What does one write? These words have all been said and written before. These candles have been lit and these banners held before. Bodies have been buried and tears have been shed before. It weighs on the heart now, the number of times we resolve that such incidents shall never be forgotten, that our grief shall never lessen, that our resolve shall never weaken.

And yet, here we are today, preparing to bury over a hundred of our youngest souls. Shrouded in white when they should be in uniform, expressionless when they should be full of life, dead when they should be alive. So let us spare the platitudes and the clichés.

Let us speak honestly for once. Let us confront those today who claimed that Malala and the “West” staged her own near death to give a bad name to Pakistan because the Taliban could not have hurt a school-going child. Let us ask those on our television sets and in our midst who portray themselves as the guardians of our religion, what right they have to do so when they fail to even condemn an act that slaughters children using the name of our Prophet (PBUH) and Allah. Let us ask them why their outrage and their venom, otherwise so apparent, never arises against this most basic crime.

Let us confront the television shows that give a pulpit to such individuals; not because of any fidelity to the ideal of an intellectual or honest debate, but because of the ratings boost they invariably provide.

Why is it that from 2009 to 2013, we did nothing to solve the problem and let it fester: no dialogue, no operation, no strategy. Why did it take a new Army Chief to address this problem? Will somebody answer for that policy of looking the other way? Will somebody look us in the face and tell us that this is the price we pay for “strategic depth”?

Why is it that after unveiling a National Security Policy with such fanfare, it lies unimplemented because there is a turf war between the Prime Minister Secretariat and the Interior Ministry? Will the Prime Minister and the Interior Minister answer to the parents who are burying their children today?

Why is it that Imran Khan preferred the political gain of opposing PML-N tooth and nail rather than helping forge a national consensus on terrorism when they sat in Parliament as two of the biggest vote banks in the country? Why is it that the Prime Minister’s calculus was based on not losing out to Imran in the Punjab (with a view on the next elections) rather than doing what was necessary to lead, and overruling him? Will they tell the loved ones of the teacher who was burnt alive, that her charred remains are the cost of the battle for electoral supremacy in Punjab?

Will we finally snap out of the false binaries that are thrust upon us? Will we talk about the fact that as long as money is being raised for the Taliban in the Madrassas in South Punjab, all we’ll be doing in Waziristan is cutting off the top-most branches of a very tall tree? Will somebody acknowledge that the sectarian groups amongst us, with whom we have electoral adjustments, are the intellectual siblings of the TTP? Will somebody finally consider that this war will never be won without effective urban policing and community interaction in urban centers with police? Will we finally fight this battle on all the fronts that it must be fought?

They said that we only want the Shariah in this country. Today, the dead bodies of over a hundred children bear testimony to that falsehood. They said that we are only doing this because you killed our children and we want you to feel that pain. Except, we never wanted you to feel that pain. We never targeted your children, never wanted them dead. You killed ours in cold blood.

Let us finally put an end to the criminally dishonest nature of our conversation on the Taliban, and on the national security challenge as a whole. Because now, we have seen its cost and it is unbearable.

Carry these children in your heart always. Let their innocence be the antidote to the lies that are peddled to us. Let their curiosity about the world remind us to ask anyone who has a one-sentence-long solution to this problem how they propose it will end. Let us fight in their name. Let their gravestones say: tell us now that this is not our war. Tell us now that this is not personal.

The writer is a Lahore based lawyer.