No matter how much I try to tell myself, I cannot stop thinking about it. The recent lynching of a university student in Mardan has suddenly made me realise the harsh realities of the society that I live in. It has dawned upon me that extremism, radicalisation, fundamentalism, terrorism; whatever you may want to call it, is not going anywhere. It has seeped into our society like benign cancer and now spreading out in all shapes and sizes. Operation Zarb-Azb, Karachi operation and various other crackdowns have been successfully carried out by the way. Maybe this is the fruit that we are bearing of the famous cold war when we merely bartered a whole nation’s future for peanuts. As a slave to history, I have no other choice but to make a connection with this barbaric episode with the past. Should I hold responsible General Zia for agreeing to support a ‘holy war’ in Afghanistan to fight the Soviet Russia or the war on terror of 2001? Is it the non-integration of FATA in the mainstream political system for decades or the overzealous brotherly ties with Saudi Arabia that perpetuate such hate in our society? Could it be that the religious movements that were launched in the sub-continent to free the Muslims from persecutions of Sikh and Hindus left its mark on our people to revert to violence? Is it simply the two nation theory that has now mutated into hate against each other? Is it our constitution clauses that give us the space to walk in and just kill anybody? What is it? I cannot simply come to terms with the fact that our nation, the people with such hospitality, strong cultural values and above all having a religion that promotes nothing but peace can be responsible for such horrifying affair. Digressing away from the past and intermingling questions it poses for the people, I am now worried about the present situation of the country that we live in. While the National Assembly adopts a unanimous resolution condemning the lynching, Senate body wants the case to be referred to the military courts. Whenever a tragedy strikes us, we so casually suggest that “let the military handle it”. How can a country acknowledge that its government – elected by the people – extend its most important affairs to the military? The harsh and bitter reality is, so far in almost all the emergency situations we experienced, somewhere, somehow we have asked the military to take charge of the mess. From provision of relief in earthquake and drought to holding elections, we have asked for military’s help. No wonder scholars view our country as a police state. To come to think of it, our foreign policy, defence policy, infrastructure development, and anti-corruption cases are being handled by the military. By merely stating the obvious, it is not that I am against military or army and I am in no way shying away from acknowledging the sacrifices our army made. However, this poses a huge question mark on the state of our government. Despite two successive elected governments, we have failed to address the deplorable governance situation and strengthening of institutions that can provide some relief to its citizens. The answer to all this mess, at a macro level, is and will always remain to let the elected regime take its course and build institutions step by step. It is as they say ‘Rome was not built in a day’, but I think it is the time that we let go of such metaphors and expedite the processes of strengthening our systems at a faster pace. On the other hand, at a micro level, the solution remains more critical and complex. Strengthening of local elected systems is one of the most feasible and reasonable answers that can create a bottom-up approach. Bottom-up approach simply refers to strengthening the people living at grass root level who are facing simple but fundamental day to day challenges. It is, by enhancing the life of citizens at the grassroots we can provide them with comforts of life, which if taken away from them will make them fight for it. Also, we need to tackle our society’s mind-set that triggered the recent incident. It is the mind-set, a psychological war that we have to fight with our citizens to enable them to differentiate between right and wrong. Such mind-set is very difficult to alter when you ask people in uniform to take charge of day to day affairs. It is by strengthening the local government institution and allocating them responsibilities and funds, we can initiate a process of trust building between our citizens and government, while simultaneously making our government more accountable, transparent and responsive towards the people. It is another way of justifying the importance of giving the decision-making power to the local citizens; to give them a choice and to allow them to decide between the right and wrong. In this lynching case, there will be speedy justice.Arrests will be made, and suspensions of officials will occur. But then what? The question remains whether we are able to chaff out real and pragmatic solutions that will allow this society to propel forward or backwards. It is time; we decide whether we should invest in cosmetic changes like referring it to military courts or make strategic interventions like transforming mind-set of the people to not resort to violence. And how we do that, we leave it for the history to narrate. The author works in the development sector of Pakistan and tweets @azmahkhan000.