TIME Pakistan

Pakistan Arrests Several Suspects for Deadly Peshawar School Attack

Demonstrators in the Pakistani city of Lahore on Dec. 21, 2014, condemn the attack by Taliban gunmen on the Army Public School in Peshawar Mohsin Raza—Reuters

Intelligence indicates plans of a new attack, says the Interior Minister

Pakistani police say they have arrested several people suspected of facilitating the attack on a school in the city of Peshawar last week, which left 148 people dead.

All seven assailants were reportedly killed in the attack, which was claimed by the Pakistani Taliban as a revenge for an army offensive in the Waziristan region, but officials believe the outfit is planning another hit, reports the BBC.

“We are receiving intelligence from across the country that the militants are getting ready for another savage and inhuman counterattack,” says Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.

Pakistan lifted a moratorium on its use of death penalties following the attack in Peshawar, and has since executed six men.

[BBC]

TIME Afghanistan

U.S. Transfers 4 Guantánamo Prisoners to Afghanistan

Guantanamo Bay
A U.S. military guard on the grounds of the now closed Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Aug. 22 2013. Johannes Schmitt-Tegge—EPA

The transfer marks the first repatriation of prisoners to Afghanistan since 2009

Four Guantánamo prisoners were transferred to Afghan authorities, the Pentagon said Saturday, as part of a continuing push by the Obama administration to close the contentious prison.

The detainees boarded a U.S. military plane and were flown to Kabul overnight, ending a decade of detention at the prison for suspected involvement in Taliban-affiliated militias, Reuters reports.

“Most if not all of these accusations have been discarded and each of these individuals at worst could be described as low-level, if even that,” an unnamed senior official told Reuters.

The transfer marks the first repatriation of prisoners to Afghanistan since 2009. 132 detainees are still being held at the Guantánamo complex, which President Barack Obama vowed to shut down early in his presidency–a promise he has struggled to carry through amid legal obstacles and stiff resistance from Congress.

Read more at Reuters.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: December 18

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. By breaking with the Cuba lobby, President Obama could massively disrupt American interest group politics.

By Noah Feldman in the Salt Lake Tribune

2. Sony can take a stand against the hackers whose threats have forced them to pull “The Interview” by giving the movie away online.

By Bryan Bishop in the Verge

3. Could the West help save the ruble without throwing Putin a lifeline?

By Juliet Johnson in the Globe and Mail

4. By tracking rising global temperatures, satellites can predict cholera risk.

By Dr. Kiki Sanford in BoingBoing

5. After the Taliban’s shocking attack on a school in Pakistan, the military there understands “the Frankenstein that it helped to create must now be killed.”

By Peter Bergen at CNN

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME foreign affairs

Pakistan’s ‘War on Terror’ Only Encourages Jihadists

Funeral ceremony for the victims of the school attack in Pakistan
Pakistani people carry the coffins of the victims of a Taliban attack at an army-run school, prior to their burial, in Peshawar, Pakistan on December 17, 2014. Anadolu Agency—Getty Images

Maajid Nawaz is Co-Founder and Chairman of Quilliam, a think tank focusing on matters of integration, citizenship & identity, religious freedom, extremism, and immigration.

The attack on a school in Peshawar was an act of revenge for the state's militarism

International media coverage of the school attack that shook Peshawar this week, carried out at the hands of the Pakistani terrorist group Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), has been, for all intents and purposes, commendable. The news has resisted the urge to breeze over this abhorrent event as “just another terrorist attack in South Asia,” nor has it spared the world from the horrors of what took place that day. The barbarism, the sheer brutality, of those seven TTP terrorists has been well reflected.

However, as a British Muslim of Pakistani origin who has a deep connection to my ancestral roots, there’s a missed opportunity. Without shedding light on the ideology and context of these atrocious events, it is impossible for the rest of the world to begin to truly understand the unique cocktail of instability that is Pakistan today.

Let us address ideology first. It is a bitter pill to swallow, but the fact of the matter is that the seven terrorists responsible for killing more than 100 children on Tuesday were not madmen. They were not sociopaths, or psychotic. What they were is a victim of the most rejectionist, poisonous, and virulent of extremist ideologies – jihadism – something that they were likely exposed to from a young age.

