Talking Taliban in Pakistan

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Sehr Ahmed has not only been a journalist for Reuters and other countless outlets in Pakistan, but is currently a humanitarian for Karachi’s AMAN Foundation. Ahmed gave Ramel Media her precious time to answer a few questions about the Taliban attack in Peshawar, Pakistan. This was our correspondence.

What kind of school was attacked?

It was an army run school in Peshawar. Peshawar is the administrative centre and economic hub for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan. Peshawar is situated in a large valley near the eastern end of the Khyber Pass, close to the Pak-Afghan border. The school teaches BOTH boys and girls from both military and civilian backgrounds.

The school on Peshawar’s Warsak Road is part of the Army Public Schools and Colleges System, which runs 146 schools nationwide for the children of military personnel and civilians. Its students range in age from around 10 to 18.

Were all the victims Pakistani? Muslim? Who were the victims?

The Taliban killed at least 132 children and 9 staff, including the school principal – to my knowledge they were all muslims and Pakistanis. Militants opened indiscriminate fire as soon as they entered the school.

Is the Taliban one large monolith or is it fractured? Describe how you see the Taliban in the country.

I think this is where the discrepancy comes in – Pakistanis not holding one view of TTP (Pakistani Taliban) – but after the most unfathomable incident yesterday, there has been a turning point and it has become clear that there are not “good” Taliban – there can be no discussions with them EVER. There are no apt words in the dictionary to describe them – savages doesn’t even fit their profile.

What was the motivation for the attack in people’s opinion?

TTP claimed they did this so that we could feel their pain – Taliban ironically means students in Arabic.

The question is what sort of human takes the lives of babies – I can’t answer your question because its unimaginable for me to even think of who would commit such atrocities, let alone why?

However, some analysts say that many of the soldiers and officers fighting the Taliban have their children in this school so this is an attempt to demoralise the military.

Let me make something clear. None of these explanations in any way or form hold any justification for what happened yesterday – and this is the belief of Pakistanis throughout right now.

What do you think the proper response is?

 I believe one statement sums it up. Mohammad Hanif, one of our most fearless writers, wrote on Tuesday:

“There is no need to offer prayers for the souls of the children killed in Peshawar. What possible sin could 16-year-olds have committed? Pakistan’s political and military leadership is requested not to worry about the children’s afterlife. When they raise their hands in prayer, they should pray for their own forgiveness. And they should look at their own hands closely, lest they be stained with blood.”

The fact of the matter, Afeef, is that we are all responsible – I am even personally responsible for not doing enough to let it come to this point.

As civilians – we must not go back to what we proudly sometimes call as “resilience” as that becomes complacency – we must never forget this day – we must not yearn for life to go back to normal until proper action is taken.

If we can go on the streets for days because we think elections were rigged, then we must stay on the streets for years until this evil is wiped out completely.

On the government and army’s end – kill them all – all political leaders should unite because terrorism is our biggest problem and act on it – bravely come out and take a vow to wipe them out.

The Prime Minister just removed the moratorium on the death penalty which is a good sign – the next is to act on it. Pakistan has about 800 people on death row who were tried as “terrorists”, according to Justice Project Pakistan, a Lahore-based rights organisation. Legal experts said about 70 convicted terrorists could be executed in the coming days if the government fast-tracked the process.

The government must also take a deeper look into where the TTP’s funding is coming from – and to subsequently cut the sources of its funding.

Most importantly – do not be scared to speak out:

The return to full and free candour of speech criticizing the Taliban, otherwise discouraged by the threat of terrorists, was defiantly louder today.  This criticism that exposes them needs to get increasingly  loud in our society and lead to real action against them,  otherwise we would be letting them win by terrorizing us into whispers.

What do you think the international community should do?

I must thank the international community for standing with Pakistan as we go through perhaps our toughest times – Dont let a few minorities make you believe that this is the majority. Support us, pray for us.

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