Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Music Video - Travesuras - Nicky Jam

Video - President Obama Speaks at a Naturalization Ceremony

Mr. Kerry goes to Moscow: Syria talks progress

Video - John Kerry was spotted wandering along the tourist hot-spot Arbat Street in central Moscow

Video - The countdown to New Year’s Eve begins

Video Report - Kerry to Lavrov: The world will benefit if USA & Russia can find a common ground on Syria & Ukraine

Hillary Clinton pushes more gun control: 'If you are too dangerous to fly, you are too dangerous to buy a gun'

Hillary Clinton on Tuesday demanded that any strategy to fight terrorism at home and abroad must include making it harder for militants to buy guns and said she won’t “let the gun lobby or anyone else" get in her way if she is elected.
"If you are too dangerous to fly, you are too dangerous to buy a gun, period," Clinton said referring to legislation that has been held up by gun-loving Republicans that would make it more difficult for people on FBI's "no-fly list" to purchase firearms.
“And I am not going to let the gun lobby or anyone else tell me that is not the right road to go down,” she said to thunderous applause during the talk, coming just hours before a GOP presidential debate was scheduled to begin.
“The phrase active shooter should not be one we have to teach our children, but it is,” Clinton added, before repeating calls to reinstate an expired federal assault weapons ban.
The 2016 Democratic frontrunner — whose three-point plan to take on ISIS that includes conducting airstrikes in Syria and Iraq; dismantling finance and arms networks that aid militants; and foiling plots at home and taking steps to disrupt radicalization — focused Tuesday mainly on the last point. The former secretary of state repeatedly stressed the importance of “empowering our Muslim-American community who are on the front lines of the fight against radicalization,” outlining a multi-pronged plan to work together peacefully with local Muslims leaders in the U.S. to fight radical elements.
“When people see respect and trust, they are more likely to work together with law enforcement,” she said.
Clinton, however, appeared to spend the majority of her time speaking rejecting the “bigotry” and controversial proposals being offered by many of the Republican candidates running for President, singling out lines iterated by Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.
“We cannot give in to demagogues who take advantage of our basest instincts,” she said.
Our political debate has been anything but serious. We can't afford another major ground war in the Middle East,” she added. “Shallow slogans don't add up to a strategy.”
“Promising to ‘carpet bomb until the desert glows’ doesn’t make u sound strong, it makes you sound like you’re in over your head,” she said, referring to words used by Cruz last week. “Bluster and history are not credentials for becoming commander-in-chief,” she said, rejecting the numerous GOP proposals made to limit or altogether ban Muslims from entering the U.S. “It would be a cruel irony indeed if ISIS was able to force people from their homes and also prevent them from finding new ones,” she said.
“We cannot give in to fear. We cannot let it stop us from doing what is right and necessary to make us safe,” she said. “We cannot let fear push us into reckless actions that make us less safe. Americans are going to have to act with both courage and clarity.”
Clinton also touted the importance of cooperation between government officials and tech companies to help fight ISIS and other terrorist networks online. “We need a stronger relationships between Washington and Silicon Valley,” Clinton said. “American innovation is a powerful force and we need to put it to work.”
“We must work to deny (ISIS) virtual territory just as we work to deny them actual territory,” she added.

Iowa poll: Hillary Clinton maintains lead over Bernie Sanders

By Tal Kopan

Hillary Clinton is maintaining her solid lead over Democratic presidential opponent Bernie Sanders in Iowa, according to a new poll out Tuesday, and two-thirds of voters have made up their minds.
The former secretary of state leads the Vermont senator 51% to 40% in the Democratic caucuses, according to a Quinnipiac poll released Tuesday, nearly identical to the 51% to 42% lead she had in Quinnipiac's November poll.
    Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley had the support of 6% of likely Democratic caucus-goers, up slightly from the 4% he had registered last month.
    Overall, 66% of the likely Democratic caucus participants said they have made up their minds, up from 63% in November.
    Women are buoying Clinton's lead, supporting her nearly 2-to-1, according to the poll. Women support Clinton 59% to 32%, while men back Sanders 52% to 39%.
    The top issue of concern to the voters was the economy and jobs, with terrorism being the fifth-most pressing issue despite the increased attention to it on the trail in the wake of the Paris and San Bernardino attacks.
    Clinton has maintained a solid lead nationally and in most early states over Sanders for much of the campaign, though Sanders is polling ahead of Clinton in New Hampshire.
    Quinnipiac University surveyed 727 Iowa likely Democratic caucus participants from December 4-13, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

