By Fazal Rahman, Ph.D. December 17, 2014
Pictures of six Taliban who attacked the Peshawar army-run school (Pictures released by Taliban). The mastermind of the attack on the school was Umar Mansoor, also known as Umar Naray (with long beard) , the Taliban military chief of the Dara Adam Khel tribal area, which is adjacent to Kohat.
Pictures of school Principal’s office and room of final gun battle.
As usual, most people and news media in the US and the West are fragmenting, abstracting, and condemning this incident one-sidedly, in isolated form and out of its historical context. Following are some of the relevant points to be included in any credible and truthful politico-economic or ethical conclusions, judgments, or feelings in this matter. Wars, all forms of terrorism, losses of lives, and destructions of the means of living are abhorable anywhere. However, it is necessary to move from the subjective and emotional into objective and rational and to place such incidents in their accurate historical, logical, and factual context, and see and analyze them within that developmental process. Only then one can hope to arrive at the objective truth of the matter.
- In order to arrive at accurate and comprehensive understanding of these problems, it is essential to examine the development of the historical dialectic of causes and effects in the development of the phenomena of terrorism and state terrorism in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Without such a theoretical and practical approach, neither an accurate diagnosis nor any effective solutions to these problems are possible. The approach must be scientific, which first and foremost means to be without any fear of the powers-that-be and without any biases. This would require to place and view these phenomena from the time that these started in the late 1970s during Jimmy Carter’s administration and later, in much accelerated form, during Ronald Reagan’s administration, who greatly escalated the proxy war and intervention against the socialism-oriented revolutionary government of Afghanistan, with the crucial collaboration of Pakistani government, military, and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The territory of Pakistan was used for massive US-Pakistan terrorism and state terrorism in Afghanistan, creating many Mujahideen groups, including that of Osama bin Laden, which later developed into Al-Qaeda. Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich Middle Eastern countries also collaborated with the US-Pakistan state terrorism in Afghanistan. Pakistan also became the center of the largest CIA operations during that time. In face of such massive US-Pakistan state terrorism, the government of Afghanistan requested Soviet Union for military counter-intervention. Soviets reluctantly agreed to that request and sent large numbers of troops and weapons for that purpose. Zbigniew Brzezinski, the National Security Advisor under Jimmy Carter, later claimed that that was the objective of the plan, hatched under his leadership, in order to trap the Soviets into a Vietnam-like quagmire. After many years of brutal warfare, enormous losses of lives, and devastation of Afghanistan, the Soviet forces withdrew in 1989, as a result of great changes and betrayals during Gorbachev’s leadership. The Afghan government was unable to sustain the war effort alone. It tried to make great compromises with the counter-revolutionaries, who wanted nothing short of total victory and overthrow of the government. They were able to achieve their aims and slaughtered the government leaders and other socialists, mercilessly. Dr. Najibullah, the last leader of the revolutionary government, was captured from the UN offices, where he had taken refuge. He was tortured and hanged in public, his corpse hanging there for days. Taliban had been created in the Madrassas of Pakistan, from various Mujahideen groups, with the financial and military support of Pakistani, Saudi, and American governments, militaries, and intelligence services. After vicious and destructive civil war among various Mujahideen groups, they were victorious and formed the new relatively stable government. They were under the illusion that the US and NATO were assisting them for gaining genuine independence and sovereignty. Those illusions were shattered quickly, when Americans started asserting their imperialist ambitions and domination. The simple-minded and straightforward Taliban leaders refused to become puppets and started asserting their independence, in the service of their own national interests and sovereignty. Such conflicts were developing even before 9/11. After 9/11 and invasion of Afghanistan by the US and NATO militaries, the Taliban went into a strategic retreat, during which they reviewed and reorganized their forces, strategy, and tactics, and remerged as progressively more effective and powerful force against the invaders and their installed puppet government. They successfully created and adapted the guerrilla warfare strategy and tactics that were suitable for the geographical, politico-economic, cultural, and religious conditions of Afghanistan. After the invasion, they were betrayed by the Pakistani government and military, which again sold out to the Americans and NATO, once again providing its territory for US-NATO state terrorism in Afghanistan. That is when the anti-government movements started developing in Pakistan, especially in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and its tribal areas, which are located on the borders of Afghanistan. People in those areas and the majority in Afghanistan are Pathans (Pakhtuns) and share the same language, culture, and traditions, besides the religion of Islam. They became violently opposed to the collaboration of Pakistani government and military with the invaders. From that opposition, the Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP) emerged, which consolidated the various anti-government and anti-US-NATO groups within itself. It is important to point out that before the US-NATO invasion in 2001, there was no terrorism, state terrorism, or suicide bombings within Pakistan. These all started as a direct result of that invasion and its support by the Pakistani government and military. Even though Pakistan was being used as the center of terrorism and state terrorism in Afghanistan by the US and NATO forces during the 1980s, the Afghan government and its Soviet allies did not attempt to subject Pakistan to such terrorism. This is a very brief review of the long and complex history of the developmental dialectics of terrorism and state terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in which only the facts that are most relevant to the subject of this article have been included, as briefly as possible, because these are essential to understanding the current situation in both countries.
