The Peshawar Outrage

Spearhead Analysis – 17.12.2014

Peshawar-AttackDecember 16, already a black day in our history because of Indian intervention in what is now Bangladesh but was East Pakistan then, is now even blacker after the carnage in Peshawar. 132 children and 9 staff members of the Army Public School murdered in cold blood by 7 terrorists now owned by the TTP (Tehrik Taliban Pakistan). That the terrorists came to kill is beyond doubt because they started shooting as soon as they entered and saw the children. Whether they wanted to hold some hostages to negotiate their own release is a question that will remain unanswered because the Army Commandos who rescued 966 out of the schools 1099 population killed all seven of them. That they all had suicide vests strapped on makes it unlikely that they wanted to get away after their grisly work. That their looks point to a certain ethnicity and nationality is also something to be analyzed.

 As a target the school was a sitting duck. The killers came in a vehicle which they blew up as a diversion for clambering over the walls and into and across the backyard of the school straight into the main building. There was marginal security and almost no barrier to illegal entry. Probably no one ever gauged the limit of barbarity that human beings are capable of and the thinking was that a school for children could not be a target for terrorists. There has been a rude awakening and the TTP spokesman claiming the attack without any remorse has made their intent clear. The TTP target list now includes soft targets—Wagah was the first—and the softer the better. A response has to be evolved now with the capacity available and not in the future with resources to be built in due course. Already there is severe criticism over the National Security Policy and impotent bodies like NACTA (National Counter Terrorist Authority) and JIC (Joint Intelligence Committee).

 After threats have been hurled, compensation (as if there can be any!) doled out and the blame game has ended there should be a very serious inward look at the lapses and events that led to complacency. Some hard decisions have to be taken. Inevitably some heads have to roll no matter how unpalatable such a step is. The likely target list has to be reworked and appropriate security provided to all—if resources have to be diverted from VIP duties then so be it. Money guzzling projects that are not critically important must be shelved and funds channeled into vital security capacity building projects. There is a need to ginger up the judicial and punitive processes so that timely action sets an example. An austerity drive must lead to a ban on celebratory events, political gatherings, costly advertisements and all unnecessary functions. The private sector especially cinemas, malls, banks, hotels, office buildings etc must be asked to reassess and improve their security arrangements—so far these are woefully inadequate.

 Far more important is the need to understand the difference between Counter Insurgency and Counter Terrorism to determine the national response needed for each as well as for a situation where these two have become interlinked or even morphed into a single threat with linkages to crime, sectarian divides and political entities. People movements across the country for religious and political events is a God sent opportunity for terrorists to carry out their own moves of people and material—these can be put on hold for as long as we are at war. Most importantly the funds being channeled from home and abroad in the name of charity need to be identified regulated and the ones to be strangulated selected. Foreign policy must gear up to give us allies against the common enemy especially in the context of bilateral relations. National cohesion has to be forged and maintained and those hindering it must go. Political stability is now an urgent necessity so personal agendas and vendettas must take a back seat. Civil- military relations must not be questioned or debated and the media should decide how they can be a potent force in the fight against the forces that seek to destroy the country.

 The political leadership should now give the country a competent credible and dedicated team that can start delivering and all policy and decision making should be institutionalized so that discretionary powers are simply not there.

(Spearhead Analyses are collaborative efforts and not attributable to a single individual)