    Clinton Targets Congress GOP During Terrorism Speech

    Hillary Clinton Unveils Plan to Stop Spread of ISIS

    Hillary Clinton further detailed her plan to defeat ISIS Tuesday, and specifically spoke to the threat of homegrown radicalization in a city that has been on the front lines, while also warning that Islamophobia is not just offensive but harmful to American national security. "We are in it for the long haul and we will stand taller and stronger than they could possibly imagine," Clinton said of ISIS on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis.
    National security has emerged as a top issue in the 2016 presidential election following terrorist attacks in Paris that left 130 dead and a mass shooting by a radicalized couple in San Bernardino, California, that killed 14 earlier this month.
    Clinton acknowledged that Americans have a right to be fearful in this climate, while knocking Republicans for taking advantage of the country's collective anxiety. Without naming them, Clinton took clear shots at Republican candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio for stoking fears, while blasting Donald Trump's proposal to ban Muslim immigration headon.
    "Shallow slogans don't add up to a strategy. Promising to carpet bomb until the desert glows doesn't make you sound strong -- it makes you sound like you're in over your head," Clinton said. "Bluster and bigotry are not credentials for becoming commander-in-chief."
    Tuesday marked Clinton's third speech on combating global terrorism in less than a month, underscoring her campaign strategists' recognition of the importance of this issue. At the Council on Foreign Relations in November, Clinton described her plan to "defeat and destroy" ISIS, and at the Saban Forum a few weeks ago, she urged Silicon Valley to take an active role in the dismantling of the terrorist network's communication operation.
    Stopping potential jihadists from getting training overseas is a critical part of a what she dubbed a "360-degree strategy" to keep America safe. She said the U.S. needs to target the "network of enablers" that help finance ISIS, in addition to combating the organization online to cutoff recruitment. Clinton also called for stricter screenings for visa applicants who had been to a country in Islamic State-controlled areas in the last five years.
    In addition, the former secretary of state highlighted the importance of working closely with Muslim-American communities and the location for the speech was no accident. The Twin Cities have been at the forefront of the fight against radicalization from terrorist organizations and Clinton praised the work of the law enforcement in Minnesota as a successful model for combating homegrown radicalization.
    "We must all stand up against offensive, inflammatory, hateful, anti-Muslim rhetoric,' Clinton said. "These Americans might be our first, last and best defense against homegrown radicalization and terrorism." She said comments by people like Trump are not only anti-American but "dangerous," since they erode trust with the Muslim-American community at home and Muslim allies abroad. The Democratic presidential frontrunner invoked an unlikely figure to make the point. "George W. Bush was right," she said, referring to his warning just says after the September 11 terror attack against vilifying Muslim-Americans. But some of her biggest applause lines came when Clinton directly connected terrorism and the need for gun control. Acknowledging that Republicans would disagree with her, Clinton said it was simple: "Terrorists use guns to kill Americans. I think we should make it harder for them from to do that."
    Saying "the phrase 'active shooter' should not be one we have to teach our children," Clinton said, "It defies common sense that Republicans in Congress refuse to make it harder for potential terrorists to buy guns." In recent weeks, Clinton has implored Congress to pass an updated authorization to use military force, stressing that the "time for delay is over." She has repeatedly said that the fight against ISIS needs to take place in the air, on the ground, and in cyberspace, but stressed that a full-scale war with American troops in the Middle East would not be wise.
    And she used the speech as another opportunity to push for the reauthorization of the Zadroga Act, which pays for health care for 9/11 first responders, saying it's "disgraceful" for Republicans to say they want bolster law enforcement to fight terrorism while also opposing the bill. Minneapolis has one of the largest Muslim populations in the country, especially refugees from Somalia. That's made it fertile ground for recruitment, with the tenth arrest of a Minnesota man planning to join ISIS occurring just last week. At least 22 young men left the Twin Cities area to join the Somali militant group Al Shabaab between 2007 and 2009.
    Before the speech, Clinton met with local Muslim leaders, including the first Somali-American member of the Minneapolis City Council, where her campaign says she discussed efforts to combat radicalization. Republicans have sought to portray Clinton as weak on terrorism, since she served as secretary of state in the administration that witnessed the rise of ISIS after it pulled American troops out of Iraq.
    While Clinton has sought to present tougher rhetoric on ISIS than Obama, she is also facing criticism from her left. Sen. Bernie Sanders, her top rival for the nomination, has charged that Clinton's support for the War in Iraq, as well as for the toppling of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya, make her overly hawkish and too quick to intervene. Foreign policy and terrorism are expected to be central topics at not only tonight's GOP debate in Las Vegas, but Saturday's Democratic debate in New Hampshire.

