Pakistan’s top judge orders first official probe into 2014 attack on Peshawar military school that left more than 150 people dead
Criticism of Pakistan’s powerful armed forces, especially their counter-insurgency operations, is largely seen as a red line in the country
Pakistan’s top judge has ordered the first official investigation into the country’s deadliest terror attack, a massacre at a school that killed more than 150 people in 2014, authorities said on Thursday.
Relatives of the victims – mainly children – have long called for an accounting of the security and intelligence failures that allowed Pakistani Taliban gunmen to storm the school, run by the powerful military, in the northwestern city of Peshawar on December 16 that year.
No government or military official has ever been held to account for the security failings. Criticism of Pakistan’s powerful armed forces, especially their counter-insurgency operations, is largely seen as a red line in the country.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar ordered the formation of a judicial commission to examine the attack during a court hearing in Peshawar on Wednesday, said Abdul Latif Yousafzai, advocate general of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The inquiry was set to be completed in two months, he added.
No official explanation of the timing was given. But the announcement came after the newly formed Pashtun Protection Movement (PTM) civil rights group has made the issue a central demand in recent months, putting renewed pressure on the government.
PTM is set to hold a massive rally in the sprawling port city of Karachi on Sunday, which is home to millions of ethnic Pashtuns and expected to draw thousands of supporters.
Following the announcement, families of the victims cheered the decision, with some moved to tears.
Ajun Khan, who lost his only son in the attack, said he hopes the commission can uncover who was responsible for the negligence that allowed the militants to execute the hours-long bloodbath.
“We want the commission to probe the incident and place a responsibility for the negligence and failure of the state to protect our children,” Khan said.
The investigation will follow a dramatic improvement in security across the country following several successful military offensives targeting extremist strongholds.
The alleged mastermind behind the school attack was killed in a drone strike in 2017, according to the Pakistani Taliban, which have claimed responsibility for it.
The Pakistani state has also said it has hanged at least four men involved in the attack, though the nature of their role has not been made public.
Pakistan’s inability or unwillingness to tackle domestic terrorism also led to a diplomatic fallout with the US, which earlier this year suspended US$900 million in security assistance, citing Pakistan’s failure to take “decisive action”.
Washington had long threatened to cut aid to Islamabad over its failure to crack down on groups such as the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network, which it claims operates from bases in Pakistan’s northwest.
Pakistan has fought fierce campaigns against home-grown Islamist groups, and claims it has lost thousands of lives and spent billions of dollars in its long war on extremism. But US officials have accused Islamabad of ignoring or even collaborating with groups that attack Afghanistan from safe havens along the border between the two countries.