We are shocked and sad, but re-affirm our commitment with the people of Pakistan.
They say the heaviest coffins are the smallest. And 132 families, their neighbours, the city of Peshawar, and the whole world experienced this heavy load on 16th December 2014 when the militants from Tehreek-e-Taliban (Pakistan’s Taliban) opened fire on the Army School and killed 148 people, including 132 children.
The assault was the deadliest Taliban attack ever in Pakistan. The Pakistani Taliban said the school attack was revenge for the offensive against them and they accused the military of killing civilians in remote areas where journalists are forbidden to go.
Since the bloodshed at the school, the government has promised that Pakistan will not discriminate between good Taliban and bad Taliban. The government has also announced that it will rescind an unofficial moratorium on the death penalty. Late on 18th night, the military announced it would sign death warrants for six fighters.
We at GCAP are shocked at this violence on children. Condemnation doesn’t even begin to capture our grief and anger. We are acutely aware of the challenges Pakistan has been facing over two decades now, from rising radicalism, military dominance and US-led interference including indiscriminate drone attacks. From political instability to multiple ‘natural’ calamaties, Pakistan has seen it all. But killing is not the answer. Indiscriminate killing of children is definitely not the answer either. Nor is the government’s decision to invoke death penalties the solution.
We are also aware of the spirit and the inherent goodness of the people of Pakistan. That 2013 May witnessed the first peaceful transition of government from one democratically elected party to another is a testimony to that spirit. The media which continues to speak the truth and operate freely, inspite of attacks, offers hope. So does Malala Yousufzai, the youngest Nobel Peace Laureate who was also attacked for pursuing the right to education and continues to campaign for education rights relentlessly. The inspiritational writings of icons like Faiz Ahmed Faiz offer hope as well.
We believe extreme poverty and continuing injustice are fertile recruiting grounds for terrorism and suicide bombers. We also believe education, poverty alleviation and social justice are the best antidote against fundamentalism. Our world leaders promised to lift everyone out of extreme poverty by 2025 and promised to put every child in school by 2015.
Yet 5.5 million Pakistani children are still out of school. The country is a ground zero of under-nutrition — a manifestation of poverty and hunger — and one of three countries in the world where polio is still prevalent, a testimony of the crumbling public health system.
We feel it is a travesty of justice that Taliban (which draws its name from Taleem, education) went on a killing spree against students as a retaliation of army excesses. We believe in engagement and political resolutions to political problems, not military or artillery.
Bloodletting of innocent children is the ultimate outrage. We call upon the government, the powers that be, to get their act together. As a global campaign with strong Southern leadership dedicated to social justice, equality and dignity, we also re-affirm our pledge with the children and people of Pakistan, for a just and hopeful future.
Marta Benavides, Amitabh Behar and Richard Ssewakiryanga