    #CantForgetPeshawarAttack - Search for answers (December 16, 2014)

    From the boy who jumped in front of his friends and saved their lives to the boy whose first day of school became his last. The 144 stories of the brave young souls flow across the media, as the country mourns and remembers each life lost during the heinous massacre at the Army Public School (APS) on December 16, 2014, an episode which became seared not only inn the collective psyche of the nation, but on the history of the country as it entirely changed the course of events, leading to a vigorous military campaign and National Action Plan. As its anniversary draws closer, the parents of the APS martyrs again strengthen their calls for answers. Who are the culprits, the ominous ‘terrorists’? Whose ignorance caused this? What is their punishment? When will they be avenged? Unfortunately, some questions can never be fully answered but there is a lot that the government is capable of and responsible for, starting with answering how such an incident was allowed to happen, how could such a massive breach in such a high security area occur and how did the intelligence agencies remain so unaware. It is true that even the possibility of such a horrendous tragedy was not only unforeseeable but unimaginable. Nevertheless these questions importantly lead to the grim realisation that our counter-terrorism structure has been incapable at best, unable to grasp the magnitude of the phenomenon and what it could lead to. But the question is, has this complacency now worn off and have we taken the steps that are needed to ensure that such a lapse never occurss again?

    The incident may have occurred within the confines of an army cantonment, but the children were not solely the children of the army, they were children of the entire nation and everyone’s responsibility. While the government incessantly repeats that all the leaders are on the same page against terrorism, what fruit has this borne? So far no roadmap, mutually agreed by the government, the army and security agencies has been revealed to the public. And this is the point where the most unpardonable sin of the government is revealed, the fact that they never learn. The bare necessity in the wake of the tragedy was that now foolproof systems for the protection of students be implemented, systems that faltered previously be thoroughly re-examined and remade and those negligent be admonished. With this, it needs to be discerned that this is primarily a conflict between terrorists and the state, and the citizens come under the state, which is why they have been brutally targeted. Nevertheless the counteraction should not be informed by revenge but by justice, and that is the goal that the authorities need to pursue. It is perhaps understandable that the convoluted operational details cannot be publicised but this does not in any way make a callous silence, which serves only to show the inurement of those in power, acceptable.

    #CantForgetPeshawarAttack - Peshawar prepares for sad memories of Army School massacre

    The first anniversary is approaching of the terrible army school massacre in Peshawar. Last year nine heavily-armed Islamic extremists scaled the walls of the school and killed more than 140 people, 134 of them children, before being killed or blowing themselves up.
    Despite Pakistan being no stranger to acts of extremist violence nearly every day this attack stunned the country.
    Now the army has made a song in the victim’s memory, which calls for revenge for the dead by, as the song goes, educating the enemy’s children.
    The actual anniversary is on Wednesday, but such was the emotive power of the event that memorials and events to commemorate it have already begun.