- Yes, it is very sad that so many young people were killed in the attack. Contrary to news media characterization, not all of them were children. Numerous were teenagers and many were teachers and other employees. According to a prominent Taliban leader, Mohammad Khurasani, the attackers were ordered not to kill the small children. Estimates of those killed vary between 141 and 148, while those of injured between 113 and 122. The ages and genders of those killed and wounded are not known yet. Under the conditions of such attacks, it is very unlikely that the lives of smaller children could be spared, even if the attackers were indeed given such orders and even if they tried to do that. However, numerous times more children, teenagers, and adults have been slaughtered in North Waziristan and other tribal areas since June 15, 2014, by the Pakistani military operation (named Zarb-e-Azb) and US drone attacks, and one million, including hundreds of thousands of children, turned into Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), forced to live in horrible conditions and deprivations, away from their homes, lands, and businesses, innumerable of which have been destroyed by the aerial bombardments and shellings. It is self-evident that such massive aerial bombings, artillery shellings, helicopter gunship firings, and other high-tech weapons-most of them provided by the US-that the Pakistani military forces are using against the inhabitants of tribal areas, kill massively and indiscriminately, regardless of ages or genders. News media are not allowed any access to those areas and everything is being done in secrecy. Only the information provided by the military is being published nationally and internationally, which is self-evidently false and grotesque. For example, they invariably claim to have killed only the militants or suspected militants by the aerial bombardments or helicopter gunship firings, without offering any evidence in support of their claims. Some eyewitness accounts that expose those lies are being censored and remain unpublished, with the exception of a few very small web sites. Such massive and indiscriminate attacks by the Pakistani military forces against a part of their own population are causing incomparably more multidimensional damages than the American drone attacks, with which these are being coordinated.
- The military-run attacked school is an elitist school, in which offspring of the military officers, government officials and bureaucrats, upper classes and other well-off civilians is enrolled. Such elitist schools prepare the next generation of military and civil officers and leaders, reproducing it in the image of the previous generation. Their uniforms, manners, mass psychology, and behavior are produced as imitations of the West. As far as the uniforms are concerned, the young students are wearing neckties, an extreme anomaly and deviation from the traditional Pakistani dresses and uniforms. Such methods are used to create class differences in the psychology and behavior of students. These army-run schools seem to be modeled after the Pakistan Military Academy, where British and American training methods and English language are used that create officers who have much in common with the West and little with the Pakistani masses and culture. Most of them consider and use that as a higher social status. All this is a continuation of the culture of colonial period and inferiority complexes, generated by that, long after the formal independence achieved in 1947 from the British Empire.
Jihad Yar Wazir, a TTP commander, had this to say when contacted by a reporter, Sami Yousafzai, on the cell phone, “The parents of the army school are army soldiers and they are behind the massive killing of our kids and indiscriminate bombing in North and South Waziristan,” which are the TTP strongholds. “To hurt them at their safe haven and homes—such an attack is perfect revenge.”
But the children are innocents, I said. What about them, I asked?
“To hurt them at their safe haven and homes—such an attack is perfect revenge.”