Each child they shot and killed, these terrorists believed, was a righteous death. And, as they prepared to push to the button that would blow them up, they will have done so thinking that paradise was where they were headed.

At this heart of their unwavering belief that they were “doing the right thing” is the ideology that consumed them. That will not come as a surprise. However, what probably will is the fact that this same ideology is not as alien as we in the West might like to think it is. Similarly, nor is the ideology of a very different jihadist group, Islamic State, so distant.

What these two groups share is a desire to implement their form of Islam over society through the establishment of what they deem to be a “caliphate” that implements their interpretation of sharia as law. This desire is something that all Islamists share – whether they are “non-violent” or “terrorist,” a motivation that permeates across all Islamist movements. It is something that will always present a problem as once someone is convinced that they have a divine right to assert their belief system over that of others, they must exclude basic rights like the fundamental human freedoms of religion and speech. This is why undemocratic ideological beliefs need to be challenged head on, no matter which religion they claim to speak on behalf of.

But what could make such an appalling ideology alluring? There is no question that the TTP are one of the worst manifestations of violent fundamentalism. No one doubts the fact that they are ruthless and merciless, the perpetrators of countless unforgivable killings. However, this most recent attack did not just spring from their irrational hatred and rejectionism, nor was it driven simply by ideology.

Rather, what caused it, as much as anything else, was a desire for vengeance. Ideology just rendered the crimes permissible.

The TTP has made no effort to hide the fact that the massacre was, in a sense, blowback from the Pakistani Armed Forces’ military operations in the tribal lands. Operation Zarb-e-Azb, which translates roughly as “Sharp and Cutting Strike,” began over the summer around the same time as the Israeli operation in Gaza. While there was massive international outcry over Gaza, though, there was a near media blackout on Pakistan.

Therefore, the military was able to act with relative impunity, a level of ruthlessness even greater than Israel and more in line with the Sri Lankan state’s operation to wipe out the Tamil Tigers.

That operation was not the first of its kind. Indeed, it is symptomatic of a more deeply rooted problem for the Pakistani state, its militarism. Coupled with a dreadful human rights culture, the Pakistani establishment’s almost exclusively military approach to countering the violent extremist forces that run riot in the country renders the jihadist ideology embodied in groups like the TTP all the more persuasive and increasingly pervasive.

As the “War on Terror” has so clearly shown, what with the abject anarchy that is rocking the countries in which the U.S. sought to wage this “war,” a military approach will not work on its own. On the contrary, it will only make things worse. Bombs and bullets are not enough; Pakistan, just like most other countries too, is in need of complimentary, civil society-led, anti-extremism measures that champion the protection of human rights of all citizens. This means crossing a bridge that there is very little appetite for right now, and entertaining some uncomfortable conversations about the role of religion in public life.

It is not sufficient for us to merely condemn the TTP’s school attack and consider ourselves somehow absolved. No one deserves thanks for condemning the brutal murder of children. How low could our expectations have possibly sunk? Moderation is entirely relative to where others around us are on a scale. If the entire scale is so skewered towards the Islamist ideology that the Afghan Taliban appear “moderate” in their condemnation of this attack, or al-Qaeda appear “moderate” in comparison to ISIL in Syria, then we are a long way off from peace.

How could such a situation emerge where the “moderate” alternatives to such brutality seem only to be other jihadist terrorists? The entire framework of debate for those populations surrounded by jihadist groups is currently occurring within the Islamist context. Without a long-term approach to uprooting the Islamist ideology itself, through civil society activism, there’s not much hope of stemming such atrocities. At the same time, the Pakistani government must recognize that it cannot, and must not, simply bomb its way out of this quagmire.

Maajid Nawaz is Co-Founder and Chairman of Quilliam, a think tank focusing on matters of integration, citizenship & identity, religious freedom, extremism, and immigration. His work is informed by years spent in his youth as a leadership member of a global Islamist group, and his gradual transformation towards liberal democratic values. His autobiographical account of his life story, Radical, has been released in the UK and U.S.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: December 18

Capitol
The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

U.S. Links North Korea to Hack

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U.S., Cuba Make Nice

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Everything We Know as Serial’s Season One Ends

As the 12th installment of Serial downloads on countless phones Thursday morning, a common question will reverberate through curious minds: Did he do it? Did Adnan Syed kill Hae Min Lee on that January day back in 1999?

