School massacre Pakistan’s 9/11: Sartaj

Updated December 20, 2014

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ISLAMABAD: The massacre by the Taliban at the Army Public School in Peshawar is “Pakistan’s 9/11”, Adviser to Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said on Friday.

The assault that left at least 148 students and staff dead will change Pakistan’s approach to fighting terrorism, he told AFP in an interview.

Mr Aziz said the deadliest terrorist attack in the country’s history, was a “game changer”.

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“This has shaken the entire Pakistani society to the core, and in many ways it’s a threshold in our strategy for countering terrorism,” he said. “Just like 9/11 changed the US and the world forever, this 16/12 is kind of our mini 9/11.”

Pakistan has long been accused of playing a double game with militant groups, supporting those it thinks it can use for its own strategic ends.

But Mr Aziz said that way of thinking was at an end after Tuesday, when heavily-armed terrorists from the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) went from room to room at the school, slaughtering children.

“The distinction between some groups you want to target and some groups you don’t want to target has virtually disappeared,” he said.

“It was realised that in the end they support each other and that if you do this you’re creating space which can become dangerous in the future. So it’s a game changer.”

The TTP, which has claimed responsibility for the school carnage, has killed thousands in their seven-year insurgency, but Mr Aziz said the nature of the Peshawar attack was radically different from what had gone before.

“It was targeted at the children, and those children who were injured, they fired back at them to kill them,” he said. Mr Aziz said that as well as restarting hangings in terrorism cases, the government would look at reforms to address blockages in the justice system.

The government will investigate “legal changes to facilitate trials and convictions because right now it’s very difficult to convict many people”, he said.

Published in Dawn December 20th , 2014