    Pakistan defiant year after school massacre

    Tehseen Ullah Durrani wanted his two sons to live his dream of becoming doctors and serving humanity.
    The 50-year-old medic from north-western Pakistan took a private job after retiring from the army to make sure his kids could attend better schools.
    But his hopes and ambitions ended when Taliban gunmen killed 136 students, including his sons Noor Ullah, 15, and 13-year-old Saif Ullah, at an army-run school in the city of Peshawar last December.
    "It was the darkest moment of my life, to see my sons in a pool of blood," said Durrani, recalling the horror when he had to collect the bodies of his boys from a military hospital.
    "I had everything but got nothing in the end," Durrani said.
    One year on, his family is working through its grief.
    Durrani is now pinning his hopes on his three daughters. One is studying software engineering at university, another is preparing for medical studies and the youngest attends the same school where her brothers perished.
    The school massacre changed decades of policy contradictions in Pakistan, said Amir Rana, head of a think tank in Islamabad.
    "Two things have since changed significantly," said Rana. "The security situation has improved and the tolerance for the violence has decreased."
    In response, the military stepped up offensives against Islamist militants in the country's tribal badlands near the Afghan border, killing nearly 3,500 rebels and regaining control of a large area of territory.
    "We will chase all terrorists from our soil," Army Chief Raheel Sharif said in September.
    Politicians backed the military campaign to hunt down Taliban insurgents after years of confusion over whether the country should fight the militias or co-exist with them. 
    Over 55 000 dead
    The deadly confusion cost Pakistan more than 55 000 lives, including both civilians and troops, according to the Interior Ministry.
    Peshawar police chief Mubarak Zeb said violent attacks had declined by 70% since the school attack.
    In 2015, only 138 terrorism incidents - most of them relatively minor gun attacks - were reported, compared to 340 a year earlier.  
    "This is something remarkable for a city where bombs were going off every day only a few years ago," Zeb said.
    At the western edge of the city, adjacent to Khyber tribal district, Najeeb Ullah has been running a shop for 11 years and seen the worst of the violence by Islamist militants.
    The 33-year-old father of two said the past year was by far the most peaceful in a decade.
    "The fear that the people lived with for years is gone," he said.
    Altaf Hussain, the father of the youngest and only female victim of the massacre, teaches at the same school where his 6-year-old daughter was killed and he himself suffered bullet wounds.
    His two sons and daughter now attend the school without "an iota of fear".
    "Our children are gone, but their sacrifice is making the country safer," said the 42-year-old father, sitting on the floor of his living room, just a couple hundred meters from the school. "What should we fear now?"
    But Pakistan still has a long way to go defeat the militant mindset that is deeply rooted in the conservative Islamic society, said Fida Khan, a security analyst based in Peshawar.
    In Islamabad, radical cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz at the controversial Red Mosque is challenging the government to enforce Taliban-style Islamic Sharia law.
    The military launched a deadly raid against his mosque in 2007 for alleged connections with al-Qaeda, but the hardline cleric has since revived a network of Islamic seminaries for women.
    Pakistani officials said Tashfeen Malik, the woman who killed 14 people in the US state of California this month, had links with Aziz. He has denied it.
    Authorities are trying to bring nearly 20 000 seminaries under official control by registering them, but influential clerics have resisted their attempts so far.
    "That's still a problem," said Khan. "If the radicalization is to be eliminated, a coherent political, social and economic policy is needed. Just military success is never enough."
    Durrani hopes for an end to the curse of terrorism, so "no other father cries like me in long, dark and cold winter nights."


    A Year After the Deadly Peshawar School Massacre, Pakistan Is No Safer

    By Daud Khattak

    To honor those killed one year ago, Islamabad must fully enforce a bold plan to curb terrorism and increase security.

