DG ISPR Lt Gen Asim Bajwa using the B-word (b**tards) in Saturday’s press conference to describe the perpetrators of the Bacha Khan University attack perfectly epitomises the security machinery’s reaction to terror attacks. If anyone for a moment believes that emotions can get the better of the DG ISPR resulting in the misplacement of a word, or phrase, they clearly haven’t been paying attention to his pressers. The over-the-top expression of angst is a part of forwarding the establishment's narrative. 

That the entire press conference was dedicated to highlighting how these men came from Afghanistan, fits in with the 'foreign conspiracy' tagline as well. It was almost as if Islamabad has had nothing to do with the maintenance of Durand Line as a perpetually permeable membrane, or with the osmosis of jihadists to gain strategic depth.

Not to mention the obsession with CPEC’s eastern route on GHQ drawing boards, for it provides a bulwark against Indian penetration. The western route could do the same for militants coming from Afghanistan, where Pakistan is actually under threat from courtesy of our own well-groomed and resettled jihadist assets.

In a lengthy press conference, where proofs of how locals facilitated those ‘foreigners’ were conjured at the drop of a hat, Lt Gen Bajwa came to the conclusion that "terrorism cannot be fought while there are accomplices and facilitators". He wasn’t of course referring to accomplices in the security machinery that shield the likes of Hafiz Saeed, Abdul Aziz and Ahmed Ludhianvi. He was though seemingly oblivious to the fact that not a single terror attack in the history of humankind has been orchestrated without ‘facilitators’, and that it’s the intelligence’s responsibility to identify them and the security forces’ job to catch them before – and not after – the terror attacks.

By putting the responsibility of forestalling terror attacks on the Afghan security and Pakistani society, Lt Gen Bajwa impeccably shielded the esteem and invincibility of Pakistan Army (the institution that currently possesses all relevant strings to shape policies on its jihadist offspring and relations with neighbouring countries, all of whom have been impacted with, and complained about, Pakistan-based militants spiraling out of control to target Kabul, Mumbai, Beijing and Chabahar).

Even so, on behalf of the security establishment, Lt Gen Bajwa would have had to sell us something so that we wholeheartedly buy the aforementioned cacophonies, and rid they-who-much-not-be-shamed of accountability. As always we were sold the tonic of ‘martyrdom’.

Somehow, glorification of people who have to pay the price of the establishment’s unrelenting faux-pas as ‘martyrs’, suffices in erasing the most glaring of question-marks. Following the APS massacre we made a nationwide vow of ‘never forgetting the 144 martyrs’. A year on, we already have new ‘martyrs’ in Charsadda. What we don’t have are answers regarding the ease with which both the attacks were carried out in a region where Army deployment is dense owing to participation in the much touted Operation Zarb-e-Azb.

Maybe it’s time to exchange tags of martyrdom for accountability. That’s precisely what many parents of the APS victims were clamouring for on the attack’s first anniversary last month. They were instead forced to boycott the event.

What these wholesalers of martyrdom refuse to acknowledge is the fact that somewhere near the Durand Line right now, the four militants who attacked Bacha Khan University are also being extolled as martyrs. It’s the same lesson that our establishment taught the mujahideen when they were to be unleashed in Afghanistan and Kashmir – that those dying while waging jihad are ‘martyrs’ with the highest place in paradise.

Jihad 101 has now evolved from giving up one’s life to defeat 'infidel' Soviet Union and 'Hindu' India to putting it on the line for education. Little wonder that KP authorities are issuing licenses for guns and training teachers in firearms, instead of owning the problem and securing the most vulnerable. Of course, selling martyrdom becomes that much easier, and invigorating, when the ‘martyrs’ have guns in their hands.

There are few initiatives more self-defeating than countering religious warfare through a battalion of reluctant ‘martyrs’. ‘Martyrdom’, a brainchild of organised religion, has been the fuel pump for both theology and empire. Expansion of both religion and the realm was dependent on successful armies motivated by the lure of martyrdom, be it the Christian Roman Empire, Zoroastrian Persian Empire or the Islamic Arabian Empire. Neither theology, nor empire building, is relevant in modern day policy-making for nation-states.

Furthermore, it is this very concept of giving one’s life for a cause – no matter how noble the cause might be – that promotes jihadism. Few know this fact better than our security establishment. Those willing to die, eventually metamorphose into those more than willing to kill within the blink of the proverbial eye.

While Pakistan Army – like any other military organisation in human history – has been accustomed to propagating sacrifice and martyrdom among its soldiers, it is when those lessons seeped out of the immediate ranks that things became problematic. It is the ramifications of lessons of martyrdom taught to self-motivated mujahideen that have been jolting the nation for the past decade and a half.

To counter jihadism we need to enhance the value of life, not subordinate it to causes. No cause is more valuable than life.