As the world learned of the massacre of more than 100 children in Peshawar, the killings seemed to shock many who commented on social media.
The Pakistani Taliban, technically the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP, took credit for the attack on a school described by The Daily Beast as “a private one run by the army for the children of soldiers.”
One TTP commander said the attacks were “perfect revenge,” and he added, “These are the kids of the U.S.-backed Pakistani army and they should stop their parents from bombing our families and children.”
The TTP, however, has a routine policy of exploiting children in a manner that might be described as human trafficking for purposes of expendable labor.
In an essay for the Institute of Social Policy and Understanding, Shehzad H. Qazi analyzed the Pakistan Taliban and he explained how the TTP uses children as assets and forced weapons:
“[T]he Pakistani Taliban sometimes use abduction and other coercive tactics to recruit fighters or quell dissent. In early 2007, they began forcing schoolchildren to sign up for suicide bombing missions in one part of Tank District and abducted 30 children for this purpose…In Swat, they may have abducted as many as 1,200 to 1,500 children. While some of the boys are used for labor in the camps, others are trained to fight in the field, become informants, or undertake suicide-bombing missions. In 2009, for example, the Pakistan Army recovered approximately 20 boys, most of whom had been kidnapped in Swat by the local Pakistani Taliban… Moreover, after taking over in Swat the rebels forced the locals to show their support by either supporting the regime monetarily or sending a family member to join them. Those who refused to comply were threatened with eviction or being chased out.”
Qazi’s 2011 essay detailed the origins of the group and its alliance with al Qaeda. In May, 2011, the group attacked the naval base in Karachi and claimed it was justified because of the killing of Osama bin Laden by US forces. In 2012 the TTP took responsibility for shooting 14 year old Malala Yousafzai because of her activism on behalf of educating women.
Many claim the TTP’s violence is because of US influence on Pakistan’s government, but the terrorist group also wants its own version of Islamic law to prevail. In one sense, the group is part of a global effort for power and wealth via the imposition of rigid standards on society.
Pakistan has been challenged in combating the group, in part because historically, convictions for acts of terrorism were often unsuccessful. Threats to witnesses and lack of evidence were cited in 2012 as reasons for the low conviction rate.
Islamist ideology is at odds with democracy and personal freedom. Like many authoritarian movements, Islamism seeks to impose a one-size-fits-all culture on society. Taliban is one of a number of groups seeking the same agenda while representing no country but rather an ideology. The TTP’s agenda clashes directly with the philosophy of one of Pakistan’s founders who envisioned a democracy “based on equality, justice and fair-play to everybody.”
East and West have long struggled over ideals of individual liberty, on matters such as free expression, religion, and personal rights to property where women are concerned. Some “progressives” in the West still believe there is a way to handle Taliban diplomatically, but history suggests that simply is not possible unless severe human rights abuses are deemed acceptable.
Members of the TTP have also conducted terrorist missions inside Afghanistan. Kinship among members of groups that morphed into the TTP and al Qaeda is partly a military product, dating to the war between Russia and Afghanistan in the 1980s.
The Obama administration said in the past that Taliban aren’t a US enemy. Those who believe in a strong national defense as the primary role of the federal government disagree with that approach, especially in light of the fact that countries like Pakistan have nuclear weapons.
Recently President Barack Obama chose to trade 5 Taliban leaders who had been detained at Guantanamo for alleged US Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl. Media rarely report on the outcome of the Bergdahl saga and the public has not been given a reasonable explanation of his actions leading to his alleged kidnapping by Taliban.
During the 2012 election, GOP nominee Gov. Mitt Romney criticized the approach of Vice President Joe Biden and President Obama regarding the Taliban. Romney said: “[H]e and President Obama think the Taliban ‘is not our enemy.’ This statement is bizarre, factually wrong, and an outrageous affront to our troops carrying out the fight in Afghanistan.”
The NY Post reported on Saturday the Afghani Taliban had killed a Supreme Court official in Afghanistan along with “a dozen mine clearers and several national and foreign soldiers.”
Social media like Twitter showed topics related to the shooting of the schoolchildren were trending internationally, with many criticizing Obama for refusing to use words like Taliban or Jihad in his remarks about the killing of the children in Peshawar.
(Analysis by Kay B. Day/Dec. 16, 2014)
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