[a short compilation of statements from Human Rights organisations and Media Commentary and Editorials]
HRCP slams killing of children in Taliban attack
December 16, 2014
Lahore, December 16: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has called the killing of more than 120 children in a Taliban attack on an army-run school in Peshawar a national tragedy which it said must open the eyes of anyone still harbouring any doubts that Taliban and Pakistan could coexist.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Commission said: “HRCP is deeply saddened by the large number of children killed in the Taliban attack on ArmyPublic School in Peshawar. This is a national tragedy of immense proportions, and an extremely sad day for Pakistan. Our heart goes out to the families of the children whose lives have been cut short by this abhorrent act of terrorism.
“The target was an army-run school, but it was a school nonetheless. It is not children who fight against the Taliban. And yet the choice of the target and the heavy casualties among the children leave no doubt that the massacre was aimed at killing as many children as possible.
“Nothing, including religion, norms of armed conflict or even common decency, justifies such brutal targeting of children. But it is no secret that the killers and those who dispatched them to attack the school have respect neither for religious commandments nor notions of civilised or decent behaviour. The targeting of children made sense to them because they stand for blood-letting and not much else.
“HRCP reiterates its firm belief that Taliban and Pakistan cannot coexist and anyone still harbouring any notions to the contrary is naive beyond belief.
“It had already been established, much before Tuesday’s massacre of children in Peshawar, where the Taliban stood in terms of education or value of children’s lives. Their actions today have shown once again that Pakistan will not know peace until this madness is taken on in all its manifestations and defeated.
“This cold-blooded slaying of our children should drive home once for all what the fight against the extremist militants is all about. And if this too does not wake up all those who have been choosing their words carefully only with reference to the Taliban, who have buried their heads in the sand or who have refused to see the logic in launching operations against the barbaric bands responsible for killing tens of thousands of citizens then nothing else will.
“HRCP calls upon the federal and all provincial governments to pursue this battle with the unison the task demands and particularly make it an urgent priority to punish the puppet masters who ordered the children’s massacre. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government must also rethink its policy of hospitality towards militants and side, through both acts and deeds, with the citizens suffering from the militants’ brutality.
“The fight against Taliban is literally the fight for the lives of Pakistan’s children and to secure for them a future safe from the barbaric brutalities that the Taliban and their ilk stand for.”
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP)
107-Tipu Block, New Garden Town, Lahore – 54600
Phone: (92-42) 35845969 Fax: (92-42) 35883582
o o o
Pakistan: Sickening Taliban school attack highlights vulnerability of civilians
The vast majority of those killed in the attack were school children.
The vast majority of those killed in the attack were school children.
“Of prime importance now is that the Pakistani authorities take effective steps to protect civilians and minimize the risk of this type of sickening tragedy being repeated.” Amnesty International’s David Griffiths
Today’s Taliban attack on a school in the Pakistani city of Peshawar shows a merciless disregard for human life and highlights the urgent need for protection of civilians in the area, Amnesty International said.
At least 126 people, mainly children, were killed when several armed men entered the school and began firing indiscriminately at students and teachers in one of the most shocking Taliban attacks in recent memory.
“There can be absolutely no justification for targeting children in this way. This unconscionable Taliban attack is a grave reminder that civilians in north-west Pakistan desperately need effective protection from militant groups,” said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Asia-Pacific.
“Of prime importance now is that the Pakistani authorities take effective steps to protect civilians and minimize the risk of this type of sickening tragedy being repeated.”
A Taliban spokesman said the attack was a response to recent Pakistani army operations in nearby North Waziristan, in which hundreds of Taliban fighters were killed. The school, in an area of Peshawar close to a military cantonment, was run by the army and some of the students were children of army members.
The Taliban have targeted students in Pakistan on numerous occasions, but this is by far their deadliest attack on a school.
