Pakistan’s open wound

The Taliban slaughtered 133 pupils and nine staff members.

By
December 20, 2014 21:44
3 minute read.
NPR

Supporters of Pakistan's Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) political party hold a sign to condemn the Taliban attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The seven Pakistani Taliban gunmen came for one thing, to murder the weakest and most vulnerable possible targets: children at a government school in Peshawar. They burst through the entrance wearing suicide vests, carrying belts of ammunition, grenades and bombs. Some wore Pakistani paramilitary uniforms. They proceeded to slaughter 133 pupils and nine staff members.

They killed the principal, a woman named Tahira Qazi, and set her body on fire; evidently this was part of the Taliban’s long-running campaign against female education.

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More than a hundred other students were wounded.

Tahreek-e-Taliban Fazullah Group spokesman Muhammad Umar Khurasani confirmed that his group planned the attack and ordered the murderers not to kill children under age 13. This shows the meticulous calculus of death that went into this “mission.” Although the Taliban claimed it was in retaliation for Pakistani military operations in the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan, the reality is that this kind of mass murder of civilians is a calling card of this group and of those like it around the world. It is the same ideology that ordered the murder of Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai for going to school; she survived and gained international renown speaking out against such evil.

The attack has rattled Pakistan. In a country where Taliban terrorists have killed thousands over the years and which remains a breeding ground for international terrorism, the reaction has been especially strong. Inter-Services public relations director Asim Bajwa said that already “several operations have been put into action including 10 air strikes in Tirah in Khyber today. We will continue to go after these beasts and their facilitators till their elimination.”

Countries around the world have shown their support for Pakistan in its time of trial. India held two minutes of silence. On Tuesday, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the phone and offered his “deepest condolences and all assistance...

This terrible tragedy has shaken the conscience of the world.” US President Barack Obama said, “By targeting students and teachers in this heinous attack, terrorists have once again shown their depravity.” Many people around the world changed their social media profiles to a black background to express solidarity.

Just as Islamic State’s actions in Syria and Iraq go beyond the already horrible norms of Islamist terrorism and have gained criticism from al-Qaida, the actions of Pakistan’s Taliban earned the ire of the Afghan Taliban. “The intentional killing of innocent people, children and women is against the basics of Islam and this criteria has to be considered by every Islamic party and government,” Zabihullah Mujahid of the Afghan Taliban said.

It is obvious that the world takes this tragedy seriously.

Pakistan has often played a double game with the Taliban and terrorism; condemning it on the one hand and allowing it to fester on the other. Pakistan politician, and former cricket star, Imran Khan, has often said that “talks are the only solution to the Taliban insurgency.” Pakistanis may be waking up now to the truth about this festering sore within their borders. “The attack has also exposed the sympathizers of the TTP who claimed that the network was loyal to Pakistan, insisted on holding talks with it and opposed a military operations against it,” editorialized Pakistan Today.

This attack should disabuse all world leaders of the notion that negotiation with these groups could lead anywhere. Many people are comparing this massacre to the school killings in Beslan, in North Ossetia, Russia, where Islamic terrorists killed more than 350 people in 2004. But this style of attack has more in common with the al-Shabaab attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi last year and the massacre in Mumbai in 2008 by Pakistan-based Lashkar e-Taiba.

This attack, coming a day after a crazed gunman inspired by Islamic State killed two in the Sydney siege, must hammer home the need for a worldwide consensus on defeating these kinds of jihadist groups, whose main goal is mass murder. More can be done on the level of international law to declare all members of these groups accomplices in war crimes. Instead, former fighters from Syria are being “rehabilitated” in Europe after returning from committing war crimes. The world bears an open wound that stretches from Peshawar to Syria and the Horn of Africa. Pakistan is not alone, but it must finally decide to eradicate the Taliban, rather than to tolerate their presence.


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