Elton John to Wed Longtime Partner David Furnish

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NOAA Arctic Report Card Short on Good News

This year’s Arctic Report Card, a NOAA-led work by 63 authors, reports a continuation of Arctic warming: Alaska is seeing temperature anomalies more than 18 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the January average and temperatures are rising in region’s seas

Most of the World Is Living Longer

Life expectancy across the globe has increased by more than six years since 1990 to 71.5 years, according to a new study published Wednesday. Medical funding for fighting infectious diseases has grown since 1990 and helped drive the improvement

Scientists Spot Drugs That Could Treat Ebola

Scientists have identified 53 existing drugs that could be effective in fighting Ebola, according to newly published research that came from screening drug compounds already available to see if they can treat the deadly disease

Peshawar Death Toll at 148 as Full Horror Emerges

With the death toll from Peshawar school massacre rising to 148 — at least 132 of them children — residents of this strife-torn Pakistani city, and survivors, are struggling to come to terms with Tuesday’s horror, in which Taliban gunman attacked an army-run school

NYC Rapper Bobby Shmurda Arrested

Brooklyn rapper Bobby Shmurda was arrested in New York City on Wednesday, in connection with an investigation into street violence and drug trafficking in the city’s outer borough. Shmurda, whose real name is Ackquille Pollard, was taken into custody by investigators

Chicago Judge Rejects $75 Million NCAA Settlement

A Chicago judge on Wednesday rejected a $75 million settlement with the NCAA on player concussions, saying the funds allocated as part of the deal would potentially fall short and urging both parties to resume negotiations

Executions in the United States at 20 Year Low

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You can submit your questions beforehand on Twitter using the #AskTIME hashtag or in the comments of this post. We depend on smart, interesting questions from readers.

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TIME Pakistan

Pakistani Military Strikes Back at Taliban Following Peshawar Massacre

An army soldier stands guard inside the Army Public School, which was attacked by Taliban gunmen, in Peshawar
An army soldier stands guard inside the Army Public School, which was attacked by Taliban gunmen earlier this week, in Peshawar, Pakistan, on Dec. 17, 2014 Zohra Bensemra—Reuters

Spokesperson says more than a dozen operations have been carried out since Tuesday

The Pakistani military claims to have struck back hard against Taliban militants days after the group launched one the deadliest single-day attacks in their seven-year insurgency against the state.

In the two days since Taliban forces indiscriminately murdered more than 140 people, including 132 children, at a school in Peshawar, Pakistani security forces have launched 20 air strikes, killing an estimated 57 terrorists in the process, according to a tweet from military spokesperson Major General Asim Bajwa.

The armed forces’ representative added that operations are ongoing. Pakistan is currently in its second day of official mourning for the massacre, which sent shock waves through the country and brought renewed scrutiny to the military’s past dealings with militants within the country’s borders.

TIME Pakistan

Pakistan Begins 3 Days of Mourning After Peshawar Massacre

But persistent questions remain over the military’s relationship with extremist groups

Pakistanis were in mourning Wednesday after a brutal attack on an army-run school in Peshawar by Taliban militants claimed more than 140 lives, 132 of them children.

Islamabad announced the commencement of a three-day mourning period. Vigils were held across the country as the nation struggled to come to terms with the brutality exhibited in one of the deadliest single-day attacks in the country since the Pakistani Taliban launched its insurgency seven years ago.

In Peshawar, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called on officials from all parties to attend a multiparty conference this week, where they hope to present a unified front against terrorism.

Opposition stalwart Imran Khan, who has previously sought reconciliation with the Taliban, joined the litany of voices on Tuesday condemning the indiscriminate slaughter.

“Fight with men, not innocent children,” said the former cricket star, according to the New York Times.

The deliberate targeting of children appears to have affected even some of the Pakistani Taliban’s most steadfast supporters.

“The intentional killing of innocent people, children and women are against the basics of Islam and this criteria has to be considered by every Islamic party and government,” Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesperson for the Afghan Taliban, said in a statement, according to Reuters.

But as the nation grieves, tough questions have begun to resurface regarding the Pakistani military’s track record of incubating militancy within the country’s borders.

During an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Asif rejected the notion that the country’s security establishment maintained relations with extremist groups.

