The highway to Peshawar is fairly deserted. As we get closer to the city, Pakistan’s rugged terrain gives way to farmlands, and then finally a colorful explosion of traffic and rickshaws.
Though only a 2 1/2-hour drive from Islamabad and all of its modern amenities, Peshawar is conspicuously more conservative. Many women here are wearing burkas or only have their eyes showing underneath their hijabs. I reach up to my headscarf and make sure no offensive hairs have managed to slip out.
We stop briefly in front of the ancient Bala Hisar Fort - erected at a time when Pakistan was in the midst of other wars, centuries ago. I snap a quick photograph.
Peshawar is the capital of the Northwest Frontier Province, tucked up against the Khyber Pass, right next to Afghanistan. It's here that one finds the melting pot of both nations, a place where everything converges.
As the Pakistani military launched multiple offensives targeting militant groups in the tribal areas, the retaliation was especially felt here. Everyone we meet, everyone we speak to says they are still in shock, unable to fully grasp what is happening to them, to their city.
Peshawar is considered by many to be at the very core of Pakistan’s war on terror. Gone are the days where residents enjoyed their time outside. The city now is a gridlock of checkpoints, sandbags and concertina wire.
It's in the middle of all this that we meet 7-year-old Zara, one of the children we are profiling for our piece on how this is affecting the psyche of the next generation.
Our first glimpse of her is in class. Her face is all scrunched up in concentration, bouncy brown curls framing her cherub-like face. She leans forward and around, trying to see what is written on the board, and then settles back into her chair, her little finger on her chin, contemplating. On the outside she is every bit your typical 7-year-old.
“My favorite part in school is games,” she says smiling, dimples and all, before she breaks into giggles.
"Really? What kind of games?” I ask.
“Hide and seek … hmmm … I only like hide and seek,” she says.
But then it's time to ask her about the things she can't hide from. About the bombs that plague her dreams, about the waking visions she has.
And so she tells us in her sweet little voice about how when she hears a bomb she imagines the Taliban are around, and that she has visions of corpses.
As part of our coverage, we’re trying to look into what, if anything, can be done to save the next generation, to spare them the agony of living with psychological scars or, at the very least, lessen the impact.
As we leave the school, driving down the now-deserted market place, I can't help but wonder - will it ever end? Will we - as a collective society - ever learn from history and stop this global bloodshed? Or are we so fundamentally flawed that we are just doomed to watch history repeat itself generation after generation?