Solidarity with the victims of the Peshawar mosque attack
In Lahore, civil society groups hold a rally urging the Pakistani government not to talk to the Pakistani Taliban, responsible for the latest attack. Meanwhile, the death toll tops one hundred. Provincial police chief admits security lapses.
Lahore (AsiaNews) – The Joint Action Committee (JAC) organised a demonstration against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Pakistani Taliban, urging the government to eradicate terrorism in the country.
The rally follows a suicide bombing in a Peshawar mosque located inside a police compound that left more than a hundred people dead, the country’s worse terror attack in 10 years.
Dozens of activists, educators, students, lawyers, and trade union officials took part at the Liberty Roundabout in Lahore, capital of Punjab province, shouting slogans against the government's failed policies towards extremists.
“The Peshawar massacre of innocent citizens and police officials by TTP terrorists indicates the total failure of state forces and the country’s security policy," said Irfan Mufti, deputy director of the SAP-Pakistan NGO and convenor of the Joint Action Committee.
“We haven’t learnt any lessons from the past, like the massacre in APS in 2014 when hundreds of innocent children were martyred," he added. Just over eight years ago, the TTP carried out an attack against the Army Public School and College killing more than 140 dead, including 135 children.
“We condemn the Peshawar incident and demand immediate and comprehensive actions against all terrorist groups operating from inside or outside Pakistan,” Mufti said. “The state should adopt a zero-tolerance policy against these terrorist groups,” he added.
“We also demand that the state change its narrative of jihad and religious extremism, and instead promote a narrative of peace, tolerance and harmony”.
Speaking about the attack, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial chief Moazzam Jah Ansari explained that the suicide bomber managed to enter the compound on a motorcycle wearing a uniform. "I admit this was a security lapse. My men could not stop it. This is my fault," he said.
“We are here for solidarity with the Peshawar massacre martyrs,” said Farooq Tariq, a trade union leader. “We condemn the brutal incident and demand urgent arrest of such extremists. For a long time, we have been raising our voices saying that there should be no dialogue between Taliban and the state.”
“Imran Khan's government resettled 40,000 Taliban, which was completely wrong. It is clear that we reached this point because of the wrong policies of the state, but we continue to say: bring these terrorists to justice, punish them and do not to allow any Taliban into Pakistan.”
Tehreek-e-Taliban is active mainly in Pakistan’s tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. For years, it has been calling for the region’s autonomy, also trying to overthrow the Pakistani state and impose Islamic law, like in Afghanistan after the Taliban seized power in August 2021.
Under the government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan (now in the opposition), Pakistan maintained an ambiguous position, favouring the return of Pakistani Taliban in exchange for laying down their arms. However, after a series of peace talks brokered by TTP’s Afghan "cousins" failed, TTP attacks against security forces began again.
Some analysts believe that the attempted peace talks gave the group time to regroup and they now expect more violence in the coming months, especially ahead of national elections in October.
“This fire will not only affect KP (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) but will burn Punjab and other provinces as well," said Hina Jilani, a well-known human rights lawyer. “We have to remind the state that security is their responsibility.
“There is great concern among the people because the enemy has reached into the house. We have lost thousands of innocent lives just because the state let these armed terrorists enter the country in the name of resettlement and dialogue”.
In the wake of the attack, TTP-associated media outlets distanced themselves from the attack in Peshawar after some accounts linked to the group initially claimed responsibility.
The TTP’s official code of conduct considers as government or law enforcement targets as legitimate, but not mosques.
However, for Jilani, “There is no distinction between good Taliban and bad Taliban”. Now “The economy is totally ruined due to terrorism. We demand that there be no dialogue with them. We shall keep raising our voice against such extremist elements, nationally and internationally.”