Post Charsadda university attack, a lot has been said in our TV talk shows, newspapers, social media and other forums. Condemnations, blames and recommendations sequentially poured in. And these were followed by the calls for unity, patriotism and assurances of how we are very close to defeating the menace of terrorism for good.  All over again. We are too familiar with this ‘damage control mode’ to the extent of predictability now. Just that it does not do enough to keep another attack from happening and generates hollow assurances and sympathies. This happens every time after an attack: condemnations, blames and recommendations followed by the last step that is forgetting everything till the next time. And just like that, another #NeverForget moment is conveniently set to be forgotten. Ferocity of protest and urgency in the call for hunting terrorism however varies with the toll.

In the recent ‘damage control mode’ post Bacha Khan University attack, there are some trends which markedly stand out and need to be highlighted.

Now the erstwhile holy cow of the military establishment has to face fierce criticism as well:

Previously we have seen most of the time that it is the civilian administration which has to bear the brunt of public criticism and occasionally chided to pull up its socks, underlined by an understanding that they are the only ones not doing their job. And the fact most part of the NAP (14 out of 20 points) is related exclusively to the civilian and administration setup being implemented – if any – only goes to the credit of the men in khaki who are pushing them less patriotic civilians to do it under the watch of the apex committees.

However, recently it could be seen that the blame had to be shared with the men in uniform. Publicly. And what was previously done in drawing rooms of the army-bashing liberal intelligentsia of the country is now being done openly and fiercely. There is an increasing realization that the heat of the ongoing Pak-India power play in Afghanistan is being felt at home. Blaming them patriotic men for their warped policy of proxies is not a new thing but how it is being done out in the open now is unprecedented.

Babar Sattar while calling for fighting the extremist religious thought as the root of terror, writes, “What is quite incredible is how the establishment’s attack dogs, in a Pavlovian response, begin shaping the narrative – through a combination of denial and obfuscation – immediately after a terror attack” and “It is misconceived policies that are demanding sacrifices from our soldiers and civilians alike. And policymakers cannot hide behind martyrs or patriotism to evade responsibility for their disastrous thinking that has brought us to this pass.”

Similarly Ayesha Siddiqa takes a dig at the ever-powerful GHQ and writes, “peace remains elusive as all major political parties put together are unable to change the Army’s perspective. The political parties may represent an alternative pole in the overall power politics of the state but they are still not in a position to challenge the military’s political prowess. In one way or the other, all major political parties are a product of the Army General Headquarters (GHQ).”

And finally there is Dexter Filkins who takes the bull by the horns and lambastes the duplicitous policy of the Pakistani generals marked by the good-Taliban-bad-Taliban binary. He writes, “The Pakistani generals were playing a double game inside a double game: they took the Americans’ billions and supported the Taliban fighters who were killing the Americans, and they secretly helped the Americans kill Pakistani Taliban in the C.I.A.’s drone war, letting the Pakistani civilian leaders take the heat.”

Imposed martyrdom is sheer helplessness and failure; certainly not an act of bravery

This is a break from the past and a visible trend especially after the Bacha Khan University attack. There won’t be any hiding behind the veneer of “martyrdom and bravery” of the helpless victims we couldn’t help protect. Not anymore. Let’s call a spade a spade and be clear in the head that the innocent souls who went to schools were not brave; were not strong. They were clueless and never knew what they gave their life for. And we were pathetically helpless. To our credit, we could not do anything to protect them. This helplessness of ours in the garb of bravery and martyrdom cannot be sold anymore.

Mohammad Hanif calls it “Pakistan’s Unnecessary Martyrs”. He laments,“Why do we forget that these students went to university to study math and chemistry, and not become martyrs?” and “This is imposed martyrdom, and it isn’t a sign of strength. It’s a sign of utter helplessness.”

No more conspiracy theories

Finally there is another trend, though it is less visible in the rants of our televangelists. The mindset that considers Pakistan too important to be destroyed takes a back seat giving space to a little introspection. At the hands of terrorism we have been struck too badly to wriggle out of our own responsibility and blame it on a mysterious ‘external hand’ every time. Not absolutely discounting a little credence to the “external hand” theory, yet not everything under the sun can be blamed on the covert hand of RAW and NDS. The world outside Pakistan has other things to do as well. Not everyone is busy hatching conspiracies against Pakistan so as to cause internal discord and finally occupy our country.

We have to sweep clean our own mess inside the country where extremist mindset and religious intolerance is our biggest enemy. Though Afghan ‘links’ were “found” in the attack, yet the introspection trend does not buy it wholly. And the ‘fear of India’, as it is sold, has a lesser market value. Especially after attacks on the “soft targets”, the “external hand” theory or whatever other theory has become irrelevant to the parents. Patience of the parents, civil society and businesspersons, in fact every common Pakistani, is running out. Practical and visible in-house steps have to be taken by us instead of taking the refuge in conspiracy theories. Accountability, transparency and visible counter-terrorism steps are needed Especially after attacks on the “soft targets”, the “external hand” theory or whatever other theory has become irrelevant to the parentsnow.