Pakistan senators want probe into 2014 school massacre

ISLAMABAD - The two houses of parliament paid tribute on Wednesday to the martyrs of the Army Public School (APS), Peshawar, on the first anniversary of the school massacre.

After suspending their normal agendas, the National Assembly and the Senate allowed a debate on the issue and adopted unanimous resolutions to share their grief with the parents who had lost their children in the tragedy as well as with the families of the deceased teachers.

Taking part in the debate, the opposition lawmakers criticised what they called poor implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) which, they said had lost its direction.

While most of the speeches delivered in the two houses contained common points, the only difference in the Senate debate was that the members from across the aisle called for constituting an independent judicial commission to fix responsibility for security and intelligence failure which had led to the attack on the APS.

The senators also called for exposing the people responsible for other major disasters like the 1971 East Pakistan tragedy, the 1999 Kargil debacle and killing of Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad.

The opposition senators also walked out of the house to register their protest against alleged "inaction" of the rulers in the fight against terror.

Senators want judicial probe into APS attack; both houses adopt resolutions to pay homage to martyrs

Before the walkout, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Aitzaz Ahsan said the government had the mandate of all parties which no government in the past had to fight against terror, but alleged that the rulers were busy only in making money through big contracts.

The two resolutions, though passed separately with different texts, recommended declaring 16th December as "Pakistan children's Day" (or any other appropriate name) in memory of the martyrs, and every year the day must be spent for Dua for the martyrs and for peace and prosperity of the country in all educational institutions.

NATIONAL ASSEMBLY: It was Nafisa Shah of the PPP who took the lead in the lower house and raised a number of questions for Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan to answer. She said that at the time of launching the NAP the house was told that in future there would be no more good or bad Taliban.

"However, recent arrival of dead bodies in Dir district tells a different story and, more importantly, how a religious scholar of famous Lal Masjid has raised his head again needs explanation from the interior minister."

The PPP lawmaker also sought detailed information about the number of terrorists sent to the gallows because "at the moment it's unclear if those hanged were terrorists or routine convicts on death row".

She said the NAP had been turned into 'Sindh Action Plan' as elsewhere, including the federal capital, people involved in delivering hate speeches weren't even questioned.

PTI's Dr Arif Alvi said that among all 20 points of the NAP, the building of counter-narrative against extremists and banned organisations involved in armed militancy was of key importance. "But unfortunately, nothing has happened on this front," he regretted.

Saman Sultana Jafri of the MQM said till the time the government would keep on shying away from naming operatives of the TTP and Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and people like Maulana Abdul Aziz of Lal Masjid, "outsiders will keep on questioning if we are serious in our efforts to eliminate extremism from our society".

She regretted that people like Maulana Aziz who had been expressing their allegiance to banned organisations continued to enjoy support of various quarters.

JUI-F's Aasiya Nasir said religious extremists in Lahore and Islamabad were challenging the writ of the state with impunity. "In Lahore, people have put up banners against a religious minority, and what's happening here in Islamabad is in front of everybody. Doesn't it come under hate speech?"

SENATE: Senator Tahir Mashhadi of the MQM termed the APS attack "a black spot on the face of forces and intelligence agencies". He called for constituting a "fact-finding mission" comprising judges of the Supreme Court to hold investigation into the Peshawar school attack. He said the nation was not satisfied with the steps taken by the government after the dastardly APS attack.

Hafiz Hamdullah of the JUI-F wondered how the terrorists had managed to reach the highly secured cantonment area in a car to carry out the attack. He said the facilitators of the terrorists were being executed, but "security institutions" were not being questioned for their "negligence".

The JUI-F senator also called for making public the Hamoodur Rehman Commission report on the East Pakistan tragedy.

Retired Lt Gen Salahuddin Tirmizi of the PML-N said the country had a history of putting matters under the carpet since the assassination of the first prime minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, in 1951.

"What happened in Abbottabad and what foolishness was committed in Kargil? For God's sake, hold inquiry into all these incidents to prevent repeat of such events in future," he said.

PPP's Sherry Rehman said families of the APS martyrs wanted only a judicial inquiry and nothing else. She regretted that a whole year had passed, but the government had not come up with any report on the incident.

She called for taking firm action against the banned outfits operating with new names.

Usman Kakar of the Pakhtunkhwa Mili Awami Party said that "our own institutions" were responsible for terrorism in the country. He said the banned organisations were still running FM stations in tribal areas.

Saeed Ghani of the PPP read out all 20 points of the NAP and said none of these had been implemented.