After Beslan, Peshawar


A sad day, a tragic day

The cold blooded killing of 142 including at least 133 students and nine staff members of Peshawar Army Public School has cast a pall over the country. The initial shock has been followed by a wave of resentment against the TTP which has owned the attack. Only people worse than beasts could have made plans to kill innocent children who expect protection from everyone in society.
The incident has led Nawaz Sharif to call an APC on Wednesday while Imran Khan has called off the December 18 shutdown of the country. World leaders that include British Prime Minister David Cameron , French President Francois Hollande and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have condemned the attack.
What has happened at the Army Public School in Peshawar is a national tragedy which will continue to haunt people for a long time to come. That the attack was planned and executed by an organisation that claims to establish the Sharia shows how criminals and murderers cover up their ugly designs with slogans of the sort. The attack has also exposed the sympathisers 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.
The killings raise a number of uneasy questions about the level of security provided to the school administered by the army. Those minding the security in and around the school have to explain how a group of well-armed terrorists managed to enter the premises undetected. Peshawar district borders four Agencies including the volatile Khyber Agency. This explains why the city and its surroundings have been a favourite target of the Pakistani Taliban. One had expected that special attention would be paid to the city’s schools particularly the one run by the army. After the Chechen militants’ massacre of 385 hostages that included 186 school children in Beslan ten years back, there should have been no room for any misunderstanding regarding what their Pakistani allies were capable of doing.
The explanation by Brig (retd) Mehmud Shah that the terrorists might have used the less protected route from graveyard at the back of the school does not exonerate the administration from the charge of criminal neglect to cover all vulnerable points. It won’t do to imply, as he has done, that terrorist acts would continue to take place as long as conditions in Afghanistan remain unsettled. No excuse can cover up the fact that the Pakistani Taliban continue to maintain sleeper cells in major cities of Pakistan while there is a widespread apprehension that their most wanted leaders might also be hiding in these cities. What is the business of the high profile military controlled agencies and their civilian counterparts if not to ensure security to the people? Institutional neglect is the major cause behind the tragedy in Peshawar.
The tendency to shift the blame to others must come to an end. A KP leader of the PTI has said the attack is a reaction to the Operation Zarb-e-Azb. Like the army and its agencies, the civilian government and its agencies also have to be vigilant to defeat the terrorists. Passing the buck to others is tantamount to the dereliction of duty.
The tragic incident has occurred on another sad day in the history of Pakistan, the Fall of Dhaka. Nowhere else is the tendency to shift responsibility more visible than in interpreting the separation of what constituted the Eastern Wing of the country. Had the finding of the Hamoodur Rehman Commission been made public soon after the submission of the report and action taken in accordance with its recommendations, a healthy tradition of accountability would have been established. Failure to punish those responsible for the country’s division and the military’s defeat promoted a culture of immunity for the powerful. Whenever a gross negligence takes place people doubt if any one in a powerful position will be held accountable.