The permanent gashes in our souls left from the massacre of beautiful, innocent school children in Peshawar are open wounds that never ought to be allowed to heal. Our weeping souls cried out in anger, frustration and helplessness. We wanted all terrorists killed and terrorism eliminated. There can be no forgiving and no forgetting. But false starts don’t auger well either. Wanting revenge is understandable, but unwise, knee jerk moves will not bring back those innocent children who paid the ultimate price for decades and decades of horribly wrong state policies. Nor will more bad policies end terrorism in this country. I found the move to lift the moratorium on death penalty appallingly populist, like many previous schemes of the Sharif government – a red herring at best. The people were baying for blood, and the Prime Minister gave it to them. Perhaps the military wanted revenge, and the Prime Minister conceded. But lifting the moratorium is not the solution to the problem we have at hand.

It is so unfair to the children who lost their lives in that terrible, unspeakable savagery to do this in their name. Our government and our military should know what they really need to do, to come close to doing justice to those children. Actually, nothing can do justice to them. Their lives were snuffed out – like candles in the wind. One little corner of my heart will cry till my dying day. There will never be justice for them. We can go ahead hang a few terrorists and put out the flames of our emotions, but let’s beware of the danger of the catharsis misleading us away from the enemy behind the enemy within: state ‘foreign’ and ‘security’ polices and the ideology the state has been promoting for decades now.

Before rescinding the moratorium, did our government and military ponder a few questions? Have we pondered the troubling questions? How many terrorists does our system catch, prosecute and convict? How many Taliban apologists, aiders and abettors does our society ostracise? How many Madrassas has the state shut down or nationalized? How many hate preaching mosques have been shut down? How many poison spewing clerics banned? Who has the state prosecuted for inciting violence? When did the state give up the Quetta Shura to the Afghan government? When were the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba terrorists prosecuted? How many television channels have ceased to give space, legitimacy and glorification to death peddlers like ‘Maulana’ Abdul Aziz of the Lal Masjid? The government pays the man a monthly stipend for preaching, supporting and enabling hate and violence. Who are we kidding with this lifting of the death penalty moratorium? No one but ourselves.

There will be no justice for the dreams in those eyes that were shot. We can only hang our heads in shame and the deepest sorrow for them. But there are millions of others who are fortunate to be alive that we can do justice for. We owe nothing less to our children than to change everything from state policies and ideology, to school curricula, to media regulation, to masjid and madrassa cleansing. Why cannot we live and let live? Why must we nurture snakes to bite our Afghan and Indian fellow human beings? Why cannot the government regulate mosque fatwas? Damned be free speech if it preaches death and violence. The mullah’s right to speech ends where another man’s right to life begins – any man’s, be he Kafir, Ahmadi, Hindu or Christian.

To turn the Titanic now, some extremely difficult and brave decisions have to be made and tasks undertaken. We are watching and waiting. Should the ‘committee’ formed to come up with an anti-terrorism fall short of all short, medium and long term measures, we will know. The very fact that the Prime Minister called an All Parties Conference, and that the APC took hours to announce that in a week’s time a committee will come up with a counter-terrorism strategy bodes very, very ill for the prospects for this committee to come up with anything that can truly become a game changer. But why blame the poor politicians? They are neither empowered nor always very bright – especially the PML-N crowd.

Depressingly, the hope lies in the fire. Such miserably cursed people are we that we depend upon burning to come to our senses. The military, the prime architect of the state policies of this country, has suffered gruesomely and is perhaps realising the need for ‘change’. General Sharif flew to Afghanistan post haste to seek help with ‘dealing’ with the TTP. General Sharif is not a child. He knows what he has to ‘give’ to ‘get’ his terrorists. Now it’s not a matter of prerogative, ethics, politics, or sanity – it’s a matter of necessity. Pure, sheer necessity. They will harbour those who kill us if we harbour those who kill them. Thus necessity, i.e., the raging fire devouring our children, will dictate change in state policy. And one day, the same paths will lead to peace with India too.

The writer is a human rights worker and freelance columnist. She can be contacted at gulnbukhari@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter