School massacre 'Pakistan's 9/11': Sartaj Aziz

Nov 30, -0001

ISLAMABAD: A Taliban massacre at a school is "Pakistan's 9/11", the country's top foreign policy official told AFP Friday, saying the assault that left 149 dead would change the country's approach to fighting terror.

The attack on an army-run school in the northwestern city of Peshawar horrified the world and drew promises of swift retribution for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) which claimed it.

Sartaj Aziz, foreign affairs and national security advisor to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, said the assault, the deadliest terror attack in Pakistan's history, was a "game changer".

"This has shaken the entire Pakistani society to the core, and in many ways it's a threshold in our strategy for countering terrorism," he told AFP in an interview.

"Just like 9/11 changed the US and the world forever, this 16/12 is kind of our mini 9/11."

Pakistan has long been accused of playing a double game with militants groups, supporting those it thinks it can use for its own strategic ends, particularly in Afghanistan and disputed Kashmir.

But Aziz said that way of thinking was at an end after Tuesday, when heavily-armed fighters went from room to room at the school, gunning down children.

"The distinction, between some groups you want to target and some groups you don't want to target, has virtually disappeared," he said.

"It was realized that in the end they support each other and that if you do this you're creating space which can become dangerous in the future. So it's a game changer."

The TTP have killed thousands in their seven-year insurgency, but Aziz said the nature of the Peshawar attack was radically different from what had gone before.

"It was targeted at the children, and those children who were injured, they fired back upon them to kill them," he said.

The first hangings of militants on death row are expected in the coming days after Sharif lifted a moratorium on executions in terror cases in the wake of the Peshawar bloodshed.

Pakistan's courts system is notoriously slow and terrorism prosecutions are made more difficult by a heavy reliance on witness testimony and very little protection for judges and prosecutors.

Aziz said that as well as restarting hangings in terror cases, the government would look at reforms to address blockages in the justice system.

The government will investigate "legal changes to facilitate trials and convictions because right now it's very difficult to convict many people", Aziz said. (AFP)




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