In 2009, Pakistani Taliban moved south-east from the Swat Valley, where they had consolidated power for several years, to within 110 kilometres of Islamabad. The perceived threat to the capital was seen as a turning point. Within a month, Pakistani security forces had launched a campaign against the Taliban - with which the government had previously signed peace treaties - and dealt them a definitive defeat in Swat's largest city, Mingora.
Events of the last week show how fleeting that victory was.
By now, the entire world knows about the barbaric attack on Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old who gained prominence for blogging about girls' education during the Taliban occupation of Swat. Malala was flown to the United Kingdom yesterday for further treatment, and two other girls injured in the shooting are recovering, but Swat is again terrorised by violent extremism.
Another event on Sunday night emphasised north-west Pakistan's worsening security. About 70 militants, suspected to be linked to Pakistani Taliban, assaulted a police station south of Peshawar for several hours, killing at least six officers. Such attacks are almost routine, another sad statement about the failure of military campaigns to impose lasting solutions a few years ago.
Pakistan's security challenge is a complex beast, tangled in religious extremism, tribal allegiances, local lashkars, a frontier culture where every house owns a gun ... add in the Afghan war and US drone attacks, and it's small surprise that the national army has failed to quell the problem. The Taliban held Swat for so long because they enjoyed some public support.
The security failure, however, must also be blamed on the refusal to fully acknowledge the problem. It is far too common in Pakistani society to hear conspiracy theories. US intervention in both Afghanistan and Pakistan has been destabilising, but the extremists that are shooting young girls and police are a homegrown problem that needs to be confronted.
Disappointingly, Imran Khan has been in stark denial of this fact even as his political stature grows. After a visit to Malala's hospital in Peshawar at the weekend, the former cricketer defended the Taliban in Afghanistan, saying they were fighting a jihad. Pakistani leaders have a tendency to pick "good" and "bad" murderous extremists - to fight India, or in this case the US - blind to the harm these groups inevitably bring home.
Malala's shooting united Pakistanis in outrage, but already there is cynicism that nothing substantive will be done. The overwhelming majority of patriotic Pakistanis committed to a peaceful society must now address the vipers in their midst.