“What about our kids and children,” he said. “These are the kids of the U.S.-backed Pakistani army and they should stop their parents from bombing our families and children.” Jihad Yar Wazir went on: “Those kids are innocent because they are wearing a suit and tie and Western shirts? But our kids wearing Islamic shalwar kamiz do not come before the eyes of the media and the West.” ( http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/12/16/pakistani-taliban-massacre-more-than-80-schoolchildren.html ).
- Before this operation, other large scale military operations were launched in Swat, some adjoining areas, and South Waziristan, causing immense losses of lives, livelihoods, and properties and creating more than two million IDPs.
- All these operations have been launched on the persistent insistence, pressures, and briberies of USA and NATO militaries and governments. The hoax of Malala was also created and used for this purpose, in order to trap the Taliban into attacking her and demonizing them.
- Thousands of innocent children, men, and women have been slaughtered in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) by the Pakistani military operations and drone strikes. In one of the worst incidents of the entire drones campaign, yet one of the least reported, a CIA drone strike on a madrassa or religious school on October 30, 2006, killed 69 children, among 80 civilians. The attack was on a religious seminary in Chenegai, in Bajaur Agency. It also destroyed much of the school. According to some reports, there was also a token late contribution to the assault by Pakistani military helicopters. Initially the Pakistan Army claimed that it had carried out the bombardment, even as shops and offices closed across the region and protests spread. But as the scale of the attack unfolded, the story changed. The Sunday Times carried a report from a key aide to then-President Pervez Musharraf stating: ‘We thought it would be less damaging if we said we did it rather than the US. But there was a lot of collateral damage and we’ve requested the Americans not to do it again.’
A week after the attack, a local English newspaper published the names and home villages of 80 victims. Sixty-nine were reported as children aged 17 or under. According to the paper’s sources, it was claimed that ‘one of the deceased was only seven-year old, three were eight, three nine, one was 10, four were 11, four were 12, eight were 13, six were 14, nine were 15, 19 were 16, 12 were 17, three were 18, three were 19 and only two were 21-years old’. http://tribune.com.pk/story/229844/the-day-69-children-died/ .
Then the July 2007 demonic massacre of huge numbers of students and teachers at the Lal Masjid and its associated school of Jamia Hafsa, which was the largest Islamic religious institution for women in the world, with more than 6,000 students, by the Pakistani military on the orders of the same military dictator, Pervez Musharraf, who was doing almost everything that the Americans demanded and that would appease them. According to Wikipedia, 60,000 soldiers and Rangers (this figure seems to be exaggerated, unless it is meant to show the number of troops stationed in that area), and 164 SSG (Special Services Group) commandos were involved in that operation. The siege lasted from July 3 to July 11, 2007. Water, power, gas and food supplies were cut not only to Lal Masjid but to the whole area surrounding it. Students told from inside Jamia and Masjid how they ended up eating leaves: adding starvation to the gun fire, shelling, tear gas and explosions of unknown number of bombs. The final assault was launched on July 10th, using heavy weaponry. The Pakistan military was also using the American supplied drones to survey the complex and plan its actions accordingly. After the massacre, they did not allow anyone to enter the area until they had removed the large numbers of bodies and taken other measures to hide the evidence of large numbers of casualties. Their planting of heavy weapons in the complex was also obvious, as these were never used by the students or staff. The government reported that 102 people were killed and 248 wounded in that operation. However, many observers and organizations considered this to be a lie, as large numbers of students remained unaccounted for. The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, a coalition of religious parties, claimed that between 400 to 1,000 students had been killed, along with women and children. Spanish-language news channels Univision, Antena 3, and Telecinco claimed that the total number of deaths in the siege was greater than 286 and could be as high as 300. Some other estimates of those killed were between 1500 and 2000. The Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa complex was run by donations and provided free education. It was a godsend for the poor people who could not afford a private or public education. According to information published by a UK organization, the institute was more than a mosque, school, and a university. It was also an orphanage where thousands of orphan girls, widows and their children were given food and shelter. After the 2005 earthquakes in Kashmir and northern Pakistan, students and wives of both leaders of the complex, Abdul Rasheed Ghazi (killed in the assault) and Moulana Abdul Aziz, went to the affected areas and brought back thousands of orphaned children and girls (http://www.thetruthseeker.co.uk/?p=7083).