“[These] terrorists are the biggest threat to the peace in this region, to peace in Pakistan, to the existence of Pakistan,” said Asif. “We do not classify between different groups of Taliban — that there are good Taliban or bad Taliban. They are all bad.”

However, analysts contend that factions within the security services continue to see militant groups inside Pakistan as valuable proxies in the battle for influence in neighboring Afghanistan and Kashmir.

“It seems to me that there are elements within the military establishment who are willing to sustain or willing to endure civilian causalities and even military casualties as long as some broader strategic objective is met,” Hassan Javid, associate professor of political science at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, tells TIME.

But as Javid argues, the country’s brutal experience with insurgency has long demonstrated that these groups can never be controlled.

“Given the ideologies that motivate these groups, and given the links they have to other such groups, I think its inevitable that they will turn their guns on Pakistan,” says Javid. “Even if they’re working with them today, there’s always the possibility they will turn around and bite the hand that’s been feeding them a few years down the line.”

Following the attacks, a spokesperson with the Pakistani Taliban, or Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, said the assault on the school was retaliation against the ongoing offensive in the country’s tribal belt.

“We selected the army’s school for the attack because the government is targeting our families and females,” said Taliban spokesman Muhammad Umar Khorasani. “We want them to feel the pain.”

In June, the Pakistani military launched a full-scale assault on Taliban sanctuaries in North Waziristan, days after militants allied with the group overran a terminal at Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport in the heart of the country’s commercial capital

The ongoing military operation in North Warziristan is believed to have been largely successful in uprooting a majority of the militant forces based there, but experts say these extremists are now dispersed throughout the country.

“Over time this militancy has spread into the cities and these kinds of people are hiding and have melted into society,” says Hasan Askari Rizvi, a prominent Pakistani defense analyst. “The military operations can only take place in places like the tribal areas, but not necessarily in urban centers.”

TIME Pakistan

Taliban Attack in Pakistan Prompts Cross-Border Solidarity From India

INDIA-PAKISTAN-UNREST-ATTACKS
Schoolchildren pray during morning assembly at their school in Shimla, India, on Dec. 17, 2014, as they pay tribute to slain students and staff after an attack on an army school in Peshawar, Pakistan STRDEL—AFP/Getty Images

Indian schools join lawmakers in observing two minutes of silence after #IndiaWithPakistan trends on Twitter

Amid the horrific massacre at an army-run school in the Pakistani city of Peshawar on Tuesday that resulted in over 140 deaths, mostly of children under the age of 16, the overwhelming support from regional rival India was a silver lining that has briefly lifted spirits.

The two countries generally don’t see eye to eye and have had a bilateral relationship that can be described as fractious at best. But in the aftermath of the Pakistani Taliban’s brutal attack, military posturing and border skirmishes were briefly set aside as India mourned with its neighbor.

Indian news channel NDTV reported that schools across India observed a two-minute silence on Wednesday, expressing solidarity with the victims of the attack. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who condemned the attack on Twitter soon after the news broke and later telephoned his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif, also led the Indian Parliament in marking the incident.

The outpouring of shared grief began on Tuesday while the attack was still ongoing, with several Indians posting their sadness and outrage on Twitter as the hashtag #IndiWithPakistan began trending:

Several Pakistanis responded with gratitude, as both nations grasped each other’s outstretched virtual hands.

TIME Pakistan

This Is What the World Had to Say About the Peshawar School Attack

An attack on a school in Pakistan has left more than 131 dead, most of them children

World leaders and prominent politicians and diplomats united to condemn the actions of the Taliban who’ve claimed responsibility for the attack on a Peshawar school on Tuesday that left more than 131 people dead, mostly school children. Six Taliban gunmen attacked the school and were eventually killed by Pakistani security forces.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Shari, released a statement saying, “The government together with the army has started [a military operation called] Zarb-e-Azb and it will continue until the terrorism is rooted out from our land. We also have had discussions with Afghanistan that they and we together fight this terrorism, and this fight will continue. No one should have any doubt about it.” Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s president Ashraf Ghani released a statement that said, “The killing of innocent children is contrary to Islam.”

India’s prime minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter to condemn the attack:

And Kailash Satyarthi, the Indian child rights activist who shared this year’s Nobel Peace Prize with Malala Yousafzai, also tweeted:

The U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Richard Olson, said in a statement, “The United States strongly condemns senseless and inhumane attacks on innocent students and educators, and stands in solidarity with the people of Pakistan, and all who fight the menace of terrorism. Few have suffered more at the hands of terrorists and extremists than the people of Pakistan.”