      On Dec. 16, Pakistan will observe the first anniversary of the massacre at an army public school in Peshawar that left over 140 people dead, most of them schoolchildren. Mullah Fazlullah, the chief of the near-defunctTehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), claimed responsibility for the attack. While four of the militants who carried out the attack were captured and executed, Pakistani officials say that Fazlullah remains in hiding across the border in Afghanistan’s eastern Nuristan province. The failure to find justice after the school massacre highlights key questions about Pakistan’s war on terrorism, which has claimed over 50,000 lives.
    In Pakistan and abroad, security officials believed that the Dec. 16 attack would force Pakistan to change its policy on militants. With each new violent attack on civilians, it becomes harder for Pakistan to justify selectively cracking down on jihadists, prioritizing those it views as a threat to its domestic politics, and protecting those with whom it shares common enemies.
    A year later, no perceptible change can be seen, other than a crackdown against the TTP in tribal areas and a few targeted operations against sectarian groups in Punjab. The Pakistani government has failed to limit the reach of the Haqqani Network, the Afghan Taliban, and Jamat-ud-Dawa. Whether it lacks the will or the capability to do so is unclear.
    Afghanistan claims that Pakistan does not intend to meaningfully secure its borders, a move that would disrupt the militant safe-havens along the Af-Pak border. The Afghan Taliban are said to have held open court in the Pakistani city of Quetta to appoint the successor of reclusive leader Mullah Muhammad Omar after the announcement of his death in July 2015. In November 2015, a U.S. drone strike in northeastern Afghanistan killed 21 members of a banned jihadist outfit. Their bodies, wrapped in flags of the al-Badr militant group, were brought across the border to Pakistan’s mountainous Dir district. Pakistani mourners offered funeral prayers for the militants the same day army chief General Raheel Sharif concluded his weeklong visit to the United States, promoting Pakistan’s narrative of being tough on terrorism. Former Pakistani senator Afrasiab Khattak told a Pashto language radio station that the government must publicly identify those fighters killed in Afghanistan and reveal who sent them to fight there. Lamenting the double standards in Pakistan policies regarding extremists, Khattak claimed that banned terrorist outfits continue to operate openly in Pakistan.
    Legal reforms and military operations can only curb terrorism and extremism if the government shows real commitment to its enforcement. The National Action Plan (NAP), unanimously approved by all Pakistani political parties after the army school attack, states that militant groups will not be allowed to operate in Pakistan. Yet events in the last year suggest this law is not being adequately enforced. Additionally, since the June 2014 launch of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, a military operation targeting terrorists in North Waziristan, Pakistan’s military and civilian officials claim to be cracking down indiscriminately against militants and jihadi groups. However, interviews conducted in Pakistan’s tribal areas suggest that only the TTP and anti-Pakistan armed groups were targeted, while those groups focused on Afghanistan have been spared.
    For years, Afghanistan has accused Pakistan of supporting the Taliban and members of the Haqqani Network who carry out attacks inside Afghanistan, which Pakistan ardently denies. Amidst these tensions, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani paid a three-day visit to Islamabad in November 2014, just a month after winning the presidency, to meet with civilian leaders and General Sharif. But the good will that Ghani’s visit generated ended with a familiar deadlock, when Kabul suffered several Taliban attacks in August. The Taliban’s strength is blamed, in part, on Pakistan’s security failures. This weakened President Ghani’s position with his opponents in Kabul, who hadwarned against investing too much trust in Pakistan. Had some degree of peace returned to Afghanistan after Ghani’s visit, he could have positioned his administration to take bold steps towards renewing his relationship with Pakistan.
    The instability of war between two neighboring countries usually benefits the non-state actors and militant groups on both sides of the border, as exemplified by the decades-long Af-Pak conflict. For example, the man responsible for the massacre of schoolchildren in Peshawar, Mullah Fazlullah, would likely not be at-large if the two neighbors could agree on a joint strategy to target militants. The emergence of ISIS and its growing influence over several Afghan districts in recent months should serve as a wakeup call for Pakistan as well as Afghanistan, because most of the known leaders and members of IS are being recruited from the Pakistani Taliban. With the Afghan Taliban enjoying sanctuaries on the Pakistani side of the border, the Afghan and Pakistani government alike should be wary that ISIS may spread its tentacles into unstable border regions and into the heart of Pakistan itself.
    In fighting IS, Pakistan should apply the lessons it learned from its fight against the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. Following several ruthless ground offensives and air strikes, the Pakistani military has almost wiped out the once-dreaded TTP. Yet the group’s renewed presence across the border in Afghanistan could provide a staging ground for a comeback if Pakistan withdraws troops from its tribal territory near the border.
    Asfandyar Wali Khan, chief of the Pakistani nationalist Awami National Party, was part of a three-member Pakistani delegation that visited Kabulduring the last week of November to persuade Afghan President Ghani to restart the stalled peace process with Pakistan. Stressing the importance of a shared security strategy, Khan warned, “I can predict a situation more serious than Syria if the two countries [Afghanistan and Pakistan] fail to start the [peace] process until April 2016.” If Afghanistan and Pakistan cannot cooperate with one another, they will both continue suffering from the scourge of terrorism. To honor the upcoming anniversary of the Peshawar army school massacre, Afghanistan and Pakistan must strengthen their relationship and move together towards a more secure future.