Since 2010, there have been at least four attack on school buses – including the one in which Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousufzai was shot in the head in Swat in 2012. There have been at least three Taliban attacks on schools this year, with one fatality.
o o o
Pakistan’s sickening massacre isn’t about religion – it’s about intimidation
To survive as a country Pakistan needs to map out a road to peace, with the army, politicians and the people rallying under a unifying cause
by Bina Shah
School children rescued by the army leave following an attack at a school in Peshawar, Pakistan School children rescued by the army leave following an attack at a school in Peshawar, Pakistan. ‘Those killed are of the same religion as the attackers claim to follow.’ Photograph: Bilawal Arbab/EPA
Last week I wept with pride as Malala Yousafzai collected her Nobel Peace prize in Oslo, next to Kailash Satyarthi. The world stopped to listen as she gave her acceptance speech, in which she said:
“It is time to take action so it becomes the last time, the last time, so it becomes the last time that we see a child deprived of education … Let us become the first generation to decide to be the last, let us become the first generation that decides to be the last that sees empty classrooms, lost childhoods, and wasted potentials.”
We watched as Malala received the award and raised it high, able to smile with only half her face but all of her heart. She announced later that she intended to return to Pakistan in 2015, yet another marker of her triumph over the terrorists that tried to deprive her not just of education, but of her life.
We then saw a photograph of Malala as she toured the Nobel museum: when she saw her blood-spattered uniform, the one she was wearing when she was shot by the Taliban, she burst into tears. Kailash, who she calls a second father, had to comfort her as she buried her head in his shoulder.
And now, barely a week later, we are weeping as we see the images on our televisions of schoolchildren being carried out an army school in Peshawar in their blood-spattered uniforms, victims of a Taliban attack which has so far killed 126 people. Most of the children killed were between 10 and 16 years old, children of army officers who were listening to a speech being given by a senior military officer when the gunmen struck.
The Pakistani army has been conducting a “clearance operation” at the school, and says that it is determined to stop the terrorists from killing the rest of their hostages in the siege. The leader of the Taliban group claiming responsibility for the attack says it is in retaliation for the strikes against militants in North Waziristan. “They are killing our innocent families so we want them to feel the same pain,” he has reportedly said.
If anyone still thinks this is about religion, and not a political struggle with the barest patina of religion as justification for this war, they need only come to Peshawar to attend the funerals of the children, who will be buried before the sun goes down, in the Islamic tradition. They have only to hear what their parents will say, the customary response to the news of a Muslim’s death: to Him we belong and to Him we will return. The children who were killed are of the same religion as the attackers claim to follow. This is not about religion: this is about power, intimidation and revenge.
Every time there is an attack in Pakistan it prompts soul-searching, despair, revulsion and depression in the people. From politicians we only get the word “condemnation.” We have come to realise how impotent a word that really is over the past few years. It implies disapproval, not resolution to truly put an end to the situation. It calls for disavowal, instead of owning the conflict fully. It is a weasel word that, the more it is used, angers ordinary Pakistanis who have paid the price for this war with their blood and the blood of their loved ones.
The Pakistan army has shown the most steel in its attempts to batter the militants in their camps – some would say a response long overdue, while others would grimly point out that its strategic depth policy has now grown into a dangerously uncontrollable entity, and the entire nation is suffering as a result. There is so much to say about strategy and policy, about terrorism and counter-terrorism, that people have made their careers writing and lecturing on the subject. Yet no amount of expertise is able to come up with the solution to the crisis. Books, I am afraid, are not tourniquets.
There are urgent calls going out for people to come to hospitals in Peshawar and donate blood, especially O-negative type. Blood is being airlifted from Rawalpindi to Peshawar because supplies have already run out. What it will take, though, to stem the bleeding is a precise roadmap towards peace, one that combines the power of the army with the political backing of our politicians and leaders, that rallies the people and unites them under this cause. It sounds simple, and yet we still haven’t been able to agree on what that roadmap should look like, or even in which direction it should go.
Pakistan has, in fact, been accused of not wanting peace, but nothing is further from the truth. You don’t lose 40,000 people – plus 126 more, today – and want to continue to bleed out. After today we know that if we keep bleeding like this, we will not survive.
o o o
Letter from Pakistan: My Country Shrieks in Pain
(Mehr Tarar is former Op-ed Editor, Daily Times, Pakistan)
I drop my son to school every morning.
