The Taliban have attacked a school in Peshawar, Pakistan. The death toll is over 130, mostly children. This horrific attack can only lose them support. What’s the motive?
Reports from children who escaped state that gunmen went from classroom to classroom, shooting indiscriminately. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have taken responsibility for what is the most high profile and tragic attack in Pakistan in months, if not years.
Taliban spokesman Mohammed Khurasani has stated that the school was targeted in revenge for the Taliban who had been killed by Pakistani authorities in Waziristan the Kyhber Region.
But what is it that’s driving the hardline Islamic group to such extreme measures? They must surely know that PR is an important factor in any campaign. This attack will incur backlash globally, but more importantly, it will lose them support domestically; even the most hardline sympathiser will have a hard time justifying an attack on innocent school children.
Are their goals now so short term that they risk alienating themselves, losing support and funding, as well as religious legitimacy, for the sake of revenge? Their aim has always been governance, an aim that is nothing if not long term.
The BBC says that in Pakistan “the sense of shock is unprecedented” and speculates on “whether the country will finally lose patience with militants who have killed thousands over the years. It is estimated that 35,000 Pakistanis have been killed in the decade after the September 11th attacks.
The Taliban have, in recent times, been fragmented says Jason Bourke of the Guardian. Bourke says that “when groups fragment, and leadership is contested, attacks often become more extreme as individual commanders and their followers seek to prove themselves the most effective, and the most audacious”. This, alongside the fact that over a thousand Taliban fighters have been killed since the Pakistani military started operations in North Waziristan in June, may explain the attack. They may also be sensing their impending doom, and could be lashing out in a last death throe.
Taliban attacks in Pakistan are particularly ironic, given that the group was “deliberately created and nurtured” by past Pakistani governments for short term tactical objectives in Afghanistan. Pakistan, and particularly ISI, one of many intelligence agencies, has long been accused of harbouring and aiding Islamic fundamentalists – this is the country that sheltered Bin Laden and claimed ignorance of his whereabouts.
This is only one of a string of attacks in Pakistan. An estimated 1000 schools have been targeted before by the Taliban before. Malala Yousafzai was a target of Taliban gunmen. The 2008 Mumbai attacks were carried out by members of Pakistani members of Lashkar-e-Taiba.
In the light of these horrific attacks, the peace negotiations in spring of 2014 between the Pakistani authorities and the Taliban seem almost a joke. There surely can be no peace now, no accords, no truce. Pakistan has only one option- they must kill the monster they created – and fast.