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BRP Bhaskar: Peshawar pain unites people
December 23, 2014
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The terrorist attack on the Peshawar army school which left about 140 persons, mostly school children, dead momentarily united the people of the Indo-Pak subcontinent in grief as no other event has done in eight decades.

The last time so many hearts fluttered in unison on the subcontinent was when an earthquake devastated Bihar in 1934 and Balochistan in 1935. The entire region was under British rule at that time. Since then it has been partitioned into three nations, and patriotic sentiments, restricted by geography and conditioned by religion, have prevented such wide sharing of sentiments.

The Indian government strongly condemned the terrorist attack and Parliament called upon all nations “to fight against all acts of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.”

Political and diplomatic considerations probably influenced the official and political response. But the extreme cruelty of the terrorists, who lined up children and shot them and burnt their teachers alive, shook the people. They poured out their heart in the social networks.

The Pakistani Taliban terrorists targeted the school to settle scores with the army, with which they had a cosy relationship at one time but was now out to liquidate them. They viewed the schoolboys, many of them children of military personnel, as likely future army officers. This gave the attack the character of an internal affair of Pakistan.

Terrorists have wrought havoc in India on several occasions and India has repeatedly asked Islamabad to rein them in. While conveying to Pakistan India’s sympathy over the Peshawar attack, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for joint efforts by the two countries to deal with the common threat of terrorism.

According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, set up by the India-based Institute for Conflict Management, terrorism-related casualties in India during 1994-2014 stood at 63,896. Of the dead, 24,401 were civilians, 9,533 security personnel and 29,962 terrorists.

It also provides the following figures of Pakistani casualties during 2003-2014: 19,751 civilians, 6,015 security personnel, and 29,750 terrorists, making a total of 55,516 killed in 11 years.

Going by these figures, Pakistan suffers from terrorism to a greater extent than India. Average annual casualties among civilians (India 1,220, Pakistan 1,796), security personnel ( 178 and 574 respectively) and terrorists (1,498 and 2,705 respectively) are significantly higher in that country than in India.   

Within Pakistan, the interests of the civilian government headed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of the Army suddenly coincided, leading to some quick, harsh decisions. Reversing an earlier decision to do away with the death penalty for terrorism, the government ordered the execution of some convicts. The army heavily bombarded terrorist hideouts, killing many.

Pakistan Army chief Gen Raheel Sharif and ISI head Gen Rizvan Akhtar flew to Kabul and sought the Afghan government’s help to deal with the terrorists holed up there. Afghan Taliban leaders are known to be operating from Pakistani soil and Pakistan Taliban leaders are known to be hiding in Afghanistan. Obviously neither country can tackle the problem of terrorism effectively without the other’s cooperation.

Pakistan, which has ignored Indian pleas that it act against terrorists operating from its soil, did not respond to Modi’s call for joint action. Indian feelings were exacerbated when a Pakistani court granted bail to Zaki Ur Rehman Lakhvi, whom India has identified as the mastermind behind the Mumbai terrorist attack of 2008. Taking note of the Indian outrage, the Pakistan government detained him and said it would appeal against the grant of bail.

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 The author is a political analyst of reckoning

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