I have been doing it for the last 13 years, and I do it even now when he’s almost 15.
As he steps out of the car with a bright smile, I blow Ayat-ul-Kursi on him, watching him enter the school gate. I worry about his safety without even being aware that I worry about his safety. No, it’s not because I feel unsafe in Pakistan, but because he is the most precious person in the world to me, and until I see him back with me, I feel a part of me is not there.
Today, I feel as if I have been punched in my stomach. In my heart. And in my soul. With an iron rod. As I hear of children who were killed in an Army school in Peshawar, I feel my heart stopping.
Children were shot in the face. Children were shot in the head. Children were dragged out from under the chairs, under the tables, and shot. At point blank. Methodically. Coldly. Clinically. They – who go by the name of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan – say it is to avenge the Army operation against them in the FATA. To avenge the deaths of militants who were wreaking havoc on innocent Pakistanis in myriad acts of terror. It’s retribution, they say.
I have nothing to say here. You call yourself a Muslim, you call your fight a jihad, you call your way that of Allah. And yet you do what Allah forbids you to do: to perpetrate a war in His name where you kill children. Where you kill people who have never harmed you. You are not just Pakistan’s enemy but you are also your own worst enemy.
Before a court penalizes you, before the bullet of a soldier kills you, you will die a thousand deaths. The screams of the children you killed today, the wails of the parents whose children you killed today, the pain of the nation whose young you killed today will not let you be in peace. Until you die.
o o o
New blood-soaked benchmark
IT was an attack so horrifying, so shocking and numbing that the mind struggles to comprehend it. Helpless schoolchildren hunted down methodically and relentlessly by militants determined to kill as many as quickly as possible. As a country looked on in shock yesterday, the death count seemed to increase by the minute. First a few bodies, dead schoolchildren in bloodied uniforms, then more bodies, and then more and more until the number became so large that even tracking it seemed obscene. Peshawar has suffered before, massively. But nothing compares to the horror of what took place yesterday in Army Public School, Warsak Road. The militants found the one target in which all the fears of Pakistan could coalesce: young children in school, vulnerable, helpless and whose deaths will strike a collective psychological blow that the country will take a long time to recover from, if ever.
In the immediate aftermath of the carnage, the focus must be the grieving families of the dead, the injured survivors and the hundreds of other innocent children who witnessed scenes that will haunt them forever. Even in a society where violence is depressingly endemic and militant attacks all too common, the sheer scale of yesterday’s attack demands an extraordinary effort by every tier of the state — and society — to help the victims in every way possible. For the survivors, the state can help ensure the best medical treatment, for both physical and psychological wounds, and rehabilitation. All too often, after the initial shock wears off and the TV cameras move on, the level of care and attention given to survivors drops precipitously. That must not be the case this time. For the families of the dead, the state can find a way to honour their sacrifices beyond announcing so-called shaheed packages and promising to disburse cheques. It is also incumbent on wider society and the media to ensure that this time the state does more than the bare minimum.
Inevitably, the hard questions will have to be asked and answers will have to be found. Schools are by definition vulnerable, the trade-off between security and access making for a relatively soft target. Yet, vulnerability ought not to mean a disaster on this scale can occur so easily. Where was the intelligence? The military has emphasised so-called intelligence-based operations against militants in recent months, but this was a spectacular failure of intelligence in a city, and an area within that city, that ought to have been at the very top of the list in terms of a security blanket. Then there is the issue of the operation to find and capture or kill the militants after the attack had begun. The sheer length of the operation suggests the commanders may not have had immediate access to the school’s layout and there was no prior rescue plan in place. Surely army public schools are under high enough risk to have merited some kind of advance planning in case of such an attack. Was that plan in place? Had there been any drills at the school to help the children know what to do in the eventuality of an attack? Who was responsible for such planning? Most importantly, will lapses be caught, accountability administered and future defences modified accordingly? The questions are always the same, but answers are hardly forthcoming.
