The Peshawar Attack is heart breaking, and the pain has been truly unbearable. It is great depravity or grand delusion, or both, that pushes someone to kill innocent children in cold blood. However it is sheer depravity whereby the drive for political and economic objectives blinds a person to justify the unjustifiable and transgress the boundaries of faith. Or delusional whereby a person’s heart and intellect can no longer see a clear wrong that is about to be committed.

Having spoken to many of my students, it is fair to say that they are in a state of utter shock, hoping and praying that it is a long dream that they will all wake up from; unfortunately, this is not the case. It is a reality that has occurred, and which needs tackling. Many well-meaning people are expressing sentiments of vengeance and retribution against the maniac TTP, with growing calls on the military to expand operations in the tribal areas. All of these sentiments, from a purely human perspective are understood, however let’s take a pause and try to think clearly. This may be difficult at this time but will vengeance and retribution, apart from inner solace, bring an end to the cyclical violence Pakistan has witnessed? Surely this is a goal we all intend.

Clearly, in any military operation, those most vulnerable are innocent men, women and children, not the intended target which more often than not is able to flee and find sanctuary somewhere else. As we see in Syria, US led air strikes have killed innocent people, while ISIS has been able to continue with its barbarity. The same outcome is likely in the expansion of military operations in the Tribal areas, with innocents killed, while TTP operatives will be able to vacate areas, creating more resentment and anger amongst tribes, inevitably leading to blowback and to an upward surge in violence across cities. Pakistan would not have moved forward but buried itself in more cyclical violence. Some would say Pakistan will go back to square one.

Readers may be asking, what do I suggest if not vengeance, retribution or an expansion of military operations? My primary concern is beyond the TTP which I believe is possibly shared by millions. That is to look for ways to bring the curtain down on the cycles of violence Pakistan has faced post 9/11 and to bring an end to the existence of belligerent non-state actors whether that is the TTP or Blackwater that have caused havoc in Pakistan. For this there is a need for self reflection, soul searching and for a tough question to be asked which has not been answered to this very day; has Pakistan’s involvement in the War on Terror (WOT) been worth it?

This is possibly a question some may not want to answer; some will argue it is politically incorrect or insist this is not the right time- but when will it be the right time, if not now? This is the time for answers and I believe an answer to this question is critical if Pakistan is to break away from the cycles of violence she finds herself in. The data itself speaks volumes, indicating an intrinsic relationship between the WOT and surges of violence in Pakistan. From 2001-2013, there were 13,721 terrorist incidents in Pakistan and from 2001 to 2005, there were 523 incidents; but from 2007 to 2013, the total number of incidents had risen to 13,198. According to data released by the US National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses for Terrorism, Pakistan led the chart with 1,404 terrorist attacks in 2012; even Afghanistan was behind Pakistan with 1,023 incidents. The latest Global Terrorism Index report shows US foreign policy post 9/11 through the use of drones, has led to upsurges in violence across the world in particular in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Given this glaring data, how is it possible for Pakistan to carry on unabated in this WOT, without recognition or realization of the blowback which she has experienced directly because of it? Before the WOT, it is not to say Pakistan did not have its problems with violence; she surely did, from cases of intra conflict, but when did she experience attacks as we have come to see in Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore and Peshawar? When did she experience the level of blowback as she does today? When did we experience the level of insecurity we feel today? When did we see the cities of Pakistan littered with check posts? When did we experience the likes of Raymond Davis roaming the cities of Pakistan? Post 9/11 we were told Pakistan has no choice but to sign up to the WOT or risk being blown back to the Stone Ages with no room for public debate on whether it was in Pakistan’s interests to get involved; but the question is, where does Pakistan stand right now because of the WOT? Is it not the case that we have surpassed the Stone Ages and ended up at the Hobbesian state of nature, where life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short? Surely, this is how we feel today and the only way for us to leave this state is to break free from the WOT and assert our sovereignty to act in our own interests. The US continues to execute its strategic objectives in Afghanistan through the use of Pakistan, regardless of whether the actions taken by us are in our best interest. 

The writer is an assistant professor of political science at LUMS. Follow him on Twitter