Some tragedies are difficult to erase from national memories. What happened in Peshawar was a monstrosity beyond evil. In an air of seething anger, mourning and vengeance, the government decided to lift the moratorium on death penalty. As understandable as this is the lifting of the moratorium is once again a cosmetic attempt to defeat terrorism.

For once, the state and military establishment must end the dubious, contradictory and damnable distinction between the “good” and “bad” Taliban, for the advancement of ‘Strategic Depth’ that has become the death of us. It is important to mention the late Eqbal Ahmad, whose prophetic warnings regarding Pakistan’s future vis-à-vis the policy in Afghanistan during and after the Afghan war were made little use of, penned in 1998:

“The domestic costs of Pakistan’s friendly proximity to the Taliban are incalculable and potentially catastrophic. The Taliban are the expression of a modern disease, symptoms of a social cancer which shall destroy Muslim societies if its growth is not arrested and the disease is not eliminated. It is prone to spreading, and the Taliban will be the most deadly communicators of this cancer if they remain so organically linked to Pakistan.”

The scourge of extremism and terrorism cannot be defeated if Pakistan’s military establishment pursues policies of duplicity; with a selective fight instead of an all-out war against all terrorists without distinction and second thought, since the alternative is clearly at the expense of Pakistan’s peace, stability and future. As vital it is to battle the Taliban physically, it is even more crucial to battle them ideologically, culturally and socially.

Pakistan’s mosques must be regulated and rid of the hate speech that passed for sermons. The people must reclaim their mosques, just as the brave Jibran Nasir led people in Islamabad rallying for FIR against and the arrest of Abdul Aziz of the Lal Masjid for his audacious refusal to condemn the Peshawar massacre in clear words live on television. It is hoped that this spirit inflamed by rage and sorrow crystallizes into a sustained campaign by the citizens to reclaim Pakistan; for any maulana or mufti whose tongue stutters from clearly condemning extremists and terrorist acts must be taken to task by the people and the state and if the state does not take them to task, the people must. Let it be clear today that a lack of condemnation is an act of complicity. Pakistan has paid enough for terrorist apologists.

The media must also stop the sensationalist and luxurious provision of airtime to such men in the guise of interviews and calls; offering them opportunities to shamelessly propagate their views and promote the cause of the extremists. Pakistan cannot and must not tolerate any terrorist apologists from any sphere, be it religious, social or political since they are in abundance.

Furthermore, Pakistan cannot envision the eradication of extremism and terrorism unless the political patronage of militant organizations like the Sipah-e-Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Ahle-Sunnat-wal-Jamaat are explicitly ended. It is this country and nation’s misfortune, that not only does it have leaders who are spineless and irresolute in the face of a cancer that continues to consume Pakistan; but also have links; concede, pacify and pander to organizations that are proud ancillary warriors to the ideological evil.

Death penalties may satiate our desire for justice, but these cannot compensate for the alarming flaws plaguing Pakistan’s judicial system that is unable to prosecute, convict and punish terrorists. Intimidation by terrorists of witnesses, police, victims, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and judges contributed both to the slow progress of cases in Antiterrorism Courts and a high acquittal rate.

Since 2007, over 2,000 alleged terrorists have been freed by the Anti-Terrorism Courts (ATCs) and some have even re-joined terrorist outfits. As long as Pakistan’s courts are not empowered and let murderers like Malik Ishaq walk free with the blood of hundreds of Shias on his hands; death penalties will only remain a superficial step.

The curriculum and textbooks taught in Pakistan must be revised to replace the patchwork of intolerance, hate, bigotry, xenophobia and jingoism which fosters a pluralistic national mind-set of tolerance, inter-faith, inter-sect, inter-ethnic harmony. The distortions and crass obfuscations in the textbooks may have served the state well but they have certainly not served the country and nation well.

The disease of extremism and terrorism is home-grown. The hordes that attended Arshad Mehmood’s funeral after his hanging were our people, they were Pakistanis. The hundreds of children slaughtered in Peshawar were Pakistani, this is Pakistan’s war.

We will not forget nor forgive; we will neither recover nor rest until we win this war; a war within us. We must no longer be quiet; we must let the pain of Peshawar never subside. Let us find it difficult to sleep every night knowing this soil is fresh with the splattered blood of its beautiful children. Let us count the50,000 to which 140 more have joined. Every inch of this land is soaked with the blood of its own.

The writer is an undergraduate student at LUMS.