The questions about yesterday’s attack can go on endlessly. They should. But what about the state’s willingness and ability in the fight against militancy? Vows to crush militancy in the aftermath of a massive attack are quite meaningless. From such events can come the will to fight, but not really a strategy. Military operations in Fata and counterterrorism operations in the cities will amount to little more than fire-fighting unless there’s an attempt to attack the ideological roots of militancy and societal reach of militants. Further, there is the reality that militancy cannot be defeated at the national level alone. Militancy is a regional problem and until it is addressed as such, there will only be a long-term ebb and flow of militancy, cycles destined to repeat themselves. Perhaps the starting point would be for the state to acknowledge that it does not quite have a plan or strategy as yet to fight militancy in totality. Denial will only lead to worse atrocities.
Published in Dawn, December 17th, 2014
o o o
The Guardian view on the school killings in Pakistan
A massacre of the innocents which shows Islamist extremism at its most callous. But Pakistan’s own policies are also to blame
An injured student in Peshawar Pakistani volunteers carry a student injured the Taliban attack to a local hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan, 16 December 2014. Photograph: Mohammad Sajjad/AP
There can be no worse or more barbaric stage in any conflict than when one side or the other deliberately kills the children of their enemies. The young students whose bloodied bodies, pathetically clad in their British-style school uniforms, were stretchered out of the army school in Peshawar on Tuesday, as their families stood by and wept, did not die as a result of “collateral damage”.
That dismal euphemism often covers the deaths of innocents. But at least such deaths are not willed. The Taliban militants who infiltrated the school went there with the express purpose of killing children. They were not in the city to attack military installations, police barracks, or even the officers whose children attended the school. They did not even have the scrap of an excuse which the attackers did in Beslan in 2004, that they were taking hostages in pursuit of supposedly just demands addressed to the Russian government. No, they went to Peshawar to kill kids, and they mowed them down until they themselves were mown down, or till the ammunition ran out and they escaped the scene of their crime by committing suicide.
The attack did not of course come out of nowhere. Since August the Pakistani army has been on the offensive in Waziristan, chopping away at the north-western badlands where the Taliban is strong, and in Karachi, where it has been trying to dislodge the Taliban from areas of the city which they control. The attack on the school was therefore an act of revenge, as well as an attempt to terrorise the Pakistani government and armed forces into calling off or moderating these campaigns.
It is highly unlikely to have that effect. The national revulsion at the school killings will surely reinforce the marked hostility toward the Taliban and other Islamist extremists which Pakistani public opinion displays. It will also undermine the already much discredited idea that there is, at least at this stage, a diplomatic solution to the conflict. The politicians – notably the ex-cricketer Imran Khan – who have in the past urged that course will find it hard to return to that theme. Mr Khan has unequivocally condemned the attack and postponed a nationwide protest against the government of Nawaz Sharif that his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, was due to stage tomorrow. Mr Sharif offered the insurgents talks earlier this year, but there was little sincerity on either side. The Taliban’s only potential concession was that their aims of a caliphate, sharia law, and the overthrow of the secular state could come in instalments – not much of a bargain to be had there.
So Pakistan finally embarked on the serious war against extremism which it had largely avoided in the past. The resulting campaign is the latest act in the tragic drama of Pakistani politics. The armed forces and successive governments have played with fire for many years, tolerating, supporting and using Islamist extremists in pursuit of their foreign aims in Kashmir, Afghanistan and central Asia, and in their efforts to maintain an elusive equality with India. This double game has caused untold difficulties and suffering in neighbouring countries. Finally, and predictably, the trouble they had fomented abroad came home in what one respected analyst has called “the worst terrorist backlash in the entire region”. The Peshawar massacre is proof enough of that.