Government leaders, prominent figures and celebrities from around the globe also took to social media to condemn the attacks:

Malala Yousafzai, the teenager who was shot in the head by the Taliban for championing girls education in 2012, also joined the condemnation of the attack. The 17-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner, released a statement saying:

“I am heartbroken by this senseless and cold-blooded act of terror in Peshawar that is unfolding before us. Innocent children in their school have no place in horror such as this. I condemn these atrocious and cowardly acts and stand united with the government and armed forces of Pakistan whose efforts so far to address this horrific event are commendable. I, along with millions of others around the world, mourn these children, my brothers and sisters – but we will never be defeated.”

Malala now lives in Birmingham, England.

TIME Pakistan

Here’s What It Looked Like At the Scene of the Peshawar School Attack

Parents frantically search for their children while others queue to give blood

An attack on a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, early Tuesday morning has left more than 120 people dead, most of them children. The attack, which the Taliban claimed responsibility for, saw a number of militants wearing military uniforms open fire and detonate explosives at the Army Public School.

Farooq Shah, a local doctor whose 16-year-old son Mubeen was killed in the attack, spoke to TIME on Tuesday and said:

No religion sanctions the killing of children. Who are these people killing our children in the name of religion? Going to school, going to the market – these are mundane things. Now every parent in Pakistan will be scared to send out their children for such mundane activities too. But we should not give in to this fear and fight it because that’s the only option we are left with.

Resisting fear could prove difficult, as reports on social media and from local journalists have painted a horrific picture of the attack:

 

A student of Army Public School, 16-year-old Shahrukh Khan, spoke to the AFP from Peshawar’s Lady Reading Hospital, where he was being treated for his injuries. He said that he and his classmates were in the school auditorium when four gunmen wearing military uniforms entered:

Someone screamed at us to get down and hide below the desks,” he said, adding that the gunmen shouted “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest) before opening fire. Then one of them shouted: ‘There are so many children beneath the benches, go and get them’,” Khan told AFP. “I saw a pair of big black boots coming towards me, this guy was probably hunting for students hiding beneath the benches.

Khan said he felt searing pain as he was shot in both his legs just below the knee.

He decided to play dead, adding: “I folded my tie and pushed it into my mouth so that I wouldn’t scream.

“The man with big boots kept on looking for students and pumping bullets into their bodies. I lay as still as I could and closed my eyes, waiting to get shot again. My body was shivering. I saw death so close and I will never forget the black boots approaching me — I felt as though it was death that was approaching me.”

Khan said he waited until the men left, before trying to find help. “When I crawled to the next room, it was horrible. I saw the dead body of our office assistant on fire,” he told the AFP. “She was sitting on the chair with blood dripping from her body as she burned.”

The BBC reported early on Tuesday that the school was attacked because it is an army-run institution, which has been confirmed by the Pakistani arm of the Taliban:

 
The Pakistani army has been sending updates, via their chief spokesman, about their efforts to rescue children and stop the attackers:

 

As the rescue operation has been underway, many parents have been frantically searching for their children outside the school, which was sealed off with an unknown number of hostages still inside. Pakistan’s Express Tribune has this video interview with a mother and a grandmother, who’ve arrived at the school to find their sons and grandchildren

Meanwhile, nearby hospitals, which have received a number of the victims, have reportedly begun posting lists of the deceased. One doctor at the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar told the BBC that some of the wounded and deceased who were brought in had been shot in the head and chest, while others were killed in a suicide bomb attack on the school playground.

Others have tweeted images of long lines of people at the Combined Military Hospital and at local blood banks queuing to give blood:

 

Footage from the Express Tribune reveals the chaos in the hospitals treating the injured:

 

Another video, uploaded to YouTube, shows more scenes of grief and turmoil at the Lady Reading Hospital as the injured are treated and the deceased are carried out in coffins:

The BBC’s Pakistan correspondent Shaimaa Khalil reports that traffic jams have blocked many of Peshawar’s streets:

 

In response to the attack, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has declared three days of national mourning.

-with reporting by Nilanjana Bhowmick.

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