On Tuesday, the world witnessed yet another mindless and despicable act of murder against innocent civilians. The Pakistani Taliban (TTP) claimed responsibility for an attack on the Army Public School and Degree College in Peshawar, which killed 132 children, 10 teachers and three soldiers.
TTP justified the siege on the military school as a response to the latest ground offensive by the Pakistani army in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), which has led to the death of their women and children.
Whilst there is absolutely no justification for the killing of women and children in Islam, Muslim leaders have made the all-too-common mistake of apologising and condemning a crime which was not carried out in the name of religion. Rather, the unfortunate event that occurred was as a result of an ongoing cycle of violence that began in 2001.
War on Terror
After the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent NATO-led invasion of Afghanistan, President Pervez Musharraf opened Pakistan’s borders to the US, and in effect gave Western forces a green light to wreak havoc in the country under the guise of ‘fighting terrorism’. Prior to this, both Pakistan and Afghanistan didn’t really have a problem with the Taliban or a domestic insurgency for that matter.
In fact, from 1996-2001 the Taliban were the ruling authority in Afghanistan, whilst the TTP formed in 2007 as a response to NATO’s presence in Pakistan. The TTP is not directly affiliated with the Afghan Taliban led by Mullah Omar, with both groups differing significantly in their strategic goals and interests. However, in many occasions, the Afghan Taliban and TTP have carried out joint operations against NATO forces. It is also important to note that the Afghan Taliban condemned the attack on the Peshawar school as “unIslamic“.
As the conflict in Afghanistan turned out to be a war of attrition, and one that concluded with the humiliating departure of Western troops in October, Pakistan’s role as the base for NATO’s war against the Afghan Taliban has led to the dire situation that it currently finds itself in. Musharraf facilitated and actively participated in the slaughter of his own people at the behest of the US, and as a result, helped create Pakistan’s first home grown insurgency. Ironically, 13 years later, Musharraf fails to acknowledge his own diabolical mistakes but bluntly told BBC Newsnight yesterday that the US is not a “trustworthy ally“.
Obama Administration and Drone Attacks
The situation worsened when the Obama administration began its campaign of drone attacks in the NWFP in an attempt to eliminate Al Qaeda training camps. The unprecedented scale of bombing which has resulted in the death of 2,379 people, mainly women and children, further exacerbated the situation. Pakistan’s complicity in allowing US predator drones to fly and indiscriminately kill Muslims on its soil made them direct allies of the “American crusaders” and a legitimate target in TTP’s jihad.
Successive Pakistani governments have paid lip-service to stopping US drone attacks and repatriating their citizens illegally detained under the War on Terror, most famously ‘the daughter of the nation’ Dr Aafia Siddiqui. Last year, a senior TTP leader,Hakimullah Mehsud, publicly announced that he was ready for peace talks with Pakistan’s newly elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. This surprise announcement came after PM Sharif met President Obama in Washington asking for an end to drone strikes. On November 1, a CIA drone strike in North Waziristan killed Mehsud along with 24 members of his tribe, and effectively thwarted any chance of a political solution between TTP and the Pakistani government.
Additionally, ever since Pakistan joined the US-led war on terror, it’s been open season for private security firms such as Black Water, Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), and foreign intelligence services such as Israel’s Mossad and India’s RAW to carry out false flag ‘terrorist attacks’ to cement western military presence in the region.
Pakistan being one of the strongest military nations in the world and the only Muslim country to possess nuclear weapons has always been perceived as a potential threat to the global status quo. This fear is magnified by the genuine Islamic sentiment within its own army, which consists of generals who want to free Pakistan from the shackles of the US as much as TTP.
The Western media’s impassioned outrage over the Peshawar school attack is nothing but propaganda to justify their respective government’s military activities in the region. How can we take the consistency of media giants seriously when there’s a shockingly disproportionate coverage of the slaughter of thousands of children in Gaza, Burma, Syria, CAR and Iraq? Furthermore, the futile statements of ‘remorse’ and ‘condolence’ from Obama and Cameron is nothing less of hypocrisy, when the US and Britain have both actively engaged in the butchering and torture of children inAfghanistan and Iraq.
As for the outrage from Pakistan’s political and military elite, they have to recognise that taking the life of a child from NWFP is exactlythe same as a child of a military personnel. To label the actions of the TTP as ‘terrorism’ and rightfully so, the Pakistani army should take a long hard look in the mirror, and with a sincere heart, they’ll realise that they possess the same attributes of their adversaries. The Pakistani army is also guilty of crimes against its own people who reside in the tribal areas, and the blood of innocent men, women and children has barely dried from its recent military operation – ‘Zarb-e-Azb‘, which PM Sharif has vowed to continue until “terrorism is eliminated”.
Whether it’s drones, a ground offensive or the besieging of schools, the coldblooded killing of children is against every code of conduct in warfare regardless of how it’s done or who the perpetrators are. The ‘terrorist’ label cannot be exclusively reserved for one group because of their ideology, whilst others carry out the exact same crime in military uniform in the name of democracy.
There has to be a conjoined effort towards a political solution uncontaminated of American interference, and an aim to return to the stability prior to the invasion of Afghanistan. A ceasefire which will protect Pakistan from further destabilisation and safeguard it from the preying eyes of external powers is imperative. An all-out war of extermination against TTP will only prolong the costly ‘tit-for-tat’ warfare that has weakened Pakistan since the US-led war on terror.