An article requires statistics and analysis of those statistics. The statistics are: 141 – out of which 132 were children – massacared in Peshawar on 16 December 2014. How does one analyse that? Grief and anger is overwhelming.
The loss of a child is something that we would never wish upon even our worst enemy. Yet, over 100 families in Peshawar have been sentenced to a lifetime of grief through this barbaric terrorist attack. For these families, the energy and light that a child brings to a home has been extinguished. Rooms where there were loud noises, laughter and thrills are now vacant areas of darkness and memories.
Three days of mourning and a stipend for the families that lost their loved ones in Peshawar is a joke. No more political hogwash. The mourning nation needs much more.
Our leaders need to step up and first of all apologize to the nation for misguiding them. The political elite under the leadership of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif have remained sympathetic towards the religious right and refused to budge from their ill-advised strategy of negotiating with the TTP. The first half of 2014 was, therefore spent in this futile endeavor. Despite several outrageous moments, which included the release of a video by the TTP that showed them playing football with the decapitated heads of Pakistani soldiers, the political leadership did not budge from their stance to appease these extremist militants. They remained steadfast in attempts to reintegrate these barbarians into mainstream civil society through negotiations.
It was not until the June 8-9, 2014 attack on the Karachi airport by the TTP that the initiative was taken out of the hands of the spineless political leadership. A week later Operation Zarb-e-Azb was launched. This was a correct decision that was made exclusively by the Pakistan Army and the prime minister had no option but to go along with it.
While the political leadership continued their ostrich like approach towards the operation, the Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif took it upon himself to project Pakistan’s new policy towards the “rooting out of all militants” in his recent visit to the US. In a hard hitting speech at the Pakistani Embassy in the US he reiterated that Zarb-e Azb was not just a military operation but, “a concept to defeat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations”. He gave further reassurances that no group, including the Haqanni network would be sparred in this onslaught. He said, “I would like to openly say that this (operation) is against all hues and colours, and it is without any exception, whether it is Haqqani network or Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan or anything.”
Prior to Gen Raheel Sharif’s visit to the states, Jon Boone wrote in the Guardian on 25 November 2014, “An insurgent group known for its deadly attacks on US forces in Afghanistan has been targeted by Pakistani military aircraft in what is believed to be the first such strike on a group long accused of enjoying the secret backing of Pakistan’s army.
In what might herald a major shift in Pakistan’s attitude to Afghanistan, military and intelligence officials said seven members of the Haqqani Network were among 20 militants killed by air strikes.
Officials said the strikes, carried out by a jet and an attack helicopter, were launched against hideouts belonging to both the Haqqani Network and an allied group run by militant warlord Hafiz Gul Bahadur.
The bases were in the Dattakhel area of North Waziristan, the tribal agency that for years has been a secure staging ground for militants launching attacks inside Afghanistan.”
Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, a commander for US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, also admitted in a video briefing, in the beginning of November, that Zarb-e-Azb had ‘fractured’ the Haqqani network. He said: “They are fractured like the Taliban is. That’s based pretty much on the Pakistan [operations] in North Waziristan this entire summer-fall,” and “That has very much disrupted their efforts [in Afghanistan] and has caused them to be less effective in terms of their ability to pull off an attack in Kabul.”
Since the commencement of Zarb-e-Azb in June, the backlash by the TTP has been contained to two significant incidents. The first was the bomb attack on the Wagah check post on November 2 ,which resulted in over 60 casualties, and the other was the December 16 barbaric massacre of children in Peshawar.
The carnage in Peshawar was conceived and planned by the TTP leader Mullah Fazlullah who was operating from the Haqqani network controlled areas of eastern Afghanistan. The aging Jalaluddin Haqqani has been a legend in his lifetime. With his retirement, the network that he had so painstakingly established is fractured. In mid-October 2014 his son, Anas Haqqani, and a key commander, Hafiz Rashid, were arrested by the Afghan National directorate of Security (NDS). The NDS spokesman, Haseeb Sidiqi, said that the arrests would have direct consequences on the network and their centre of command.” He was not far from the truth. The founder of the network had already lost three sons and control of the outfit has devolved on Sirajuddin Haqqani who is disliked and does not have the charisma of his ailing father. Sirajuddin has provided assistance to Mullah Fazlullah. As the network becomes weaker and more fragmented the alliance between them and the TTP will inevitably grow and as far as the primary agenda of the TTP is concerned we are all fully aware that it is to target the Pakistani population through terrorist attacks.
The December 16, 2014 Peshawar massacre has united the country. Public sentiments have been radically altered and they are in no mood for any sort of compromise. They will not tolerate waffling and have empowered the political leadership to take all necessary steps to eradicate this militant menace that has terrorized the nation, once and for all.
Why is it that while the United States of America has remained the key target and enemy of these terrorists no substantial terrorist attack has occurred on their soil since 9/11. This is primarily because they accepted as a nation that they were at war and there was no room or patience for waffling. A decision was made and the oft quoted phrase of “either you are with us or with them” was not just rhetoric… it was their new motto. Despite what one may feel about George Bush’s terms as President, at that particular moment he addressed and galvanized the nation into a single-minded agenda of eliminating a common enemy that opposed the American way of life. Let us hope that our political leadership follow the same route.
This is just the beginning of a long and protracted struggle as there are reports that the Islamic State (IS) has been in contact with the TTP as well as the Haqqani Network. The need for joint efforts by the armed forces of Pakistan and Afghanistan, therefore become all the more compelling.