Four years on, families of Peshawar school massacre still await justice

File photo for student in Karachi holding a rose takes part in a prayer for victims of the Taliban attack on Army Public School in Peshawar, on Dec. 2014. (REUTERS)
Updated 16 December 2018

Four years on, families of Peshawar school massacre still await justice

  • Parents say only high-level judicial probe will ‘satisfy’ them
  • Commemorative ceremonies held in Peshawar, around the country

PESHAWAR: Families of children killed or wounded in one of Pakistan’s deadliest militant attacks said the government had broken its promise of delivering justice, four years after Taliban gunmen massacred 134 students in a military-run school in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

Aurengzeb Khan, whose son died in the attack on Dec 16, 2014, told Arab News he was pessimistic that the single-judge judicial commission announced this October to investigate the assault would deliver results.  

“I haven’t been compensated nor given any consolation by the government,” he said.

Fazl Khan, an advocate who also lost his son in the gruesome attack, said he did not care about being compensated by the government; he only wanted justice.  

“We still demand a high-level judicial probe into the incident to identify any security lapse and bring the perpetrators to task,” Khan told Arab News. “Only that will satisfy us.”

More than 148 Pakistanis, most of them children, were killed in the broad daylight attack on the military-run school four years ago, an assault that Taliban insurgents said was revenge for the killings of their own relatives by the Pakistani army in military operations.

The school in Peshawar, a chaotic, teeming city on the edge of the country’s turbulent tribal belt, is operated by the army. Although it enrolls civilian students also, many of its pupils come from army families and were clearly the Taliban’s intended target.

On Sunday, a special commemoration ceremony was held at the neat pink brick-and-stone campus to pay homage to the 134 children ad 16 staff members killed on that dark day four years ago. Shah Farman, the governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of which Peshawar is the capital, was the chief guest. Corps Commander Peshawar Lt. Gen. Shaheen Mazhar Mehmood was also present.

Similar functions were also held in other educational institutions in Peshawar as well as around the country to remember the survivors. On Sunday night, dozens of bereaved families held a candlelight vigil in Peshawar, holding up banners and photos of their loved ones.

“Compensation is not a substitute,” Tufail Khattack, the father of a student who lost his life in the attack, said while attending the commemoration ceremony. “Even if I am given the entire wealth of Pakistan it will not be enough, but it is a matter of pride for me that I’m the father of a martyr whose blood might ensure peace and tranquility in the country.”

Khattack said his second son, critically injured in the attack, was still at a trauma centre: “He is still recovering from the appalling tragedy and his treatment is extremely expensive,” he added.

He said each victim’s family has been granted a Rs. 2 million compensation package and a 10-marla plot but these would not bring back “the person who was very close to my heart.”

Pakistan announced a 20-point National Action plan to tackle militancy after the assault on the Army Public School. The plan's main thrusts included expanded counter-terrorism raids, secret military courts and the resumption of hangings, as well as clauses banning "glorification of terrorism and terrorist organisations through print and electronic media.”

On October 5, almost four years after the attack, the Supreme Court formed a judicial commission led by a Peshawar High Court judge to probe the carnage. The commission was to submit its report in six weeks, but the document is still pending.

Abdul Wahed Qadri whose grandson was killed in the attack told Arab News he was grateful to the chief justice for forming the judicial commission: “Otherwise we know that judicial commissions tend to yield no results.”

Philippine Senators oppose president’s push to lower criminal age to 9

President Rodrigo Duterte speaks in front of housewives and mothers, that participate in the anti-illegal drugs campaign of the provincial government and Duterte's war on drugs at Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga province, Philippines December 22, 2016. (REUTERS)
Updated 23 January 2019

Philippine Senators oppose president’s push to lower criminal age to 9

  • International organizations have expressed alarm, including UNICEF and Save the Children, while domestic activists said children should be protected from criminals

MANILA: Senators in the Philippines on Tuesday joined activists and child protection groups in condemning a lower house move to reduce the age of criminal liability from 15 to nine, calling it extreme and unjust.
The proposal has President Rodrigo Duterte’s support and is being revived by his Congressional allies, having been filed on his inauguration day in 2016 along with a bid to re-introduce the death penalty — moves touting his crime-busting credentials.
The plan was approved on Monday by the lower house’s justice committee, but still needs several readings before a house vote. It would then require counterpart legislation and approval of the Senate, members of which appear less supportive.
“It is anti-family, anti-poor and simply unjust. Moreover, it will promote a heartless and ruthless society that has no regard for its own people,” said Antonio Trillanes, one of Duterte’s biggest critics.
Risa Hontiveros said the idea went against Philippines’ international commitments and a global trend of raising, not lowering, the criminal age.
“Why do we want to slide back to the minimum, or even below the minimum? Is this a race to the bottom?” she told a Senate hearing.
Duterte campaigned aggressively on eliminating crime, drugs and corruption and has said he has since realized they were all on a greater scale than he had imagined.
Despite a war on drugs that has killed thousands of people and graft-related scandals and resignations of his own appointees, Duterte has not lost his lustre among Filipinos, who polls show back his morality-centered approach to law and order.
Senator Panfilo Lacson said nine was too young, but he supported lowering the age “to a certain level.” Joel Villanueva said the bill needed a rethink, to target parents more.
“Children in general have different levels of maturity and discernment,” he added.
International organizations have expressed alarm, including UNICEF and Save the Children, while domestic activists said children should be protected from criminals, not held liable for things they were forced to do.
Agnes Callamard, a United Nations special rapporteur who has frequently locked horns with Duterte, called it a “dangerous and potentially deadly proposal. Just shameful.”
Justice committee chairman Salvador Leachon, however, said the bill was misunderstood, and was rehabilitation-centered, and “pro-children,” with non-compliant parents the ones who would go to jail.
“The point here is there is no punishment,” he told news channel ANC. “It’s rehabilitation, reformative, taking care of the family.”