As families buried the last of the 21 people killed by terrorists in the deadly assault on the Bacha Khan University, Pakistan on Thursday demanded swift action against the attack’s mastermind after initial investigations confirmed that it had been orchestrated from across the border.
Army chief Gen Raheel Sharif telephoned Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Dr Abdullah Abdullah and Commander Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan General John Campbell to share details of Pakistani investigations.
At least 21 people, mostly students, were killed and 35 others were injured when four terrorists stormed the university in Charsadda in a brazen attack that was reminiscent of December 2014 Army Public School massacre. The damage was far less this time due to prompt action by security forces.
According to the military’s chief spokesperson Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa, the army chief informed Afghan leadership and the US general that investigations and leads indicated that the attack had been controlled from Afghanistan by a TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan) operative.
“As investigations and leads indicate so far, the Charsadda terror attack was being controlled from a location in Afghanistan through Afghan cell phone by a TTP operative,” the director-general of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said.
“COAS asked for their (Afghan leaders’ and Resolute Support Commander) cooperation in locating and targeting those responsible for this heinous act (attack on Bacha Khan University) and bring them to justice.”
A splinter group of the outlawed TTP, which was behind the APS massacre, had claimed responsibility for the Bacha Khan University attack in a Facebook post. However, the fugitive leadership of the umbrella group denied involvement.
The splinter group’s chief, Umar Mansoor, is believed to have fled to neighbouring Afghanistan in 2014 when the military had launched a full-scale ground offensive against militant hideouts in the tribal areas.
Pakistan has long been seeking action against what it calls ‘terrorist sanctuaries’ of TTP on Afghan soil, especially the group’s leader Mullah Fazlullah, who had been blamed for orchestrating the APS attack.
Kabul has promised to eliminate terrorist safe havens but officials here said little action has been taken in this regard.
But relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have remained fragile in recent months as the two sides blamed each other for lack of cooperation to fight terrorism.
Last month, the Army Chief visited Kabul and both countries agreed to take a number of steps including setting up of a hotline between the senior military officials of the two countries to jointly tackle the problem of terrorism.
Wait for investigations to complete
At the weekly briefing on Thursday, Foreign Office Spokesperson Qazi Khalilullah strongly condemned the terrorist attack on Bacha Khan University, but advised caution over pointing fingers prematurely.
“We need to wait for completion of investigations before blaming anyone.”
Asked about what role Islamabad had played in asking Kabul to hand over terrorists or take action against terror sanctuaries on its soil, Khalilullah maintained that Pakistan’s civil and military authorities have maintained contacts with authorities in Afghanistan.
“During the early part of December 2015, Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process Ministerial Meeting was hosted by Pakistan. As Afghan leadership was here [in Islamabad] on that occasion, all issues of mutual interest and concern were discussed with them.”
Khalilullah added that when authorities of Pakistan and Afghanistan meet, they discuss all issues of mutual concern.
He reiterated that the Middle Eastern extremist organistaion Islamic State, commonly known for its Arabic acronym Da’ish, has no organised presence in Pakistan
Published in The Express Tribune, January 22nd, 2016.