The assault on the Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa complex and massacre of such large numbers of female and male students, little children, and staff, prompted pro-Taliban rebels along the Afghan border to nullify a 10-month-old peace agreement with the Pakistani Government. This event also triggered the Third Waziristan War, which marked another surge in militancy and violence in Pakistan and has resulted in thousands of casualties. Even though the main perpetrator of these heinous crimes, Perveiz Musharraf, was arrested in 2013, after foolishly returning to Pakistan to participate in the elections, for treason-having declared emergency and suspending the constitution in 2007- and being personally responsible for ordering the siege and the massacre, he has been living lavishly, under the protection of military and other security forces, huge national resources being spent for these purposes. In the corrupt classist political and judicial culture of Pakistan, and with the protection of the military, it is highly unlikely that any justice will be done in this case.
All the “civilized” and “advanced” countries of West, the US, EU, and China had supported that massacre, in contrast to their strong condemnations of the Taliban attack on the Peshawar army-run school! Most of the Western and Pakistani newspapers and other media had also supported that great crime against humanity, committed by the Pakistani government and military. The Pakistani people also, by and large, did not oppose that action and did not come out in large numbers to demonstrate, as they are doing in opposition to the Peshawar school attack. Obviously, multidimensional and complex double standards are involved here, which reveal the underlying mass dishonesty and hypocrisy.
- The inhabitants of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, of which Peshawar is the Capital, are Pathans, and so are the people who live in the tribal areas (FATA). Pathans in general, and FATA Pathans in particular, have strong traditions of seeking justice through individual or collective actions and revenge. It was no less horrible for parents to lose their children, husbands to lose their wives, wives to lose their husbands, and offspring to lose their parents by the brutal high-tech military attacks on their homes and villages by the Pakistani military forces and American drone attacks. If anything, it was much worse and much more barbaric, both in its nature and magnitude. And yet, one does not hear a chirp from the American and European news and other media (including the liberal and much of the left media), politicians, academics, and the so-called celebrities about these, who miss no opportunity to condemn any reactions by the Taliban and their allies, to such actions, in the strongest possible language and coverage.
- The anti-government militant movement or the Taliban in Pakistan are not a homogeneous organization with central command and control. There are numerous groupings that are operating relatively independently, some totally independently. Their methods and guerilla warfare strategy and tactics are also variable. The attack on the school in Peshawar is being attributed to the anti-government Islamist fighters in the Khyber area of FATA, which has been, and continues to be, subjected to heavy aerial bombardments and other military operations.
- Tehrik-e-Taliban of Pakistan, the TTP, had agreed to talks with the government for a ceasefire and establishment of peace. However, under US and NATO influences and pressures, the powerful military establishment was against such negotiations, right from the beginning. The government itself was also cynical and hypocritical during the process of negotiations, demanding one-sided ceasefire from the TTP. The TTP had even declared a unilateral, goodwill-creating, one-month ceasefire, during which the government and the military continued their operations. During that time, there were a few terrorist actions by some groups that were unhappy about the ceasefire and peace negotiations. The TTP denied any involvement in those. However, after the expiration of that time and with no reciprocity from the government, the TTP also resumed its operations. Eventually a full scale military operation, long demanded by the US and NATO, was launched in North Waziristan in June 2014, which was later escalated to some other areas of FATA also. Ultimately, it is the US and NATO that are responsible for these actions and reactions and all the devastations and bloodshed that are resulting and developing. However, the Pakistani military and government are much more responsible for all this, as they could have made different choices and decisions, instead of such astounding destructive and self-destructive slavery to the Americans and NATO.
- As demonstrated throughout history, small scale terrorism, on part of individuals, populations, or organizations that are subjected to various forms of injustices and brutalities, in various nations, is frequently a reaction to large scale and massive state terrorism. What is happening in Pakistan is certainly one of those cases.
- This essay is focused on the objective understanding of the causes of what happened and why a faction of the TTP did what it did. The author is against all types of unjust and unjustifiable violence. When such violence is practiced, it is totally predictable in almost all such cases that it will produce violent reactions from the victims, if they are capable to do so.
