Benazir Bhutto was assassinated by the jihadis on December 27, 2007 after addressing a rally where she repeated her warnings about the Taliban and other extremist groups. Today, events such as the recent massacre of school children in Peshawar, reflect what Bhutto was warning against. Extremist Islamist ideologues opposed her because as a western-educated Muslim woman leader she symbolized all that the jihadis hate.
The barbarous targeted attack on helpless children has done what a decade of terrorism couldn't -- Pakistan reacted venomously. The outpouring of grief for the victims and their families from across the country, the region and world has changed the very paradigm of how terrorism has been tackled by the government.
The policy of allowing militant groups to operate on Pakistani soil has proved disastrous. The jihadi militants do not accept the neat divisions between global, regional and local conflicts. Once they are convinced of the righteousness of their cause, they are willing to fight and blow themselves up anywhere. Rising militancy coupled with a significant decline in the capacity of the state has enabled Pakistan-based jihadi groups to wreak havoc not only in India and Afghanistan but also in Pakistan and its friendly neighbors, Iran and China.
Many Pakistanis are torn between their support for democracy and civilian control of the military, on the one hand, and their desire for social and political reform, on the other. Just as Sharif is the flawed advocate of democracy, Khan and Qadri's calls for reform have been tainted by their covert ties with the military and its intelligence arms.
Since independence, Pakistanis have been told that their country is a "citadel of Islam," that its destiny is to be an Islamic state and its army is "the sword of Islam." Advocates of modern, secular values, even pluralism, are denigrated as "enemies of the ideology of Pakistan." Pakistan's establishment, led by its military, also seeks parity with India, not only in the legal sense of sovereign equality between nations but in military and political terms. This ideological milieu has helped religious-political groups exercise greater influence on national discourse than is justified and led to the outgrowth of jihadi groups, one more extreme than the other.