    Pakistanis outraged over unending terrorist rampages

    Altaf Hussain will never forget his 6-year-old daughter's first day of school on Dec. 16, 2014. Seven Taliban gunman attacked the Peshawar Army Public School in Pakistan’s unruly north, and killed the girl and 131 classmates. “Who knew that my daughter Khaula’s first-day at school will be her last day?" he lamented. A year later, grief lingers over the loss of 141 people along with outrage over thePakistani government's failure to curb terrorist rampages that continue to plague the region.

    Violence continues unabated along the Afghan-Pakistani border that Afghan and Pakistani Taliban fighters routinely cross, analysts say. Just this past Sunday, a bomb exploded in remote Parachinar, killing at least 23 people and wounding dozens more. Police arrested two Taliban suspects after the attack.
    “Both Pakistani Taliban head Maulana Fazlullah and his leading commander, Omar Mansoor, are based in Afghanistan and are forever planning and executing new attacks,” said Rahimullah Yusufzai, a Peshawar-based expert on Afghan affairs. “The presence of the safe havens of the Pakistani militants in Afghanistan is an undeniable fact.”
    After the school massacre, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif swore to crack down on the Pakistani Taliban fighters who staged the attack with a raft of measures that included lifting a seven-year moratorium on the death penalty for terrorism.
    This year, authorities have hanged more than 300 people on terror-related crimes and other offenses, according to Amnesty International. Last week, the government put to death four terrorists charged in connection with the school attack and on Wednesday it executed eight convicted murderers.
    Talat Masood, a retired lieutenant general and independent defense expert in Islamabad, said the military has succeeded in clearing militant sanctuaries in the northwest and forced some Taliban to flee.
    But the police force and the judicial system remain very weak, he adds, and oversight of religious schools that teach extremism and mosques that preach militancy is practically non-existent.
    Some critics say the government has used the death penalty to target political opponents instead of just extremists. “The end of the moratorium on the death penalty has resulted in more executions of non-terrorists than terrorists,” said Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States and a senior fellow at Hudson Institute, a think tank in Washington, D.C. "Several terrorist groups ...and the Afghan Taliban still flourish.”
    Afghanistan has little reason to help Pakistan with the problem because Pakistani leaders aren’t controlling Islamic militants who plan their attacks in Pakistan and go across the border to target Afghan cities and troops.
    The Afghan government in Kabul "has been countering Islamabad’s allegations on this point by pointing to the presence of the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network leadership in Pakistan,” said Yusufzai.
    Pakistani leaders are reluctant to crush Afghan terrorists on their territory because they hope the militants might become peaceful, join mainstream politics in Kabul and become Pakistan’s allies in the future, said Haqqani. Those leaders are misguided, he said.
    “Attacking one group but hoping another will just become a political party means that we are allowing some Jihadis (warriors) to become dormant to fight another day,” said the former ambassador.
    Failure to end the terror attacks infuriates Hussain, who taught at the Army school and was shot by gunmen as he tried to fight them. He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he learned of his daughter's death. “A day doesn’t go by when I don’t think of Khaula,” he said. “I just wish I had got a chance to see her one last time.”

    Video Report - Pakistan school massacre survivors still haunted one year on

    One year after Taliban gunmen massacred more than 150 people, mostly students at a school in northwestern Pakistan, victims remain haunted by the memory while parents are still looking for answers from the government. SHOW MORE

    Pakistan - Remembering the Peshawar Attack

    No answers for revenge-seeking Peshawar APS massacre parents

    Parents of children martyred in the Army Public School attack are seeking retribution: not only from the Taliban gunmen who slaughtered their children one year ago, but from a state they say has not yet answered for the nightmare they are still living.

    The massacre saw nine extremists scale the walls of the army-run school, lobbing grenades and opening fire on terrified children and teachers, murdering them one by one before being killed by security services. Many of the mothers and fathers of more than 130 children murdered in the December 16 attack are ethnic Pashtun, their lives infused with the tribal code of ethics of which badal – or revenge – is a cornerstone. As such they take grim satisfaction in knowing that the military has wreaked its vengeance on the insurgents with hangings, arrests, and an offensive in the tribal areas where militants had previously operated with impunity.

