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18th-Dec-2014

Pakistan intelligence agencies should have been on alert

By Editorial Desk

At least 141 people, including 132 children, have been killed in an attack by Pakistani Taliban fighters (TTP) on a military-run school in Peshawar in Pakistan's northwest. Explosions and gunfire rang out as seven armed men attacked the Army Public School on Tuesday morning, in one of the bloodiest attacks in Pakistan's history. Ten staff members were also killed. All seven attackers were killed in the rescue operation.
The attack began when a group of seven attackers, reportedly in military uniforms, entered the school. TTP claims responsibility. The gunmen were reportedly under orders to shoot older students.
The deadly attack triggered shock and outrage across the world. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said it was a "national tragedy", calling those killed "my children". Shell-shocked survivors described the attack as nothing short of mayhem. The attackers came dressed in paramilitary uniforms looking for people to kill.
Muhammad Khorasani, TTP spokesperson, said the suicide bombers had been given orders to allow the youngest students to leave but to kill the rest. The attack was in retaliation for an ongoing Pakistan Army operation against the TTP and its allies in the North Waziristan tribal area, Khorasani said. The TTP said many of their family members had been killed in the campaign, and said the attack on the school was in revenge for those deaths.
Many ordinary people put their children in military schools because of the relatively higher standard of education, so ordinary people have been hit as well by this gun fighting. Major General Asim Saleem Bajwa said all the attackers wore suicide vests and carried rations to last for days. He said the gunmen fired indiscriminately, however, and it did not seem they were planning to take hostages.
The school itself is a soft target, with relatively low security, even though it is located in a high-security zone of central Peshawar. It is however unfortunate that the Pakistan military intelligence has no way to collect intelligence about the TTP and was completely unaware that such a soft target could be attacked, especially when it is carrying out an operation in the tribal areas of Waziristan. While a school is not a military base, it should nonetheless have been regarded as a target precisely because of its lax security. Given the fact that Malala Yousufzai was attacked roughly two years ago, and the vehemence with which the Taliban regard women's rights and education, this should not have come as a surprise.
It is not unreasonable to think that the intelligence agencies failed in Pakistan in not anticipating that as a blowback the Taliban fighters would choose the school where children of the armed forces attend as a target of attack. We find it a great failure that no such thinking came into consideration of the authorities.
We expect the political leadership get unitedly involved in the fight against terrorism. Military operation for indiscriminate killings is the American way - the one sided way. That is proving a failure. There is need for going deep into the matter and evolve an way of living peacefully, while at the same time facing them militarily.