The blood has barely dried from last week’s carnage, that another suicide bombing has killed six people at a court complex in Charsadda. Even as I write this there is news breaking of a car bomb exploding in DHA Lahore. And so we go again, greeting a new wave of terror with the transparent falsehood that this violence is somehow surprising or against the established order of things. 

Let’s be clear on one thing from the very outset – there is nothing novel about the present state of affairs. Things are exactly the same as they ever were; therefore, we might as well stop pretending to be shocked by the horrors of recent days.

Instability built on a broad spectrum of extremism is the closest thing to normal that Pakistan knows. The moments in between, where it seems that things are finally setting themselves aright merely provide false grounds for optimism and respite that does not reflect the grotesque realities faced by the country today.

Again terror and chaos are the standard, not the anomaly. Everything else is just an interlude until the next inevitable round of bloodshed.

We have been here before and we know what happens next.

There are going to be more attacks. Whether they happen tomorrow, next week or next month they will occur. It is not clear where they will take place, which shadowy jihadist organization will carry them out, or how many more innocent lives will be lost. What is certain is that the violence will persist.

With every massacre there will be grief. Some of it genuine, as when it affects friends and family. Most of it, however, will be feigned for public consumption from those who are professionally bound to simulate sorrow.

There will be handwringing, outrage and murmurs that this time things will be different, that the Rubicon has been well and truly crossed. Words like national unity, defining moment, and vengeance will bellow in press conferences and talk shows.

The military will launch attacks against any disposable terrorists they can get their hands on, scapegoat a foreign enemy or two while fiercely clinging to a plethora of failed policies which fatally undermine Pakistan’s own national security. Through it all our political leaders will suggest new initiatives they know to be nonsense, but mostly they will stand by and do what they do best in times of crises –nothing. Both will dither over definitions of good Taliban and bad Taliban in their failure to understand that no good can come from an alliance with murderous ideologues. 

Regular Pakistanis will place the blame at the door of everyone except the actual criminals just as liberals find fault with everyone except themselves. The two will, however, hold firm to a type of magical thinking that sees nothing really amiss with the fundamentals of national life in Pakistan; their self-deceit making fools of them all.

The chaos will eventually seem to pass and then, to riff off Lindy West, the excellent columnist of the British newspaper The Guardian, like a ‘zoetrope of galloping despair’ the cycle of terror will begin again.

When has it been any other way?

Remember APS? When 132 school children were slaughtered by the Taliban and we all said never again. Remember the little body bags and small fragile coffins no one had the strength to carry? Remember how we promised never to forget?

The Peshawar school massacre was meant to be a game-changer. All it did though was show that the game was already over. As a nation we have decided that we are willing to forfeit even the lives of our children for reasons of religion, geo-politics or simple indifference, we just pretend otherwise.

Terror though is not all we have come to accept.

We think nothing of the everyday bigotries that inform the lives of minorities in our country. We gloss over our involvement in helping marginalize Ahmadis every time we have a passport made. We willfully ignore the growing polarisation in Pakistan for the convenient lie that we are united as a nation. We have reconciled ourselves to the fact that from time to time some of us, no matter how decent, likeable and good-natured they may be, will behave in the vilest manner when their precious sensibilities have been offended. We scorn the dignity of women when they are raped and yet do not hesitate to kill them in the name of our own honour.

This is the routine, the everyday, the normal. Fanaticism is what now passes for the mainstream. We disown the terrorists as a lunatic fringe but they are a mirror into the greater whole. Their radicalism, whether through complicity or acceptance, cuts across us all. As demoralising as this might be to admit the path back to sanity can only begin with self-understanding. Either we face up to these truths or continue to die in denial.