APS tragedy was a security failure, finds judicial inquiry

Justice Ibrahim of PHC authors report which says ‘such devastating disasters do happen when our own blood betrays us’

By: News Desk      Published: 02:28 PM, 25 Sep, 2020
APS tragedy was a security failure, finds judicial inquiry

The 2014 terrorist attack on Army Public School (APS) in Peshawar was a security failure, said the judicial commission which conducted an inquiry into the tragedy in which over 150 students and teachers were martyred, reported 24NewsHD TV channel.

The inquiry report which was made public on Friday said that the security personnel did not have the capability to thwart such a terrorist strike.

Comprising four parts, the 525-page report written by Justice Mohammad Ibrahim of the Peshawar High Court says Pakistan was active in the war on terrorism during which the terror activities peaked in the country.

However, the attacks on sensitive installations and soft targets could not be justified under the excuse of war, the report noted, adding that the country’s north-western border was long and insecure.

According to the report, the movement of refugees across the north-western border continues under the government and international treaties. But the local population providing assistance to extremist elements is an unpardonable crime. “Such devastating disasters do happen when our own blood betrays us.”

Because of such elements, not only the security arrangements made within limited resources fail but also help the enemy to fulfil their nefarious objectives.

In this scenario, it can be said that any agency, no matter how much resources it has, fails to stop such incidents when help is extended from within, the document mentioned.

The report said that the three security layers – guards stationed at the gate, police patrolling the area and the Quick Response Force available within 10 minutes – had shifted their focus to the smoke blowing out of the vehicle that was set on fire as part of the plan.

As a result, the security’s attention diverted from the APS and the terrorists managed to enter the school, it added.

The force patrolling the area moved towards the torched vehicle and the second team of security forces could not reach the school on time, the report said. This team failed to stop the terrorists till the arrival of Rapid Response Force and Quick Response Force, resulting in the tragedy, it is noted in the document.

Moreover, the report says, the NACTA (National Counter Terrorism Authority) had already issued a warning about the attack while noting that the terrorists could target the school.

The warning mentioned that the terrorists’ objective was to target the children of military personnel, as the report said their aim was to stop the Pakistan Army from moving ahead with Zarb-e-Azb and Khyber-I operations.

Although the Pakistan Army remained successful in Operation Zarb-e-Azb, the APS tragedy proved a dot on the success, the report says, adding that the incident raised a serious question on the security system.

Meanwhile, the report also notes that the entire of focus of security was the main gate with no one stationed in the backside which enabled the terrorists to enter the premises without any resistance. The number of personnel deputed for security was no enough to tackle the terrorists, it added.

The members of Quick Response Force and MVT-2 stopped the terrorists from moving towards the children’s block, says the report which added that the MVT-1 had been sentenced after a probe over showing negligence. 

Earlier, the Supreme Court on Friday ordered the government to make public the inquiry report on the Army Public School (Peshawar) massacre, in which over 150 people mostly children were martyred.

Moreover, the apex court also directed that the reply given by the Centre to the inquiry report must be shared with the people, as a three-member bench conducted the hearing of a suo motu notice taken on the tragic incident.

Appointing Amanullah Kanrani as amicus curiae to assist the court in the matter, the court said that the government should formulate a line of action on the basis of inquiry report with a strict action taken against the responsible persons.

Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed, who was heading the three-member bench, said the country had been facing a dilemma that the lower-level officials were removed in the case of every disaster.

“Action is not taken against the higher-level people,” the chief justice remarked. “Why are you running such a big country and system if the people are not safe,” he observed as further hearing of the case was adjourned for a month.

Last month, the Supreme Court had ordered Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan to get instructions from the federal government regarding the judicial commission report on the terrorist attack.

It had taken suo motu notice on complaints of the parents of the martyred children that the real culprits involved in the gruesome incident on December 16, 2014 had not yet been arrested by the authorities.

On Oct 5, 2018, former chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar had constituted the judicial commission and asked Peshawar High Court Chief Justice Waqar Ahmed Seth to nominate a senior judge for the purpose.

Justice Mohammad Ibrahim drafted the report after recording the statements of around 132 people, including 101 witnesses, 31 policemen, army personnel and other officers, as well as the parents of the martyred children.