It has now been almost two weeks, and counting, since the tragic events at Bacha Khan University, Charsadda, which claimed 22 innocent lives and left over 20 others injured. And during these past two weeks, despite empathetic statements, no meaningful step has been taken by our political leadership to rid this land of the menace of extremism.

(Note: this is not to say that military efforts have not been intensified, during this time, to apprehend and/or kill the terrorists; just that from a socio-political perspective, there has been no tangible initiative to eradicate the breeding-grounds of terrorism. And this executive impotence is absolutely inexcusable.)

In the aftermath of the unprecedented tragedy at Army Public School (APS), Peshawar, there was a palpable sense of frenzy across the nation. All-Parties Conference was called, the dharna came to an abrupt end, and a Constitutional Amendment, along with a tweaking of the Army Act, 1952, immediately enacted, creating the constitutional aberration of Military Courts. Whether one agreed with such measures or not, we could all agree that, at the very least, everyone finally seemed to have sprung into action.

This sense of national exigency, however, has not been seen in the aftermath of Bacha Khan University. And it is pertinent to ask: Why?

Was it just the initial shock of a ‘first-time-attack’ on educational institutions that sprang us into action after APS? And was Bacha Khan University a case of ‘as expected’, thus not warranting as much zeal? Or is it instead that the APS children were far too young to have becomes casualties of ‘war against terror’, whereas the students of Bacha Khan University are somehow (abominably) more ‘expectable’ to our sordid morality? If so, what age would be a reasonable cut-off for our diseased consciences to be shaken? Or is it a numbers game instead? That 141 students were far too many us to bear, whereas 22 is no big deal (God forbid)?

We all can choose to hide behind whatever excuse seems most convenient – that necessary measures are already in place, and will require time to produce results – but the truth is that our stomach for tolerating terrorism has grown over the past many years; that the value of human life has diminished. A terrorist attack that claims a few lives is no more than a day’s news. One would hear people say ‘Thank God, no more than a [small number] of people were killed’.

And in this, our reaction to terrorism has become a manifestation of the Sorites Paradox, demonstrated through a famous psychological experiment, first conducted by a German scientist Heinzmann, in 1872. It reflects the inertia with which most organisms respond to gradual changes in their environment and conditions. The experiment entails taking two frogs and dropping them into different pots of water, in order to observe how they react. The first frog, which is dropped into a boiling pot of water, jumps out immediately to save its life; the sudden change in temperature is so severe that the frog finds it unbearable. The second frog is placed in room-temperature water, which is then heated (ever so slowly) to the point of boiling. This frog makes its peace with the gradual increase in water temperature and, as a result, chooses not to jump out. Eventually, even while the frog is unable to realize this phenomenon, the water reaches a high enough temperature to kill the frog within (without it ever jumping out).

The terrorism temperature in Pakistan, over the past decade, has gradually risen to fever pitch. Politically, we are the second frog, in that analogy. One that does no react if the temperature is increased another degree, as it was done at Bacha Khan University.

Since that fateful morning at Bacha Khan University, no serious administrative action been taken against the rampant merchants of extremism. During this time, Maulana Abdul Aziz has continued to pursue his nefarious agenda of religious extremism, within shouting distance from Constitution Avenue, without any consequence to his person or organization. Despite a dossier of evidence against him (collected by civil society members, as opposed to the relevant law enforcement agencies), which has been presented to members of the executive and the legislature, there has been stunning paralysis of the government to take action. In fact, astonishingly, there have been reports of the Interior Minister and the Islamabad Police are trying to persuade Maulana Abdul Aziz to get pre-arrest bail, which will help dissipate the pressure of having to arrest him. This hate-spewing Maulana, even according to his own reported statements, has been in “negotiations” with the relevant executive authorities, about the possibility of avoiding direct confrontation.

Similarly, in the face of an explicit warning by Khalifa Umar Mansoor, head of a breakaway Taliban faction, that their group has “decided to target schools, colleges and universities… [which are] the foundation of this evil system”, our political response has been to simply shut-down the schools for a week, and place additional guards outside of each school. There has been no deliberate action against the sympathizers of this ideology. Innumerable number of mosques and madrassas across our land continue to spread their message of hate today, as they did before Bacha Khan University tragedy, or even before APS Peshawar. Sympathizers of banned outfits continue to appear regularly on our media channels, in a bid to convert the moderates through the invoking of religious sentimentality.

Is military action (necessary as it is) really our only response to events like Bacha Khan University? Is our long-term counter-terrorism strategy simply that of producing more bullets than militants? Are we going to descend into becoming a State that fights terrorism by placing an Armored Corp outside of every primary school in this country? And what will we do then? Descend into being a perpetual military State, where everyday activities such as going to school, or a shopping arcade, or a movie theater, or even to a government building, requires khaki protection? Or will we finally wake up to the reality that the only meaningful counter-terrorism strategy is to eradicate the terrorist ideology and its breeding grounds?

It is time that we stop being the second frog. The political State must wake up from its slumber. The Metrobus, the Orange-Line, and expansive infrastructure projects will all be for nothing under the damning shadow of a repressive ideology. It is time to jump out of this water, which is already close to boiling point.