The army will surely now go after the Taliban with renewed vigour. But whether the double game is really over is another question. There are many Islamist groups and sub-groups. Managing and using them, dividing them into “good” and “bad,” according to the needs of the moment, has been a way of life for the Pakistani security establishment. Optimists see a pattern emerging in which the new Afghan government, the Pakistani government and armed forces, and the United States, are closer to being genuinely united than they have ever been in the past, with the extremists unable in the future to take refuge in one country when things are not going well for them in the other. Others are doubtful, noting that using extremism has become a habit it will be hard to give up entirely. But that is the way Pakistan should go. The costs of the old policy have been demonstrated again and again, and the Peshawar school massacre has underlined them in the most horrific way.
o o o
Pakistan From the graveyard
The Pakistani Taliban massacre at least 131 people, mostly schoolchildren, in the country’s deadliest terrorist attack in years
“I AM not sure if Pakistan was created in the name of religion, but it is surely being destroyed in the name of religion.” So wrote a distraught former army officer on December 16th, as a terrorist attack, awful even by Pakistan’s grim standards, unfolded in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in the north-west of the country, not far from the border with Afghanistan. Nine members of the Pakistani Taliban, speaking with the local Pashtu accent and dressed in the uniforms of the local paramilitary force, came from a graveyard and over the wall of a large, army-run school. They then moved about, killing children and teachers with guns and grenades. Three or four attackers are said to have blown themselves up.
At the latest count 141 people have died, 132 of them children. Survivors told harrowing stories of children shot as they tried to duck behind desks and chairs. Some were reportedly killed after gunmen interrupted a first-aid training session in the school hall; others fell in the playground. Eyewitnesses spoke of children lined up and murdered. So many injured arrived at the local hospital that it ran out of blood.
Nearly nine hours after the start of the assault, when by now it was dark, soldiers killed the last gunman. The country’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, rushed to Peshawar and spoke of both pain and resolve. “Such attacks are expected in the wake of a war, and the country should not lose its strength”, he said. The war he was referring to is Operation Zarb-e-Azb, which the army launched in the summer to clear the nearby tribal region of North Waziristan of Pakistani Taliban bases. On the evening of the outrage, ten air strikes were ordered in areas close to Peshawar, presumably on Taliban targets. Mr Sharif called an all-party meeting for December 17th, seeking to unite political parties behind a more forceful fight against the terrorists who have torn the country apart.
The Pakistani Taliban quickly admitted responsibility for the attack. Whether intended as a grotesque gesture of compassion or not, they claimed to have been communicating with the gunmen in the school, ordering them to kill only older children. The spokesman said that since “the army targets our families, we want them to feel our pain”. Revenge is clearly part of the motivation. Khalid Aziz, a former chief secretary of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, notes that tribal Pushtuns, which the assailants appear to have been, have endured years of bombing, displacement and army attacks. He now expects punitive attacks by Pakistan’s army, and as a result “we are going to have a never-ending war”.
The Taliban have a brutal history of targeting the country’s pupils. In the four years to 2013, when their writ ran large, they destroyed over 1,000 schools and colleges in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Two years ago they shot a schoolgirl, Malala Yousafzai, in the head as she was riding home on a school bus. She survived, going on to collect the Nobel peace prize on December 10th. Ahmed Rashid, an expert on the Taliban, says the massacre in Peshawar was “symbolic of hatred for everything that Malala stands for”. As an attack on children of army officers, it was also intended to demoralise officers serving in North Waziristan.
An umbrella group more formally known as Tehreek-e-Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban looks dangerous and desperate. Squeezed by the army, fractured into squabbling parts and without territory, it is striking mostly at civilians. In November a suicide bomber killed 60 local tourists leaving a daily ceremony on the border with India in Wagah in Punjab. Taliban leaders may also worry that Sunni extremists are turning to favour a rival outfit recruiting in Pakistan, an offshoot of the Islamic State (IS). Kamran Shafi, a retired army officer, says he fears the Taliban will increasingly mimic the savagery of IS in an effort to maintain its appeal among militants. But he also calls the latest attack a “seminal event”, after which most Pakistanis, disgusted with extremism, will unite at last to oppose the Taliban.
