Dec 18th, 2015 | Category: Kashmir News

By Sohail Parwaz


It was a typical cold December morning of Peshawar with pale sunshine in the early hours of the day. Ever since the fall of Dhaka in 1971, 16 December is otherwise happens to be very morbid and melancholic every year. The life had already started in the city. The public was trying to reach their respective work places while the children were raring to go to their institutions in-time. Among them were the students of the ill fated Army Public School Peshawar aka APS. They were ranging from 5 years to 18 years from class play group to as high as the intermediate classes. They were  onverging to their school from the different parts of the metropolis, though most of them were from the army families. Some were old students while few were the new comers who joined the school hardly few days ago. Exactly at the same time around seven foreign nationals including one local, three Arabs, two Afghans and one Chechen also left their nightstand, located in a nearby village. Their short journey was also to be culminated at the same destination; APS Peshawar. Soon after the morning assembly the students approached to their classes while senior classes reported to the school auditorium where a seminar was to be inaugurated. It was all settled, quiet and calm when suddenly a person with very unfriendly appearance and attire banged into the hall while shouting slogans and blew himself up amid a group of students attending the seminar. It was blood all over, screams and squeals, panic and shouts for help. The school staff was still under shock when six other rugged looking armed militants wearing military uniforms forced their way into the school. Some of them started firing indiscriminately while the others made the principal and about 20 teachers along with a group of 34 students hostage for eight hours.

By now it was clear and confirmed to everyone that who they are and what were their intentions, since they had brutally assassinated dozens of innocent and unarmed children and school staff within no time. They entered the school and opened fire on school staff and kids, killing 141 people, including 132 schoolchildren, ranging between eight and eighteen years of age. A rescue operation against these terrorists was launched by Pakistan Army’s Special Service Group (SSG) which began at 1000 hours local time and ended at 1800 hours. The teachers and students held hostage were freed while all the terrorists were killed. The terrorists remained in contact with their handlers all along the attack until the security forces intercepted the terrorists’ communications and the handlers, who were also nabbed within days, were finally shown the way to gallows on 2 December 2015. What happened afterwards is never a secret and known to all and sundries. There were almost 150 houses mourning on the deaths of their beloved ones; innocents who left for not to come back ever again. Every house and every family has a depressing tale. Those innocents will be missed for times to come. The bereaved families and especially the mothers will always remain restless for one or the other tragic reason.

December 16 which was marked and observed as a Black Day in Pakistan ever since December 1971 is now being observed asBlack Day for yet another reason; destruction of a peaceful non-military installation, known as ‘School in any country or society and ruthless killing of a totally peaceful and unarmed army of innocents who were callously tortured to death by a group of inhuman and barbarian animals. It was not a military base; it was not a military camp where soldiers were being trained to kill them. It was an ‘insignificant’ school. A school, where small kids are educated with books and stuff to make peace with people, with humanly and developed mind and thought process. Even animals have a sense of mercy for the cubs in their instinct; however, these heartless were devoid of that.

Its exact one year that the tragedy has passed. We are remembering those innocents, mourning, appreciating army, criticizing the killers and doing everything else less showing a concern and care for future. In January 2015, a 20-point National Action Plan on counter-terrorism was finalized in a day-long meeting of the heads of all parliamentary parties at the PM House and was announced by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a televised address to the nation. Almost 15 apex committees and sub-committees were set up to expedite the implementation of the National Action Plan; however, no plausible developments have been witnessed so far. Ironically, the inability on the part of government was covered with false projection about serious civil-military trust deficit on many issue related to NAP implementation. Some political quarters even made foul cries in fear of their imminent dethroning. No doubt was left about the inability and evident reluctance on the part of political leadership which was and unfortunately, still it is a major contributing factor affecting the implementation of NAP.

Although the armed forces are doing their best and are giving the sacrifices in the line of duty, nevertheless, the forces alone cannot do wonders. The main responsibility lies with the government in chair. Unfortunately many decisions taken soon after the APS Peshawar carnage are still suspended in the mid air with no visible fate. One such hope to tackle the terrorism was National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA). Unfortunately its full-scaled activation is in limbo even after six years of its creation. According to the sources, ministry estimated Rs 32 billion budget for implementation of First National Internal Security Policy (NISP) and re-activation of NACTA. However, the federal budget for 2014-15 reduced allocations from Rs 95 million to Rs 92 million, out of which Rs 63 million were merely allocated for administrative and salary-related expenses. The federal government has ignored NACTA in the budget for 2015-16 as no funds have been allocated for the authority in the PSDP. Hence lack of allocation of resources for NACTA and non framing of service rules for the authority etc make NACTA a real midsummer night dream. With the government focusing on expensive infrastructural projects such as Islamabad Metro Bus Project and now the Orange Line in Lahore, What kind of an effective role is expected by the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), which does not even have the basic staffing required for functioning and who may be blamed for such state of affairs?

The most embarrassing part is that according to the sources there is currently a tussle going on; between the Interior Ministry and the PM secretariat for a number of reasons including an exercise on “civil-military divide”. Actually, the political government is perhaps scared and wants it to be seen as an army venture to avoid backlash from the militants, since army is leading the initiative till today. The positive role played by some of the federal ministries, those are taking steps in the right direction – though the pace is quite slow – should not go unnoted. Interior ministry has prepared rules and regulations for International Non-governmental Organizations (INGOs) and local NGOs and policy draft over arms licenses has also been prepared, waiting for its fate.

Despite the fact that no government can defeat terrorism without corking the illicit money which provides oxygen to the terror networks and other mafias working against the interest of the state, it appears that the civilian leaders lack political will to block the supply of it. In all the provinces, there are strong politicians, government associates who have become ‘untouchables’ for anti-corruption drive. It would be an open challenge for the PM who has to display the state’s writ and to allow the state institutions to bring all corrupt to book whether they belong to the ruling party or to the opposition.

The most distressing and upsetting part is the performance of our judiciary. Unfortunately, over past few years, hundreds of them are caught and many of them are behind the bars right now, waiting for their death which was suspended due to some unknown fear. During last four years, 14,115 persons in terrorism-related cases were acquitted and 10,387 were granted bail, while only one hundred were hanged. The judiciary and the authorities must realize that this was maximum what the rogues could do and they did it. Now, it’s time to take the matter seriously and to take severe action, not only against the killers but their accomplices in any form, too. May they are their facilitators, informers, abettors or anyone. To avoid any future black day, the nation needs to unite and to be on one page now.




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