    But the same parents are railing against a deafening silence from authorities over how a security apparatus put in place to protect them could have failed their children so completely. “At least someone at some level was responsible... Why don’t they talk about it?” asks Abid Raza Bangash, whose 15-year-old son Rafiq was among those slaughtered. The assault – in which 134 children and 15 adults died – shocked and outraged Pakistanis, already scarred by nearly a decade of attacks, and prompted a crackdown on extremism in civil society.

    But no government, security or military official has yet been held to public account. Bangash left his job as an engineer to become head of the Shuhada (Martyrs) Forum, a lobbying group of parents of the victims who gather on the 16th of every month in the city’s cultural centre, Nishtar Hall. “We want a fact-finding inquiry commission headed by a senior judge to probe this incident. The findings of that commission should be made public,” he told AFP. “Still my heart is crying,” he says, remembering his bright son. “How can I forget him?” 

    Victims' families still traumatized a year after Peshawar attacks

    One year since the Taliban attacks on a school in Pakistan's Peshawar city, the families of slain students are still struggling to come to terms with the tragedy. Have the authorities learnt any lesson from the incident?
    Pakistani volunteers carry a student injured in the shootout at a school under attack by Taliban gunmen, at a local hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan,Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014
(AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)
    "I can never forget that day. We are still traumatized. There were dead bodies all over the place. I was fortunate to have escaped the massacre, but my brother couldn't," Zakariya Aijaz, a student of Peshawar's Army Public School, told DW.
    It's been one year since the Taliban stormed the school and killed over 141 people, mostly students, in one of the most heinous and barbaric terrorist attacks in Pakistan's history, but the wounds are still fresh. The Pakistani Taliban claimed the responsibility for the school siege and attack and said the assault was a "response to the military's 'Zarb-e-Azb' offensive."
    "They shot my son Shehzad eleven times. What was his crime? How can I ever be at peace in this life?" Zakariya and Shehzad's father, Mian Aijaz Ahmed, spoke to DW in a broken voice.
    "I don't care what the government has done to punish the culprits. My son won't come back," he added.
    Family members(Mother and sister) of Mubeen shah killed in attack on APS in Peshawar on 16 Dec 2014
(Photo: DW/Faridullah Khan)
    The victims' families are not satisfied with the government's response
    Dissatisfaction with the government's efforts
    The victims' families are not satisfied with the government's response. They say that the perpetrators of the massacre are still at large, and the authorities have only taken half-hearted steps to eradicate terrorism.
    DW's Peshawar correspondent Faridullah Khan says the parents of the slain students have decided to boycott all government ceremonies on December 16 that will be held to commemorate the attacks' first anniversary.
    "We've been told that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif wants to meet us on December 16. Isn't it sad that the premier realizes it only now, after one year, that he should come visit us?" Zahoor Ahmed, father of a slain student, told DW.
    Fazal Khan, who heads a committee of the victims' families and relatives, says the government still seems to be in two minds about who to hold responsible for the assault.
    "The Army Public School is situated in the most secure area of Peshawar. There are troops all over the cantonment. Then how did the terrorists succeed in launching such a massive attack?" said the mother of Mubin Shah. "If my son was not safe in the army cantonment, then nobody is safe anywhere in the country," she told DW.
    Zahoor Ahmed believes the Peshawar attacks could not have happened without the support or connivance of some security officials. "The government should also punish the terrorists' accomplices and supporters."
    Blaming others
    The December 16 attacks led to widespread condemnation of the Taliban both locally and internationally. A large number of Pakistanis demanded the government take decisive action against all Islamist groups in the country once and for all.
    Many hoped that the Peshawar attacks provided an excellent opportunity for the Pakistani authorities to do some introspection and re-evaluate the country's decades-old security policies. Islamabad, however, chose to put the blame on "external elements," yet again.
    But long before the civilian government could reach a political consensus on how to deal with home-grown Islamists, a number of conservative political commentators, religious parties, and members of the security establishment had already begun talking about the alleged role of New Delhi and Kabul in the attack.
    Zeenia Shaukat, an activist working for a labor rights institution in Karachi, does not find the Pakistani reaction surprising. "The 'Indian agents' thinking is deeply entrenched not only in the mindset of our policy-makers, but also among the general public. Unfortunately, the media too promotes the 'foreign forces-did-it' narrative," she told DW.