For now, at least, it may not turn out to be a wholly vain hope. The immediate behaviour of one politician, Imran Khan, was telling. He is a cricketer turned religious conservative who has been set on ousting the elected Mr Sharif. He draws electoral support from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where his party rules, and his policy to date was never to criticise the Taliban. His position, dressed up as principle, was based partly on a calculation that a sizeable number of Pakistanis still think of the Taliban and other extremist groups as pious. Yet after the Pakistani Taliban murdered so many innocents, even Mr Khan was moved to condemn “this inhuman act of utter barbarism”. He promised to join Mr Sharif’s all-party meeting. Only if the political establishment is disunited can the barbarity more easily continue.
o o o
A special kind of evil
It defies comprehension, the special kind of evil that fired the minds of the men who brought death to Peshawar on Monday, an evil that made them target children gathering for their morning classes and extinguish so many young lives. In days to come, all of Pakistan will mourn. Indians will share their sorrow, as parents, as siblings, and as people who have learned that the living carry with them wounds inflicted by terror.
This isn’t the first large-scale terrorist attack against children — Ingush and Chechen jihadists from the Riyadus-Salikhin killed 156 at Beslan 10 years ago this September. In Pakistan, thousands have died in bombings targeted at people who did no wrong, bar worshipping the “wrong” god, or being born the “wrong” gender, or just happening to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
There is no horror too large, it seems, for terrorists who have taught themselves to believe that god has willed them to kill. For years, Pakistan’s military establishment first patronised the jihadists who are now tearing the country apart, and then sought accommodation with them. Finding that its effort at appeasement achieved little, the army finally went to war against some jihadists in their North Waziristan strongholds. The country is now facing the storm winds the offensive stirred up.
Like all terrorist strikes, the carnage in Peshawar wasn’t mindless. The bullets carried a message for Pakistan’s people: that the army’s growing war against the hardline Tehreek-e-Taliban will bring with it unacceptable costs. For weeks now, hardline Taliban factions, some linked to al-Qaeda, have raged against what they say are large-scale human rights violations by the Pakistan army, and vowed vengeance.
The army, the terrorist commanders who ordered the attack hope to demonstrate, is incapable of defending its own, let alone civil society. In the short term, both the military and the public may respond with rage, but pressure will inevitably mount to buy peace, and that will be the Pakistan government’s acid test. In the past, these pressures have led some political forces in Pakistan to blame India for the terrorism that now afflicts the country. Hopefully, wisdom will be demonstrated now. It is time to mourn, then, but also to act. The war against religious terror in this region has only one way to go — forward. For, on either side is the abyss.
o o o
Who are the Pakistani Taliban?
By Carlotta Gall, Declan Walsh and Douglas Schorzman The New York Times December 16, 2014
The Pakistani Taliban, formally known as Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, is a loose and often chaotic umbrella organization representing roughly 30 groups of Pakistani militants along the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. The group was officially founded in 2007 by a prominent jihadi commander, Baitullah Mehsud, and for years it and allied groups like Al Qaeda have been based in the ethnic Pashtun tribal areas in northwestern Pakistan, particularly in North and South Waziristan.
Many Pakistani Taliban commanders had fought in Afghanistan as part of the movement that swept to power in Kabul. When US forces ousted that movement in 2001, many of its leaders fled across the border into Pakistan. The Pakistanis among them played host to their Afghan counterparts — as well as hundreds of fighters from Al Qaeda — providing them with shelter, logistical support and recruits.
The Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters steadily radicalized the tribal regions, encouraging the Pakistani Taliban to spread their influence across the mountainous region and beyond into Pakistan’s settled areas and main cities.
The militant groups resisted the Pakistani military’s efforts to impose control. They sometimes cooperated in cease-fire agreements with the Pakistani military and then reneged months later. After Mehsud created Tehrik-i-Taliban, he led the group in attacks against the Pakistani state, striking military and civilian targets in various cities. The group accused the Pakistani government of siding with the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and vowed revenge for the killing of Pakistani civilians in the 2006 bombing of a madrassa in North-West Frontier province, which was renamed Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in 2010, and in the Red Mosque siege in Islamabad in 2007.
The United States designated the Pakistani Taliban a terrorist organization in September 2010.
