*On the Ground*
Opinions of Pakistanis on the ground
Tragedy in Peshawar, a Tragedy for Islam
by: Najma Minhas
Muhammad Khorasani, leader of Jamat ul Ahrar – a faction of TTP, who has admitted that his group planned and carried out the carnage that took place in Peshawar on December 16th, has put to shame 1.6 billion followers of Islam and the man he is named after, Prophet Muhammad, the last prophet of Islam. The Prophet Muhammad is respected in Islam and was known for his gentle nature as well as love for children.
The Army Public School in Peshawar saw scenes more gruesome than shown in any Stephen King movie. The high school where over 1100 students, between the ages of 10 to 18 study, suffered unspeakable atrocities during an eight hour siege of the school. TV images show the whole school building drenched in the blood of those killed. Six terrorists, killed, maimed and burnt over 132 children and 9 teachers including the head teacher of the school. They systematically went through classrooms throwing aside desks and chairs to make sure they missed no-one; one class leader was asked to shoot his fellow classmate, in another class a teacher was burned alive as the terrified children watched. Another child describes how he saw black boots approaching a female teacher and shooting her for making too much noise because she was crying in pain after being shot in the hand, he closed his eyes and pretended to be dead. Over 120 children and teachers are injured and still in hospital. The terrorists claimed this attack was in response to Operation Zarb-a-Azb that the army has been conducting since June 2014 against the Islamic terrorists in the tribal areas of Pakistan to clear them from these areas.
It happened on the same day, December 16, which Pakistan mourned as the day they lost East Pakistan. The last several months in Pakistan has seen much upheaval with ‘Jalsas’ and ‘dharna’s’ being held to protest over the credibility of the 2013 elections. But, after this event the country stands united against the terrorists and in condemning their actions. The Prime Minister immediately called an all party conference, which was attended by all senior members of all parties, to decide how they will deal with terrorism that Pakistan had been facing since 9/11. One important decision that the Prime Minister declared from the onset of the meeting was that the moratorium on death penalty that Pakistan had since 2008 was removed. This was something that social media in Pakistan had been clamoring for in the past 24 hours – its removal also purportedly had the backing of the Army Chief, Raheel Sharif. Now it is argued that once 250 terrorists on the death row are hanged – not only will these people will no longer be free to kill again; but, it will also acts as a detriment to future terrorists.
Additionally, the Prime Minister has clarified that there will be no differentiation between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban. This was an important statement since Pakistan is often criticized as keeping ‘assets’ that it uses for its strategic foreign policy purposes. In addition, the All Party Conference has set up a committee that will be headed by the Interior Minister, Chaudhry Nisar, and will create a plan of action how to remove terrorism from Pakistan. The committee is expected to report back within seven days to this all party meeting. In the longer term, for terrorism to be removed from Pakistan, involves taking many strong nerve decisions. The government has to create a narrative against extremism as well as ensuring that extremist material is taken out of its educational syllabus that promotes religious and sectarian intolerance. The religious scholars teaching at madrassas should be government trained and only authorized maulvis be allowed to lead mosques. All kinds of foreign money ‘donated’ to seminaries from other countries wanting to export their own variety of religion needs to be banned. It has been over 34 years since the policy of ‘jihadi’ politics was introduced into Pakistan/Afghanistan – removing it will not be an overnight phenomena.
Najma Minhas is a writer based in Islamabad, Pakistan.