Halt army ops or suffer more attacks: Taleban
TALEBAN militants have vowed to launch more strikes on Pakistan's army if it doesn't halt operations along the Afghan border.
The threat comes a day after the group slaughtered 148 people - 132 of them students between the ages of 10 and 18 - in a military-run school in Peshawar on Tuesday.
The Tehreek-e-Taleban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was to avenge Taleban fighters and their families killed in the army's Zarb-e-Azb offensive against militant strongholds in North Waziristan.
The TTP "was forced to take this extreme step to target this school where children of army officers and soldiers were studying", it said via e-mail yesterday. "Unless demands are met, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan will be forced to target every institution affiliated with the army or security forces nationwide."
Yesterday, people around the country lit candles and staged vigils as parents buried their children during mass funerals in and around Peshawar.
A Reuters tour of the school revealed a place shattered by hours of fighting, its floor slick with blood and walls pockmarked with bullet holes. The air was thick with the smell of explosives and flesh.
Pakistan has long been accused of playing a "double game" with militants, supporting groups it thinks it can use for its own strategic ends.
But the carnage at the Army Public School has galvanised support for a more stringent campaign to uproot Taleban militants, who want to impose their version of Islamic law in place of Pakistan's democracy.
"The nation has sacrificed a lot for the war on terror," Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who chaired a meeting of all major political parties in Peshawar yesterday, said. "Thousands of lives have been lost and economic damage runs into hundreds of billions of dollars. These sacrifices won't be wasted."
He announced that a six-year moratorium on the death penalty would be lifted for those convicted of terror offences, while army chief Raheel Sharif travelled to Kabul for talks with Afghanistan's President on tackling insurgents and improving intelligence cooperation.
General Sharif had vowed to destroy the militant group before the end of the nine-hour school siege, which also saw more than 121 people injured, with about 960 rescued.
It was also revealed that the Pakistan military had already begun retaliating by conducting 10 air strikes in the Khyber tribal agency on Tuesday.
But in an editorial, leading English daily Dawn noted: "Vows to crush militancy in the aftermath of a massive attack are quite meaningless.
"Military operations...amount to little more than fire-fighting unless there's an attempt to attack the ideological roots of militancy."
Analyst Raza Rumi, a journalist and senior fellow at the United States Institute of Peace, agreed, warning that ending militancy would necessitate putting an end to attitudes deeply ingrained in Pakistani society.
"Three decades of Islamisation and the espousal of Islamic ideology as the national ideology has resulted in a widespread acceptance of acts committed in the name of Islam," he said.
BLOOMBERG, AFP, REUTERS