Six years ago, on December 16, 2014, militants attacked Army Public School (APS) Peshawar killing 147 people including 132 students. On Friday September 25, the report by the judicial commission appointed two years ago to inquire into the circumstances surrounding the attack was furnished before the Supreme Court.
However, as an Editorial in Dawn notes, “the 525-page document contains much information that is unlikely to be of substantial comfort to the families; indeed its findings reveal how a faster and better coordinated response could have thwarted the attack, or resulted in fewer deaths. Based on statements from victims’ families, police, bureaucrats and military personnel, as well as its own observations, the report delves into the three-layer security protocol meant to keep the school safe. There were the guards at the gate, two Mobile Vigilance Teams in the vicinity, the Quick Response Force stationed 10 minutes away and the police’s Rapid Response Force for deployment in the cantonment area. One MVT was lured further afield by a simple decoy tactic: the attackers set alight the vehicle in which they had arrived. That enabled them to sneak into the school premises from the back wall, a critical advantage because they took up their positions inside before anyone was aware an attack was underway.”
Further as the inquiry report notes “the guards displayed total inertia when the sounds of gunfire were first heard from within. The victims’ parents also questioned why the police were not allowed to enter despite having arrived on the scene and notwithstanding that the commandos had not yet reached the site. Above all though, the report regretted that locals had provided shelter to some of the terrorists, thereby facilitating them in their evil designs. This was a tragedy so monumental that it will likely remain forever seared in the national consciousness. What happened in its aftermath is equally heartbreaking. The victims’ families found themselves stone-walled by the authorities when they demanded answers as to why the security apparatus failed the children so completely and when there would be any accountability for that. At least some of their questions have been answered now. Certainly the security forces have foiled many heinous plots but as the APS attack demonstrates, terrorists have to be lucky just once to negate those efforts.”