Postscript December 19, 2014
Reactions of the government, military, and public at large in Pakistan to the army-run school attack by the Taliban in Peshawar have been hysterically emotional, demagogic, and irrational. The Taliban posted the pictures of the six young men who participated in the attack, as well as of their leader and coordinator, Umar Mansoor (also known as Umar Naray). The six young men died in the attack. After the attack, Pakistan unleashed a series of aerial bombardments in various areas of the Khyber tribal area, killing and wounding hundreds of innocent people. No one knows how many of them were children, as news media are not allowed to go there and report. These people had nothing to do with the Peshawar school attack. It was totally a brutal mass slaughter of innocent people, no less horrible than the Peshawar school attack. There have been many mass killings of students in schools in the US. The law enforcement and military did not bomb or slaughter the whole neighborhoods or communities. They only went after the attackers, arrested them, and produced them before the courts for trial. Just yesterday, they found eight children, between the ages of 18 months and 14 years, to have been killed with knives in Australia. The Australian police or military did not bomb or shoot out the whole neighborhood for that. They are only going after the criminals who did that. In Pakistan, instead of the police going after Umar Mansoor-who was not afraid to reveal his identity-the military inflicted collective mass murders on the tribal people, who had nothing to do with what happened in the Peshawar army school. Such actions only breed more terrorism, as relatives of those killed or injured will certainly seek revenge and join Taliban. Most tribals are not Taliban. However, they will become Taliban as a result of current policies and actions. And then it will be too late. Pakistani military is incomparably weaker than that of the US. The Americans with all their manpower, firepower, and resources failed to defeat the Afghan Taliban, and before that the Iraqi and Vietnamese resistance. Combined military forces of Iraq; Syria; US, UK and some other NATO countries; Saudi Arabia and some other Gulf states; and Iran are so far unable to defeat the IS (Islamic State). How can the Pakistani government and military imagine that they can defeat the resistance of Pakistani Taliban and their allies with brute force?
During the Beslan School Hostage Crisis in September, 2004, in Beslan, North Ossetia, Russia, 334 people were killed, including 186 children and 17 teachers, and 810 people injured. That incident started when Islamic separatists, mostly Ingush and Chechens, occupied the school. Even though the Russian security forces stormed the school using heavy weapons, they did not bomb any people or areas of Ingushetia or Chechnya, because of the school attack. Their actions were restricted to the school in Beslan.
Among other things, the government has ended the moratorium on death penalty and they are now going to hang numerous people, who were spared that penalty and who have had nothing to do with the school attack! It is also creating the draconian military courts, similar to those of the Americans in Guantanamo, to try the terrorism suspects, as if the already existing special anti-terrorism courts were not draconian enough. These courts are likely to hang and imprison a lot of innocent people. Just like in blasphemy cases, the potential for abuse and false accusations is enormous in these. Establishment of these military courts amounts to a partial martial law. It may be just the beginning of the full martial law and military take over again.
Among other things, Taliban seem to have sent a message by attacking the school on December 16, the date in 1971 when another military idiot, General Yahya Khan-practicing similar intoxicated, mass murderous, and brutal policies and actions-caused Pakistan to suffer a most humiliating defeat in what was then East Pakistan, lose that part the country and more than half the population. On that date, the Eastern Command of the Pakistani Armed Forces signed the Instrument of Surrender in Dhaka, marking the creation of the new nation of Bangladesh. Pakistani people were similarly intoxicated then, during the disastrous operations in East Pakistan and war with India. Huge crowds were coming out on the streets and chanting, “Crush India.” Now they are demanding the destruction of Taliban, as if the government and military have not already tried that, both in FATA and in Baluchistan, against the Balochi armed fighters.
Pakistan is in existential trouble. Its very integrity and survival is at stake. Current policies of the government and military will doom it to disintegration. Before the current operation in North Waziristan and FATA, there was still hope that this existential crisis could be resolved through dialogue and negotiations. Now, it is extremely doubtful that it would be possible. The foolish and insane policies may have lead the country already to the point of no return.