Q: What relationship do the Pakistani Taliban have to the Afghan Taliban?
Taliban gunmen stormed a military-run school in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on Tuesday, killing at least 126 people.
A: The group owes allegiance to the Afghan Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, and cooperates closely with the Afghan movement in its insurgency in Afghanistan, providing men, logistics and rear bases for the Afghan Taliban. It has trained and dispatched hundreds of suicide bombers from Pakistan’s tribal areas into Afghanistan. The movement shares a close relationship with the Haqqani Network, the most hard-core section of the Afghan Taliban operating out of North Waziristan, which has been behind repeated suicide attacks in and around Kabul and eastern Afghanistan. The groups also cooperate and provide safe haven for Al Qaeda operatives, including Al Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Pakistani intelligence, which has longstanding ties with the Haqqani Network, has sought to turn the Pakistani Taliban to fight Western forces in Afghanistan and desist from attacks against Pakistan.
Q: What are the most significant attacks claimed by the Pakistani Taliban?
A: The Pakistani Taliban and affiliated militant groups have mounted a long series of devastating bomb blasts in Pakistan’s cities over the years. They attacked Pakistani military and intelligence targets, including a suicide bombing in the canteen of Pakistan’s elite special forces commandos, the Special Services Groups, and a hostage-taking inside the army’s General Staff Headquarters in Rawalpindi. The Pakistani Taliban were also behind fatal bomb blasts on softer targets like the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad in September 2008 and the Pearl Continental Hotel in Peshawar in 2009.
Baitullah Mehsud is also thought to have been behind the suicide bombing that killed former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in December 2007.
Under Hakimullah Mehsud, the group demonstrated a close alliance with Al Qaeda. He claimed a role in the suicide bombing by a Jordanian double agent that killed seven CIA officials and a Jordanian intelligence official at Camp Chapman in eastern Afghanistan in December 2009, mounted in revenge for the killing of Baitullah Mehsud.
The bomber, Humam Khalil Abu Mulal al-Balawi, had been recruited by Jordanian intelligence and was being used to try to undermine Al Qaeda’s leadership based in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The Taliban disseminated video footage showing Mehsud beside the Jordanian before the bomber traveled from North Waziristan to Afghanistan to carry out the attack.
Mehsud later trained Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-American who tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square in New York City in 2010.
In 2012, the Pakistani Taliban shot Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani schoolgirl in the Swat Valley, in the head for advocating the education of girls. Yousafzai went on to become a worldwide symbol of the group’s indiscriminate violence and subjugation of women and girls, traveling to New York to give a speech at the United Nations. She and her family have moved to England, in part because the Pakistani Taliban vowed to attack her again.
Q: Who has led the Pakistani Taliban?
A: Hakimullah Mehsud became the leader of the Pakistani Taliban after a US drone strike killed Baitullah Mehsud in August 2009. A onetime driver for the Taliban who had risen to prominence through a series of daring attacks, he played a major role in the humiliating kidnapping of 250 Pakistani soldiers in 2007. He later stole US jeeps as they were being transported to Afghanistan and was filmed driving around in one.
Mehsud proved a wayward, vicious leader. He appeared at the execution of a former Pakistani intelligence officer, Sultan Amir, known as Colonel Imam, in 2011. Colonel Imam had long been a trainer and mentor to the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, yet Mehsud ignored efforts to intercede on his behalf by senior Taliban figures, including Mullah Mohammad Omar, the Afghan Taliban leader, and Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the powerful Haqqani network.
Hunted by US drones, Mehsud adopted a low profile in recent months and was rarely seen in the news media. But in a BBC interview that was broadcast in October, he vowed to continue his campaign of violence. He was aware that the CIA was seeking to kill him, he said, adding: “Don’t be afraid. We all have to die someday.”
Mehsud’s deputy, Abdullah Behar, was among the four people who were killed with him, according to a Pakistani official, and it was not clear who might succeed him. Behar had just assumed the deputy post from Latif Mehsud, a militant commander whom US forces in Afghanistan detained in 2013.
o o o
‘We Will Kill Those Malalas’: Before Taliban’s School Massacre, Militants Warned of Revenge Against Nobel Prize Winner
by Sara Carter
Last week, Pakistan’s deadliest militant group warned that anyone following in the footsteps of 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner and school activist Malala Yousufzai would be killed.
