agency, there are disturbing reports emerging from a number of other areas. Despite the official circles having rubbished the BBC report which maintained that the government enjoyed effective control only over 38 per cent area of NWFP and the tribal region, militants continue to target security personnel, attack government installations and private property and kill innocent people in the province and the tribal region. On Thursday alone, three soldiers died when their convoy came under attack in North Waziristan. A school and a college were blown up in Mohmand Agency and Darra Adamkhel. In Dera Ismail Khan eight policemen were injured when militants attacked three police stations. There are disturbing signals from the ulema and political parties. On Wednesday a group of religious scholars announced that they would fight the militants in case the army failed to bring them under control. The next day another group of ulema and political leaders called for a halt to the operations. The situation cannot be retrieved unless there is a unified response from the entire nation. The leaders at the APC must avoid point scoring or playing to the gallery. The government, the opposition and the army must jointly evolve a well-thought out strategy which has to be aimed at winning over the vast majority comprising moderates and isolating the extremists. Force must be used only when all other means have failed, and then too sparingly and for as short a period as possible. Attempts should be made to isolate the extremists who challenge the writ of the state by negotiations with those who are willing to lay down arms, accept the democratic system and join the mainstream. Meanwhile full attentions should be paid to the welfare of those displaced by the military operation.