Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Daily Times Editorial Dec 18, 2014

Response to tragedy The whole country is in mourning after the tragic events in Peshawar on Tuesday. The government in turn has announced three days of official mourning. The sense of shock and grief that gripped the people of Pakistan when news of the dastardly attack on an army-run school/college in Peshawar started pouring in was so profound that people struggled to put their feelings into words. Yesterday was still gripped by the fog surrounding events. As the details have become clearer, it is possible to piece together a picture of what occurred. Nine terrorists reportedly wearing military uniforms managed to access the premises through a back gate and started shooting indiscriminately. Three of them reportedly also exploded suicide vests, which resulted in further casualties. A counter-operation by the security forces, including SSG commandos, managed to kill all the terrorists after a protracted eight hour gun battle, during which seven commandos were injured. As to the intended victims, the toll was 132 students and nine staff members killed, 121 students and three staff members injured. On the other hand, 960 people were evacuated from the premises by the security forces. The sad news on Wednesday was that three of the injured had also succumbed to their wounds. It cannot be said with certainty at this point whether the death toll will rise further, given that some of the wounded were brought to hospital in critical condition. While the whole country grieves along with the parents and families of the dead and wounded, this grief must now be turned to strength to combat the menace of terrorism without any ifs and buts. One reflection of the manner in which this tragedy has changed the national mood is the All Parties Conference (APC) called by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Peshawar, where he had rushed soon after receiving news of the disaster. What was notable about this APC as opposed to the one last year that decided to hold eventually abortive talks with the terrorists was the consensus across the board that the time had come to firmly grasp the nettle of terrorism and crush it. After all, no people can allow this kind of wholesale massacre of its children to go without an adequate response. The APC took the decision to pursue the war on terrorists without discrimination between so-called ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban until the complete elimination of the terrorist phenomenon. A committee headed by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar and comprising representatives of all the parliamentary parties has been formed to produce a counter-terrorism strategy and action plan within one week. The attack in Peshawar has united the political class behind the national agenda of combating the existential threat of terrorism. Even Imran Khan has changed his tune, as was evident in the press conference held after the APC by all the heads of parties, in which Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan sat side by side. While sticking to his guns on alleged election rigging and the need to have it investigated by a judicial commission (whose results he said he would accept whichever way they turned out), Imran Khan argued that this was a moment for the whole country to come together. Imran Khan and his coalition allies the Jamaat-e-Islami must be appreciated for their sense of responsibility in attending the APC and putting their weight behind the consensus of all parties. Meanwhile COAS General Raheel Sharif, who had cut short his visit to Quetta to rush to Peshawar after the news of the attack broke, has travelled to Kabul to meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and the US commander of ISAF General John F Campbell, reportedly to coordinate ‘hammer and anvil’ actions against the TTP of Mullah Fazlullah sitting on Afghan soil just across the border. Unlike in the past, this cooperation has better chances of coming through after the Peshawar tragedy. The whole world has expressed sorrow, sympathy and solidarity with Pakistan in the aftermath of the horrendous loss of so many children. Even our neighbours, India and Afghanistan foremost, have expressed their horror and sympathy. In India on Wednesday, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had sent a message of condolence and sympathy, schools throughout the country maintained two minutes of silence in memory of the slain students of Peshawar. These are good sentiments and reactions to an event that has horrified people all over the globe. The political class and the military have come together as never before after being woken up by the brutality of the terrorists. In this fight, there is no longer any room for mercy, equivocation, or fumbling. The snake must be scotched for good.

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