Pakistan’s grief and tears turning to anger

AS THEIR nation mourned, burying their young dead, the tear-soaked wailing of grief shrouding the people of Pakistan was quickly turning to a rage and a cry for revenge.

Grief and anguish show on the faces of these women mourning  their relative, Mohammed Ali Khan, 15. Picture: Reuters
Grief and anguish show on the faces of these women mourning their relative, Mohammed Ali Khan, 15. Picture: Reuters

Even as small pockets of protest began to emerge against the Taleban for slaughtering 132 children, students and their ten teachers in Tuesday’s bloody Peshawar attack, the politicians and army generals were quietly sharpening their knives, loading their guns and signing the orders.

Prime minister Nawaz Sharif lifted a moratorium on the death penalty, barely a day after Taleban gunmen attacked.

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The move was seen as unusual given the three days of national mourning was still ongoing. But it signalled a clear intent of what may follow.

Execution warrants will be issued within the next 48-hours. The gunmen responsible for the carnage, of course, are already dead. But this is a country with death and honour on its mind.

Most expect a fast and furious assault into the Pakistan Taleban strongholds.

But they issued a warning too that they expect the attacks to continue, with fears militants plan to use magnetic bombs to attack school buses, trains and other targets. The notice was marked urgent.

Government spokesman Mohiuddin Wan, referring to prime minister Sharif’s approval of the death penalty, said: “It was decided that this moratorium should be lifted. The prime minister approved.

“Black warrants will be issued within a day or two.”


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He did not give any details about who might be executed under such orders. But with the Taleban already citing recent raids on towns populated by their own members and family as the trigger for the assault, all the clues appeared to be there.

Those harbouring terrorists or accused of such crimes will have no hiding place.

A moratorium on the death penalty was imposed in 2008 and only one execution has taken place since then. In the prisons, there are believed to be more than 8,000 prisoners on death row in Pakistan.

About 10 per cent are convicted of offences broadly labelled “terrorism”. About 17,000 cases of “terrorism” are pending in special courts. Human rights groups have already called for more scrutiny.

But if more death is to follow, those already bereaved were still trying to come to terms with the weight of losses they have already endured.

Generations wiped out in a few bloody hours of terror. The survivors scarred for life by what they witnessed.

Pakistanis mourned at hastily arranged mass funerals for the victims from the military-run school in the north-west. Prayer vigils were held across the nation and in other schools, students spoke of their shock at the carnage.

Students were gunned down and some of the female teachers were burned alive.

The attack was the deadliest slaughter of innocents in the country and horrified a nation already weary of unending terrorist assaults.

Seven Taleban gunmen, explosives strapped to their bodies, scaled a back wall using a ladder to get into the Army Public School and College.

Questions about how would come later, but army commandos fought the Taleban in a day-long battle until the school was cleared and the attackers dead.

The school was a scene of heart-wrenching devastation as media were allowed in for the first time yesterday.

Blood pooled on the floor and the stairs, amid broken window glass and door frames.

Torn notebooks, pieces of clothing and children’s shoes were scattered about. A pair of child’s glasses lay broken on the ground.

After the attackers entered the school, they made their way into the main auditorium where many students had gathered for an event

The militants then made their way to the hall’s stage and started shooting at random.

As students tried to flee for the doors, they were gunned down. The military later recovered about 100 bodies from the auditorium alone, according to a spokesman.

“This is not a human act,” military spokesman Major General Asim Bajwa said. “This is a national tragedy.”

Overnight, the body of the school principal, Tahira Qazi, was found among the debris from the rampage.

Her death raised further the earlier reported death toll of 141.

Ms Qazi, who was inside her office when the militants made their way into the administration building 20 metres from the auditorium, had ran and locked herself into the bathroom but the attackers threw a grenade inside, through a vent, and killed her, Gen Bajwa said.

Some of the funerals were held overnight, but most of the 132 children and ten school staff members killed in the attack were due to be buried yesterday.

Another 121 students and three staff members were wounded physically. No-one yet knows the mental scars they will be forced to bear.

“They finished in minutes what I had lived my whole life for, my son,” said labourer Akhtar Hussain, tears streaming down his face as he buried his 14-year-old, Fahad. He said he had worked for years in Dubai to earn a livelihood for his children.

“That innocent one is now gone in the grave, and I can’t wait to join him, I can’t live anymore,” he wailed, banging his fists against his head, and breaking into tears.


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