Rule of law must prevail in Pakistan
Pakistan’s response to the killing of 134 children and 18 adults at a Peshawar school two weeks ago has been swift and deadly. In the past few days, its military has killed a Taliban commander blamed for the school attack and has unleashed air strikes and a ground offensive in the Orakzai and Khyber tribal districts near the Afghan border, which claimed the lives of at least 55 suspected militants. Prime minister Nawaz Sharif has vowed to eliminate terrorism, and while Pakistan is right to target those who have visited death and destruction on the innocent, it should do so with caution.
Despite being weakened by a sustained army offensive, the Tehreek-e-Taliban remains a real and present danger to Pakistan. With the right will and resources, it can be defeated – along with its poisonous ideology that would prevent girls from being educated, women from working or engaging in public life and children from being vaccinated against the preventable scourge of polio.
The Peshawar school massacre has been described as Pakistan’s “September 11 moment” – a defining act of terror that has galvanised a nation. But it is important that Pakistan learn the lessons of America’s response to the 2001 attacks. It must have a clear strategy that precisely targets those who perpetrate and support criminal acts. The rule of law, which has been greatly diminished in Pakistan in recent years, must be applied and must be seen to apply. In addition to military strikes where necessary, the authorities should make arrests – including pursuing the court warrant against the hate preacher Maulana Abdul Aziz.
According to some accounts, the attack in Peshawar was an act of desperation by a group that was already on the run. Offenders must be brought to justice, but the official action must be measured. Any missteps, “collateral damage” or overreach of the kind that characterised the United States’s decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan will risk turning the tide of public opinion and thwarting Mr Sharif’s stated aim of ridding Pakistan of terror from within.
Published: December 28, 2014 04:00 AM