Nothing can describe the agony and pain of the Peshawar school attack and there are no words that can be offered to the suffering parents to even begin to allay their agony. They say time is a great healer but, in this case, even time will fail miserably. As expected, immediately after the horrific incident, social media went ballistic and the usual suspects egoistically started streaming their plethora of unwanted advice; seriously guys, take a break. Civil society clearly seemed supportive of all the political parties getting together to discuss the future course of action in a more than cordial atmosphere. The PTI’s decision to end the dharna was hailed as the need of the hour. The decision to end the moratorium on the death penalty was welcomed, although apparently at the time of writing this piece, there continues to be some related controversy with the judiciary. The army chief’s visit to Kabul was extensively covered by the media and even the military media arm was quite busy on Twitter.

Even at this moment social media is replete with demands to hang one or the other perceived culprit, coupled with demands to completely eliminate all miscreants from the face of the earth. Friends in the print and electronic media keep pulling out past clippings and heaping criticism left and right on clouded allegiance of those in the corridors of power. Some feel they are proud of their leadership for now moving in the right direction, some assert that this is not the time for retrospection and some are simply carried away by extreme and passionate hate. One is sceptical of all these comments and analysis, in the first instance, since military or conflict strategy is not the forte of novices; a degree in journalism or any other professional qualification for that matter, cannot prepare for military strategy. Definitely, journalism is not even sufficient for blurting out economic views but, in the latter case, the cost of getting everything wrong, which they do every time, are not astronomical, comparably. In the second instance, either deliberately or due to sheer ignorance, everyone seems intent on not asking the key question: why now? Why not before this horrific tragedy? If all these steps are so appropriate, why did someone not act upon them before? Is there no one?

To quote from Fukuyama, government is responsible for providing citizens with security, protecting property rights, making available education and public health services, national defence and building infrastructure that is necessary for private economic activity to occur. Pakistan has had a government since independence; it is not that this was the Wild West and, after more than six decades, where is the nation? Let us forget about all the rest and focus on the government’s responsibility in providing citizens security. Today, how many citizens actually feel secure and, more importantly, after all the steps and decisions being taken, or at least those that were released to the media, how many citizens actually believe that they will be secure hereon after?

Does anyone have any idea how many taxes the people of this nation have paid in maintaining this oversized government machinery? In certain times, there have been ministers for everything. If one recalls correctly, there are over a couple dozen intelligence agencies in the country. Any idea about the amount of money spent on a senior government official, in any service? Let us not be specific. For the record, the government is spending in excess of three trillion rupees currently. Why did they borrow that heavily in the first place? Go back above, national defence is part of government.

Before moving on, a particular notion needs to be addressed. A great majority of civil society repeatedly asserts that everything that is happening today is because of the wrong policies and decisions of the martial law government of the 1980s. For the sake of argument, let us agree that every decision taken in that era was wrong and negatively impacted Pakistan. But that was almost four decades ago! They did not even have cell phones or social media back then. Wake up and smell the humus! Is it even remotely rational that in so many years Pakistan’s successive governments could have done nothing to reverse the follies? Logically, if they could have and did not, then the blame falls evenly to every government since that time and, if nothing could have been or can be done, let us sit back and pray.

The same segment of society, thereafter, focuses on the crosshairs on the martial law of the new millennium; even that ended six years ago. In a world where the world economy can turn upside down in less than three months and a new country is born every few months, six years is a very long time. Even if that were not enough, what were the steps taken in the right direction once democracy took hold? Seriously, what were the erstwhile pillars, democracy’s much praised institutions, doing all this time?

Essentially, the most pertinent question to ask is: in this huge government machinery, is there anyone who was and is responsible for the security of innocent school-going children? And nobody, none of the hugely idolised superstars in the media, are asking this question. Why? Is there no one? Democracy is all about accountability; it is not about elections and getting votes and whatever else the government does. What is curious is that even the champions of democracy in the electronic media, the celebrity anchors, have always avoided the subject of accountability. So where and when does accountability start? Is there no one?

Brick and mortar structures are last on the list of the government’s responsibility. Let us focus on institutions in the first place. Let us build them to be honest, ethical and morally upright and finally hold them accountable; the tone always starts at the top. Let the government, in the first instance, provide security and justice, the rest can wait.

But in case there is no one interested in accountability there is one suggestion for the way forward: the security details of all government officials are redeployed for the security of schools and hospitals. Either the VIPs will stop travelling or they will ensure safety and security on the roads and of the citizens. Will anyone think about it? Is there no one?