The Pakistan Army has to be the jolliest bunch of gun-toting, lily-livered apologists around. Unlike the US Army, which famously believes in “No man left behind,” the venerable generals in command of our jawaans are known for their tendency to cut-and-run. In the 1965 Kashmir conflict, where irregulars were used to destabilize the vale of Kashmir, the boys with stars on their shoulders used the doctrine of “plausible deniability” and disavowed their operatives at the first sign of trouble.

Then came the fall of Dhaka, which was a horrible, horrible chapter in the history of our failed state. Hundreds of soldiers, who had sworn to defend their country with the last drop of their blood, were bundled off to PoW camps under the able guidance of the engineers of our amicable surrender. But even before then, the atrocities perpetrated on our Bengali brethren were, despite their best protestations, sanctioned by the highest quarters.

In 1999 too, the policy pendulum swung violently before it was settled at the White House. Our current premier by his own admission was superseded, passed over, not consulted or even informed through a memo or facsimile, that our boys were going on an incursion into the Hiking Trails of Kargil. If we are to believe the account of one malevolent dictator, El Sharif not only knew of the trip, but also insisted that extra provisions be taken along, including National ka paya masala for that celebratory daig on the other side of the border.

But that was then. The adventurism of the 60s stemmed from the overly zealous generalissimos, blinded by their thirst for campaign conquests. In 1971, the same people were playing Risk: The Board Game, with innocent lives in East Pakistan. The 1999 misadventure was the deluded game plan of a general on his last leg. But what about now?

The execution of 23 soldiers kidnapped by the TTP nearly four years ago, should have been a wake-up call. It wasn’t. The military continues to bomb the living daylights out of Mir Ali, the hapless North Waziristani town that has the illustrious honour of being home to nearly none of the Talibs that we seek. Nobody is bombing Orakzai, or Kurram, or the areas of North Waziristan that actually house these monsters. But it’s not their fault. The army’s hunger for a bogeyman is indicative of our greater, national psychosis.

Basking in the post-negotiation afterglow, talk show host after talk show host continued to pander to Molvi Abdul Aziz, the man who nearly blasphemed on Arshad Sharif’s show and then had to apologize on Shahzaeb Khanzada’s airtime. Shahidullah Shahid is now one of the many talking heads that new channels call up in the event of major occurrences, as a senior analyst on chaos and mayhem. Our national discourse now revolves around whether we can talk to the Taliban under the status quo or scrap the constitution in order to bring them to the negotiating table.

The buzzword of Shariah has now been hijacked by the Taliban and their various cohorts. Where once we could undermine the legitimacy of this band of ruffians, they now carry proverbial pages of the Quran on their lances – a trick so effective that even Ali Bin Abu Talib could not convince his army to disregard it. Now, it’s no longer about whether you think the Talibs are evil or not, but whether you believe in Shariah as the ultimate system of governance.

In parliamentary debating, such a move is called a “squirrel.” It’s not that you can’t argue against it; you probably can. But the premise is set up on a faulty causal link, i.e. that the Taliban’s claim to power becomes justified as soon as they invoke divine law. Divine law has been misused, maligned and subverted to suit the purposes of its wielders ever since the Jews sold Christ out for a few pieces of silver. It was also divine law that was subverted when the one true God was replaced by a Golden Calf and worshiped by the Israelites. Divine law guided the papacy of old, when they burnt books at the stake, prosecuted scientists and inquisited anyone whose idea of Christianity differed from the Vatican-sanctioned narrative. It was also divine law that allowed the Talibs of Afghanistan to subjugate women, massacre children and generally loot and plunder to their heart’s content.

The watershed of today is precariously close to becoming the slippery slope of tomorrow. Our people need to realize that Shariah, or any legal system for that matter, cannot be divorced from the people administering it. If the Taliban are allowed free reign over their own version of Islamic justice, there will be a mountain of heads, hands and other assorted body parts in each town square across the country. These animals have none of the benevolence of Islam in their hearts; they mean to exploit religion to suit their own means. Anyone who rejects their demands deserves to be applauded, not vilified.

It is strange to me that we subscribe so easily to this intolerant and murderous version of our faith, when every sentence, each verse, each act of our day begins with an invocation of a merciful God; certainly not the same God of which the Taliban speak. For this God demands human sacrifice. And we are not pagans. At least, I hope not.

The writer is a former journalist currently working in the development sector.