“We will kill those Malalas, those who are following Malala Yousafzai,” Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Taliban vowed.
On Tuesday, the group followed through with its threat.
Seven attackers massacred a Pakistani military-run high school in Peshawar, executing at least 141 people, mostly children, in one of the deadliest attacks in Pakistan’s history. Within the first 20 minutes of the attack, the men had already executed more than 60 children, Pakistani sources told TheBlaze via Skype.
A police official in Peshawar told Sajid — a source who lives in the city and spoke to TheBlaze on the condition that he be identified by a pseudonym — that the men were allowed to enter the school because they were wearing official Pakistani army uniforms. Sajid’s 14 year-old cousin was killed in the attack, and Sajid has received direct threats to his life from the TTP.
He said hospital officials at Lady Reading Hospital still have six dead children that have yet to be identified.
“These people are not human, they are not Muslim, they are monsters,” Sajid said.
Pakistani rescue workers take out students from an ambulance who injured in the shootout at a school under attack by Taliban gunmen, upon arrival at a local hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014. Taliban gunmen stormed a military school in the northwestern Pakistani city, killing and wounding dozens, officials said, in the latest militant violence to hit the already troubled region. (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)
Pakistani rescue workers treat students injured in a shootout at a school under attacked by Taliban gunmen in Peshawar, Pakistan, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014. Taliban gunmen stormed a military school in the northwestern Pakistani city, killing and wounding dozens more than 100. (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)
The hours-long attack with ended with the deaths of 132 children, ages 10 through 18, and nine staff members: five female teachers, three guards and one security person. All of the attackers died, though it wasn’t clear whether they were shot by soldiers or detonated explosive vests, the Associated Press reported.
Sajid said TTP sent the warning about Yousafzai to members of the Pakistani media on Dec. 10. Yousafzai — now known predominantly by her first name, Malala — was shot by the Taliban in an October 2012 because of her fight to see all children of Pakistan educated.
“Democracy is black law and nowadays, Western countries, NGOs, media outlets and political parties are trying their best to strengthen this black system within and this system is main cause of present situation where everyone is facing hardships, there is no justice and people are facing the worst law and order situation,” read the five-page Taliban document, which Sajid translated from Urdu for TheBlaze.
“Unfortunately the father of Malala Yousafzai ( Ziauddin Yousafzai) is a greedy and selfish man. He wants fame, that’s the main reason that he sold the respect and honor of his daughter and pushed her in the hands of NGOs. Ziauddin violated Pashtun code and the Islamic principle just for getting fame in the world,” the document said. “Ziauddin pushed Malala to fight the Islamic principles and now Malala is against the Islamic code and principle. So we believe that holy war will continue till the doomsday, and we will continue our fight against the people like Malala and Ziauddin, who are working in the hands of NGOs and violating Islamic principles.”
A spokesman for the TTP said its actions Tuesday were also in retaliation for the recent large-scale and ongoing military operations by the Pakistan army in an area of North Waziristan, which is home to the militants and numerous foreign fighters.
“We selected the army’s school for the attack because the government is targeting our families and females,” Muhammad Khurasani in a statement. “We want them to feel the pain.”
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made an emergency visit to Peshawar and said in a press conference that military operations would continue against the militants in North Waziristan and that security forces will also launch operations against the militants in other tribal areas. He also announced a three-day nationwide mourning for the children killed.
Sajid, who has been under direct threat from the Taliban for more than a month, said he pulled his own children out of school in Peshawar several weeks ago and is now in hiding with his wife and children.
“I was worried that something like this would happen for more than a week,” he said.
“I think today the Taliban sent a very clear message and people will no longer want to send their children to school,” he said. “They are afraid. The Taliban did this in response to Malala’s activism and her great victory against them as she fights for education for all of Pakistan’s children.”