    Former DW Urdu journalist and Islamabad based analyst Agha Sattar said that Pakistan needed a long-term policy to eradicate terrorism. "It might be true that some external elements were behind the Peshawar attack, but Islamabad needs to look internally as well," he told DW.
    Military back in driving seat
    Instead of punishing the school attackers and going after the Taliban, the Pakistani military used the incident to increase its political clout in the country, experts say. The army created a parallel judicial system in the country and established military courts, arguing that the civilian justice system was incapable of dealing with terrorism-related cases.
    In the aftermath of the December 16 school massacre, Pakistan also lifted a seven-year-long moratorium on death penalties. More than 8,000 Pakistanis, including juveniles, are currently on death row, according to rights group Amnesty International (AI), which has sharply condemned the recent executions.
    The South Asian country's National Action Plan (NAP), which was introduced after the Peshawar attacks, has given the army an upper hand in the security affairs, which in a democratic set up should have been the domain of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government, according to the International Crisis Group (ICG).
    A Pakistani soldier walks amidst the debris in an army-run school a day after an attack by Taliban militants in Peshawar on December 17, 2014
(Photo: A Majeed/AFP/Getty Images)
    The December 16 attacks led to widespread condemnation of the Taliban both locally and internationally
    "The militarization of counter-terrorism policy puts at risk Pakistan's evolution toward greater civilian rule, which is itself a necessary but not sufficient condition to stabilize the democratic transition," said ICG. "The NAP looks far more like a hastily-conceived wish-list devised for public consumption during a moment of crisis than a coherent strategy," it added.
    The ICG paper advises PM Sharif to take matters into his own hands and democratize the anti-terrorism strategy "in order to replace an overly militarized response with a revamped, intelligence-guided counter-terrorism strategy, led by civilian law enforcement agencies, particularly the police."
    Islamabad-based civil society activist and researcher Salim Shah believes the authorities are "hanging or using the hanging as a means to harass political opponents such as the nationalists in the western Balochistan province, or other political parties that are disliked by the military."
    Selective operations
    "The Taliban have been weakened, but retains the ability to carry out attacks like this. It would probably be harder for them to launch attacks further away from their area of operations, say in the eastern Punjab province, but Peshawar is very accessible from the tribal areas and would be an obvious target, as the army formation running the operation is based there," Omar Hamid, head of Asia Pacific Country Risk at the global analytics firm IHS in London, told DW.
    Islamabad-based journalist for Dawn newspaper, Irfan Haider, says that the ongoing North Waziristan military offensive has not been effective due to a lack of coordination between the civil and military intelligence agencies.
    "The militant organizations are operating with different names, making it difficult for the federal and provincial governments to deal with them," Haider told DW.
    However, analyst Abdul Agha is of the view that his country's powerful army is responsible for the continuing strength of the Islamists. "They are nurturing and supporting a number of militant groups. The result is that they are still very active," he told DW.
    Commenting on the army operation, Agha said "the government is going after the [militant groups] that have turned against the state, or who don't agree with its long-term plans vis-à-vis Afghanistan. Pakistan wants to eliminate some and will preserve some for the future."


    Bilawal Bhutto Zardari Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party has paid glowing tributes to 132 children among 140 innocent people who were martyred in a horrific terrorist attack on Army Public School, Peshawar a year back on December 16.

    In his message on the first anniversary of the APS Peshawar terrorist attack, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that these innocent souls had united the entire nation through their blood and sacrifices. This attack brought, even those who wept at the deaths of notorious terrorists, to the page created by Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto through her first salvo of fight against terrorism, he added.

    The PPP Chairman said that the best way to pay homage the APS martyrs and others is maintaining the unity among entire people and all the institutions to eliminate the monster of terrorism once for all to save our children and masses from falling victims to such carnages in future.

    Bilawal Bhutto said as a Chairman of the PPP he has instructed his Party government in Sindh province to rename an educational institution and a library with the APS students and teachers martyrs and construct a monument in their memories in Provincial capital.
    He said the nation and the PPP will never forget the innocent children of Peshawar school and saluted their parents for standing as rocks; inspiring the nation’s commitment to the war against terrorism.