On December 16, Peshawar’s schools and offices will remain closed to commemorate the 2-year anniversary of the the Army Public School (APS) attack that shook the nation. Elsewhere, prayers will be held, and minutes of silences observed. Beyond that there seems to be very little attention paid to an event that was declared “our 9/11”, that was supposed to be the watershed movement in the war against terror, that forced us to say “we will not forget”, and “never again”.

We only need to remember the nation’s collective rage, sorrow, and resolve in the attack’s aftermath to realise how much of that emotion has been diluted. Every section of the society paid their tributes, and vowed to not let the sacrifice of our children go in vain. The death penalty was immediately reinstated – ignoring the disjointed cautionary views from several quarters – and every political agenda was set aside and all leaders were bought together in a marathon session to formulate the nation’s response.

The result: The National Action Plan (NAP), an extensive, if not much elaborated document that bound the state to act in all manner of fields. It demanded military operations and military courts, revamping the justice system and setting up of a dedicated counter terrorism force, it asked agencies to immediately sever terrorist sources of financing and regulate the sprawling and unchecked madrassa system, going so far as to reform the syllabus taught at these institutes to make their students more compatible in the modern workforce.

This was it, the one event that had united the nation against religious extremism, one event that even the religious parties could not defend. No other government had ever had such a golden chance to end this consistent menace. The PML-N were poised and were making all the right statements.

Two years later, we can see that the ball has been dropped, and the golden opportunity squandered. Regulation of the madrassa networks was abandoned by the PML-N at the first sign of resistance from them, and the syllabus reform didn’t even get started. In times of need, banned organisations and extremist groups in Punjab were asked to support the government in exchange for freedom to spread their vitriol – we remember the sight of these groups openly bashing NAP in the capital with express permission from the government to do so. Military operations and military courts went ahead, but in Punjab those operations were hindered and halted; to the extent that Masroor Nawaz Jhangvi, son of the founder of the Sipah-i-Sihaba (now the banned ASWJ) was able to contest and win a National Assembly seat.

Some progress has been made, but it is also undeniable that the sacrifice of 132 children, and the resolve of the APS attack, has been forgotten – that too in two short years.