After school massacre, Pakistan's media point accusing fingers

Editorials in English-language media are casting blame on everyone from the prime minister to opposition firebrand Imran Khan to Army leaders. Across the border, Indian media are urging a further crackdown on the Taliban. 

Khuram Parvez/Reuters
People light candles in Peshawar on Wednesday in memory of the victims of the Taliban attack on a local military-run school.

Much of the Pakistani media has portrayed the Taliban’s brutal massacre on Tuesday – in which some 145 were killed, including 132 children – as a defining moment in Pakistan’s fight against militants. 

An editorial in Dawn, Pakistan's largest English-language daily, said that while Peshawar had suffered tragic events before, "nothing compares to the horror of what took place yesterday" at the military-run school in Peshawar. 

"The militants found the one target in which all the fears of Pakistan could coalesce: young children in school, vulnerable, helpless and whose deaths will strike a collective psychological blow that the country will take a long time to recover from, if ever," the editorial said.

Editorial boards and columnists across the country are calling for a further crackdown by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the Army. They've condemned everyone from Mr. Sharif to Imran Khan, an opposition leader, for not doing enough to stem the spread of the Pakistani Taliban, known as Tehreek e Taliban (TTP), and questioned why and how militants could so easily penetrate an Army-backed school. 

The editorial board of The Nation, an English daily, denounced Mr. Shariff for contributing “absolutely nothing towards building a narrative against extremism.” It accused him of taking no “meaningful political ownership” of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, a six-month military campaign against Taliban strongholds in North Waziristan.

The Daily Times, another English daily, wrote in its editorial that “there is no way the country and its leadership can let this one go; there is no way a solid, chapter-turning decision cannot be made after what is, no doubt, a national tragedy.” The editorial said “the government and military must understand once and for all that we are at war” and called for “a fitting response to the blackest day we have ever lived through.”

While Pakistani newspapers widely called for increased pressure on the Taliban, The Express Tribune expressed skepticism about the country’s resolve in fighting the extremist group.

“The national mindset remains unaltered, the paradigm impervious to reality and backwards-looking in so many ways,” the Tribune's editorial board wrote, adding that “addressing the root causes of the problem requires some hard questions being asked and answered – honestly answered.”

Support from India

Across the border in India, Pakistan’s long-time nuclear-armed rival, most media predictably called for Pakistan's leaders to take a harder line against the Taliban. Many have long criticized Pakistan’s government and military for allegedly appeasing the militant group and even using it as a political weapon.

Will Pak army stop backing terror now?” read the headline of a column published Wednesday in The Times of India, the country's leading daily.

In addition to the pointed criticism, India has also shown an outpouring of support for Pakistan in the aftermath of the country’s worst terrorist attack since 2008. Schools across India observed two minutes of silence Wednesday for the victims of Tuesday’s assault. Solidarity marches from New Delhi to Kolkata have also been scheduled.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his support on Twitter, where he called the attack “cowardly" and "a senseless act of unspeakable brutality."

“My heart goes out to everyone who has lost their loved ones today. We share their pain & offer our deepest condolences," he tweeted. "India stands firmly with Pakistan in fight against terror. Told PM Sharif we are ready to provide all assistance during this hour of grief."

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