As the Red Mosque (Lal Masjid) offensive in Islamabad nears an end, Pakistan's English-language press wonders why the government did not intervene earlier, while the Urdu press laments the high level of bloodshed.
There is no room for complacency, and the government must relentlessly pursue terrorists and criminals masquerading as 'soldiers of Islam'.
They are in a position to keep creating trouble for the government every now and then, but as [mosque leader] Abdul Aziz's escape bid and the outcome of the Lal Masjid stand-off show, they are cowards because they know their stand lacks a moral basis.
The nation's support for the authorities on the crackdown against the Lal Masjid brigade should strengthen the government's position.
The government must also order an inquiry into why and how the intelligence agencies failed to get wind of the goings-on in the Lal Masjid and the stockpiling of arms and ammunition in such large quantities.
Talebanism has destroyed Afghanistan. Let it not harm Pakistan.
Let us be clear. No government can violate the universal principle of 'no negotiation with terrorists' and live to be praised.
Once 'Operation Silence' is over, the firing stops, the dust settles down and the bodies are counted, there are bound to be many questions raised.
Why didn't the government take action earlier against the clerics because had that been the case so many lives would not have been lost?
Why were the Lal Masjid elements allowed so much leeway that the complex became almost like a state within a state, complete with a moral policing force which acted with impunity enforcing a rigid interpretation of Islam on the city's residents?
How did so many hardened militants, reportedly some foreigners among them, make their way inside the compound situated in the heart of Islamabad?
(Surely this is a disturbing indictment of the failure of the law-enforcement and intelligence agencies to keep track of the movement of such elements).
Whatever has happened at Lal Masjid should also give some much-needed warning to the state to permanently disentangle and disengage itself from some of its affiliations and relationships of the past.
Also, the government needs to ask itself why it usually exhibits much less patience for moderate and progressive sections of society, especially when they can help in the fight against extremism.
As for Pakistanis generally, Lal Masjid should make some of them think about where their nation is heading and whether the route is that intended by the founding fathers.
The link of the Lal Masjid cleric and militants with jihadis was well established when Maulana Abdul Rashid asked the government to induct Maulana Fazlur Rahman Khalil of formerly Harkatul Ansar as a mediator on his behalf. So, a swift and strong reaction from the religious militants and jihadi outfits cannot be ruled out.
Mufti Raheem Usmani, a renowned religious scholar and a member of the delegation that held talks with Maulana Abdul Rashid, has declared that all those Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa militants who lost their lives while harbouring the belief that they were engaged in jihad are shaheeds [martyrs].
This is going to ratchet up religious sentiments, and could lead to increased polarisation between the moderates and extremists in the country, the former including General Musharraf under the banner of 'enlightened moderation'.
The Government deserves credit for showing remarkable tolerance and patience and exhausted all possible avenues for peaceful settlement of the nerve-shattering crisis.
The provocative activities of the administration and the students like establishment of Sharia courts, enforcement of their own code of conduct on others, abduction of citizens and even personnel of law-enforcing agencies and threats to those engaged in CDs/videos business gave a vivid impression of a state within a state.
Anyhow, analysts and commentators would take a long time to comprehend fuller impact and implication of the Lal Masjid issue and the operation but many questions would continue to haunt people.
The foremost is who was responsible for illegal construction of the seminary, piling up of all sorts of arms and ammunition including heavy weapons, construction of tunnels and presence of foreign militants there.
Every Pakistani was hoping and praying for a peaceful resolution to the matter. Every Pakistani is wondering whether the same level of casualties would have been sustained if the operation had been carried out on day one, and why the entire nation was kept in a state of mental tension for so many days. The operation has left many questions on the minds of every citizen. We would also like to give a message to the religious circles... Anybody following this way can never succeed. Therefore, we should discourage such people. The only recognized way for change in a system is democracy. Those who want an Islamic system in the country should use their vote.
The situation is taking a sensitive turn in North West Frontier Province and tribal areas in reaction to the Red Mosque operation. It is therefore the duty of the entire nation to work out a strategy in the larger interest of the country and to combat the propaganda of the western media against Islam and Muslims, which would prevent such incidents happening in future.
The government cannot absolve itself of the tragedy. If it wanted, the matter could have been resolved at the start. But this was not done and, for the first time in the history of Pakistan, our own security forces not only bombarded a mosque and religious seminary, but also brought in armoured personnel carriers, tanks and helicopter gunships in numbers that made you wonder. This shows that all this activity was masterminded by some satanic minds. This incident is tragic, shameful and dangerous. How much it has harmed the country and the nation, and how worse an impact it will leave on the country on the future, can at this point only be imagined.
The entire nation is drowned in shock and grief today. They are mourning the brute use of force. Now we need a comprehensive inquiry over the operation against the Red Mosque. The report should be made public so that the people can know the actual facts.