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Islamabad also has faced the challenge of launching an operation in North Waziristan without looking like it was simply doing the bidding of the United States, which is extremely unpopular in the country.

Opponents of military action against the Taliban, mainly right-wing Islamists, realized that outrage over Malala’s shooting could provide the government with the cover needed to conduct a North Waziristan offensive without looking like a U.S. stooge.

They responded by publicly accusing the government of using the attack as a pretext to fulfilling U.S. demands.

“We condemn the attack on Malala, but this attack took place in Swat, and we fail to understand why the government issued statements about launching an operation in North Waziristan,” said Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, a senior leader in the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party. “They wanted to play politics on this issue.”

Pakistani politician Imran Khan, a former cricket star, told Geo TV on Tuesday that “military action is not a solution.”

He and many on the right believe the driving force behind the insurgency is Pakistan’s unpopular alliance with the United States and that the proper path forward would be for Islamabad to end its support for the war in Afghanistan and conduct peace talks with the militants.

Critics point out that past peace deals with the Taliban have failed and that the militant group repeatedly has said it is fighting the Pakistani government both because of its ties to the U.S. and to establish Islamic law throughout the country.