By Nasim Ahmed
It is impossible to describe in words the shock and horror of it. 131 schoolchildren killed in cold blood by beasts in human form in broad daylight – a holocaust we could not stop. The terrorist monsters entered the Army Public School, Peshawar, by scaling the rear wall and opened indiscriminate firing on innocent children studying in their classrooms. According to eyewitnesses, gunmen went from classroom to classroom, shooting children and teachers, showing no mercy. It was the worst and most heart wrenching terrorist attack in the country’s history. By the time army commandoes completed the rescue operation, the death toll had mounted to 142. Images of dead bodies and of distraught parents looking for their dead and missing children on the TV screens sent shock waves throughout the world. People just could not believe what they saw. But the outrage was being enacted right before their eyes. People thronged the city’s Lady Reading Hospital in the wake of the attack, weeping uncontrollably as children’s bodies arrived, their school uniforms drenched in blood. The barbaric, dastardly attack has drawn worldwide condemnation. There has been a spontaneous outpouring of sympathy and solidarity from all over the world. US President Barack Obama has strongly condemned the deadly Taliban raid on the Peshawar school and said that in targeting students and teachers, terrorists have once again shown their depravity. He also promised that America would stand by Pakistan in its struggle against violent extremism. US Secretary of State John Kerry has said that the Taliban attack on the Peshawar school has angered the world: “Those are our children and this is the world’s loss”. British Prime Minister David Cameron, condemning the terrorist attack, said the news from Pakistan is deeply shocking: “It’s horrifying that children are being killed simply for going to school”. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has described the incident as an act of horror and rank cowardice. He said the hearts of the world go out to the parents and families who have lost their loved ones. To its eternal shame, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has claimed responsibility for the attack as retaliation for the military operation in North Waziristan. The fact is that such an attack was long expected, especially after the launch of the Operation Zarb-e-Azb. The question is why did we not take pre-emptive action? Peshawar has been continuously attacked by terrorists. In view of this, soft targets, like schools specially, needed to be protected. But it seems no precautionary measures were adopted. Following the Peshawar carnage, the government announced three days of national mourning. In a state of shock, the entire nation has in one voice called for decisive action against the TTP terrorists, who have killed over 50,000 Pakistanis in the last 10 years, and formulation of a new anti-terrorism strategy to root out the evil from our land for good. In pursuit of this objective, the country’s political leadership met at an All Parties’ Conference in Peshawar last week. Besides the prime minister, chief ministers and leaders of all major political parties, PTI chief Imran Khan also attended the meeting. According to media reports, all participants unequivocally condemned militancy and vowed to eliminate it from our society. After a five-hour marathon meeting, the conference decided to constitute a committee comprising members from all political parties, the armed forces and intelligence agencies to deliberate on the issue and evolve a practical strategy to tackle the menace of terrorism. The committee has been mandated to come up with a plan within seven days which would be placed before the nation. Questions have been raised as to what the special committee on terrorism can achieve. Such conferences have been held in the past and committees formed but without any results. The mainstream political parties of the country have attended APCs before, on the militant threat, and also been briefed in parliament by the military leadership. For a year now, the National Internal Security Policy has been in place but it has not been operationalised to stop terrorist attacks. As we know, there are fundamental differences among the various sections of the political spectrum on how to define terrorism, let alone how to fight it. We have also seen the results of the several rounds of talks held with the Taliban. However, there is one thing on which all are agreed: relentless and unremitting action should be taken against the terrorists and their hideouts in the tribal areas, and it should continue until they are eliminated from our land. The military operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan has been going on successfully and all sections of opinion in the country want it to continue till the achievement of the final objective. It is also time we stopped differentiating between “good” and “bad” Taliban and went after all militants who have caused so much death and destruction across Pakistan.