Saturday, January 23, 2016
Daily Times Editorial Jan 24, 2016
Children threatened Kabul has denied any role in the Bacha Khan University atrocity that killed 21 people, most of them students and one teacher who resisted the attackers. The president’s office issued a statement that Afghanistan had never supported or provided sanctuaries to any terrorist group. It went on to assert that Afghan soil was not used in the attack, a claim backed up by a press briefing in Islamabad by DGPR DG Lt-General Asim Bajwa, who clarified that the operation was controlled from Afghanistan but the Afghan government was not involved. The Afghan president’s office, while condemning the incident, argued that terrorism was the common enemy of both countries and joint, sincere efforts were required to combat it. Both statements quoted above should lay to rest the wild speculations in parts of our media that were quick to ascribe blame to Kabul. The fact is that Mullah Fazlullah’s Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has found refuge across the border after Operation Zarb-e-Azb, reportedly with the help of the Haqqani network that has influence in those areas. While the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa apex committee met in Peshawar and set up a probe committee under the Peshawar Division Commissioner to examine the security arrangements at Bacha Khan University on the day of the attack and identify elements responsible for any lapses or negligence, amongst 15 suspects picked up after the attack, five facilitators of the attack were presented before the media in the ISPR briefing. The Bacha Khan University incident once again points to the existential nightmare that terrorism has morphed into for Pakistan. While some prognoses that Pakistan is poised on the crossroads between prosperity and failure may be exaggerated, there is no denying the challenge. If proof were needed, the Geedar group of the TTP that claimed the Charsaddda attack has released a video showing its ‘Khalifa’ Umar Mansoor threatening more such attacks against schools. Coincidentally or otherwise, two incidents occurred on January 22 that served to underline the verity of the threat to our children. Two firing incidents near government girls’ schools in Tandlianwala and Faisalabad produced panic amongst students and anxious parents. Fortunately, no one was hurt in the incidents except for 10 students in Tandlianwala who were injured in the panic-driven stampede when the firing broke out. Such is the state of nervousness amongst students and parents in all schools all over the country in the wake of the Charsadda attack, which has reopened the wounds of the December 2014 Army Public School massacre in Peshawar. Mansoor’s video clearly states that the justification for targeting schools is that these institutions produce professionals and people of an anti-terrorist orientation. They are in fact the nurseries of rationality and resistance to the narrative of the terrorists. The threat does raise serious concerns about how to handle this new challenge, given that there are thousands of such institutions all over the country that should now be considered targets of the terrorists. Inevitably, it is not possible for the security authorities to guard each and every one of these institutions. Lessons can be learnt from the Charsadda attack and how it was contained. The security guards of the university, followed by the local police and later the army, prevented a bigger massacre by eliminating all four attackers after a fierce fight. This suggests that the way forward is to strengthen the internal security of educational institutions through recruitment and training and lay down standard operating procedures for any such contingency, including dedicated hot lines to the local police and military. If the educational institutions ask for enhanced funding for security, as a group of Vice Chancellors of public universities meeting in Charsadda has done, the government/s should bend their backs to ensure this demand is satisfied. Nothing less will suffice when the flower of our youth and our hope for the future of the country, its young people, are so directly and explicitly threatened. Appeals should also go out to the affluent amongst us to contribute to a fund for the purpose. Help can be acquired for ensuring the security of our nurseries of learning from the specialised units of the military and elite forces of the police. The threat must be met as a national duty by all sections of the state and society on a war footing before more young lives are snuffed out by these beasts.