Postscript December 25, 2014
According to news reports, various anti-constitutional, anti-democratic, anti-free-speech, and repressive Draconian measures have now been approved for implementation in Pakistan. Most of the political parties, as well as the army chief, General Raheel Sharif, participated in that process. Among other things, military courts are to be set up for “speedy” judgments of terrorism cases, which can include almost any speech or writing that examines the events, policies, and actions objectively, factually, logically, and truthfully. Such speech and writings can be, and will be, labeled as supporting terrorism, and the accused speedily subjected to Draconian punishments. They already had Draconian special anti-terrorism civil courts. However, the military and government leaders did not consider them to be repressive or Draconian enough. The blackout and censorship of news and other media has also been included in these measures, under threats of severe penalties.
A so-called civil society group has been organizing demonstrations against the aforementioned leader of Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa, Moulana Abdul Aziz, insisting that he condemn the Peshawar school attack and declare the killed children there as martyrs. Moulana Abdul Aziz has been reluctant to pass such out-of-context and one-sided judgments. His knowledge of Islam also does not allow him to declare the dead children as martyrs. Even though his deputies and students came out and condemned all forms of terrorism and even joined the antiterrorism demonstration of the group, it was not enough for the group. The group wants nothing short of Moulana Abdul Aziz’s blood. That group has filed a police case against him and has been insisting that he should be arrested and tried under the antiterrorism laws, in the antiterrorism courts! The group claims that the police authorities have promised to do that. It is very likely that the group has been instigated by some CIA agents in Pakistan. As mentioned above, during the two Afghan wars in the 1980s and after 2001, Pakistan became the center of the largest CIA operations, and it is indubitable that the CIA recruited large numbers of Pakistani agents in every important institution of society to carry out its plans and conspiracies. If the group is successful and attempts are made to arrest Moulana Abdul Aziz and try him as a terrorist, in the antiterrorism courts, a lot of bloodshed is likely to occur again at Lal Masjid. It may lead to a second state terrorism and second massacre at the Lal Masjid. Even though, it is grotesque in the extreme to accuse and label someone as a terrorist and try him in the antiterrorism courts, simply because he refuses to agree with the government’s and military’s one-sided position in this case, it is not impossible in Pakistan, which has been transformed into one of the worst Theaters of the Absurd and Sinister, by its past and current leaders.
General Sharif was recently in the US, where he visited numerous high-ranking military and government leaders, assured them of total obedience of the Pakistani military in the phony war against terrorism (in fact, the war of American and NATO state terrorism, in which numerous Third World nations have been bribed and coerced to participate), and received instructions on what to do next. His main purpose was to get the Coalition Support Fund, which is given to militaries that participate in the Orwellian US and NATO war on terrorism, increased and extended. The US Congress extended $1 billion for the next year, to be paid in installments. The Secretaries of Defense and State will have to certify that Pakistan was doing its job effectively before the release of these funds. The Pakistani military continues to devastate parts of its own territory and population for the American dollars. The types and levels of evil, corruption, prostitution, and idiocy involved in all this are indescribable. However, it is nothing new. Various Pakistani governments and militaries have done that during much of its history. General Sharif, obviously, pressured the civilian government into approving and implementing these Draconian measures. This is a very unique political situation, in which martial law like measures have been approved for implementation, under a civilian government. Politically, it will make little difference now if the military also takes over the government apparatus. It is already controlling and directing the civilian government. General Sharif is visiting other countries and their government and political leaders, and making agreements with them, as if he was the head of state of Pakistan. Given the long history of military dictatorships in Pakistan, such actions are ominous.
These Draconian measures will have little effect on Taliban and their allies. The Pakistani military and government, with American guidance and collaboration, are already doing what they can against them and against the inhabitants of FATA. All the people of Pakistan, except the corrupt politicians, higher level bureaucrats, higher level military officers, capitalists and feudals, are also being subjected to government and IMF economic terrorism. These new Draconian measures will greatly add to that and their main victims will be the non-FATA population of Pakistan, the overwhelming majority. A very dark period has just been instituted in Pakistan, by the government, military, and almost all the political parties and leaders.