Waqar-Ullah Khattak is a Pakistani teacher at an army-run school in the city of Peshawar. He was invigilating an exam in the morning when he and the school’s other occupants by armed militants firing AK-47 assault rifles and throwing hand grenades. Within an hour of the attack he found himself and other teachers being brought to safety by Pakistani commandos. He saw the corpses of seven children as he left the scene, he said of this that, “I have no words for this type of terrorism because we are all just too mentally upset.”
Another student who was saved by soldiers described seeing “dead bodies of our friends lying in the corridors. They were bleeding. Some were shot three times, some four times. The men entered the rooms one by one and started indiscriminate firing at the staff and students.”
A lab assistant also describes just how systematic the slaughtering of children and school personnel was on the part of the militants when he described witnessing “six or seven people walking class-to-class and opening fire on children.”
As the smoke clears there are obviously a lot of questions, many of which of course pertain to what kind of people would do such a thing. The Pakistani Taliban have already claimed responsibility the attack. At least 130, as of writing, are reported dead. Many on top of that are critically injured so we can expect that toll to rise exponentially. And the worst thing about this whole sordid affair is the fact most of the children are likely under sixteen years of age.
In the wake of this massacre many world leaders and politicians have voiced their disgust and offered their condolences to the friends and family of the victims. The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, vowed that “those behind behind the heinous act will not be spared.”
Disgusting, despicable, depraved–we have plenty of words in our vocabulary to condemn the perpetrators of such a man-made atrocity.
We know the goal of that group, the overthrow of the authorities in Islamabad and the erection of an Islamist state in their place. Not wholly unlike the kind of society the Islamic State group (which incidentally did early last June, an incident which could have went south very quickly and have led to a similar massacre, albeit of slightly older students, transpiring there) seek the establishment of wherever they gain ground. But this kind of action demonstrates just how low this group is willing to sink in this fight. After all, who could really justify the wanton mass-murder of children?
The school was indeed an army-run school. One could suggest that these terrorists were attempting to get at the children’s parents, many of whom would be soldiers in the Pakistani army, or worse kill just the children since they were, in these guys view, either going to grow up to be against them or grow up to be soldiers who would “resist” their goal of establishing their theocratic tyranny.
I don’t have to remind you how the Islamic State group finds most other people who oppose their salafi creed as worthy of a grisly death (having their heads cut off or being machine-gunned en masse into pits for example) and the most abject of humiliation (sexual and child slavery, torture and the like).
Understanding the warped views of these kinds of groups isn’t necessarily justifying any of their actions. However, it is of extreme importance to grasp how such people justify such despicable actions in their own minds and how they seek to sow fear into those societies they are attempting to destroy.
Ultimately, their banal cruelty usually causes those societies subjected to their terrorist exploits to unite in order to combat and stop them. But at the same time it demonstrates unequivocally to most decent and humane people, who feel nothing but despair and disgust at such despicable actions, that such actions are not reasonable responses to a feeling of injustice done to that particular group but instead a demonstration of the inner vileness and core rot of their ideology–and why ultimately they are destined to fail in the long run.