Its 9am and a group of young students have gathered outside the press club in Karachi.
They are dressed in neat school uniforms but instead of going to school they are here to show their support for the students killed in the attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar on the 16th of December.
“We are with the victims. We will never stop going to school. We will continue our education what ever the Taliban does,” said 8 year old protestor Munib Ahmed.
Over 130 students and nine staffers were killed in the attack in December. The Taliban militants say it was to avenge the ongoing army offensive against them. It was the country’s worst ever attack and sent shock waves across the country.
Many citizens like the law graduate, Ayesha Khurrum, are still traumatized. “I started crying and I was really can’t see that. I really can’t imagine that any human has that kind of brutal heart. And I was also thinking that the kids are future of our nation. We have to fight to the nation, we have to fight for Pakistan and fight for Islam actually,” said Ayesha Khurrum.
Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has lifted the moratorium placed on the capital punishment in 2008. In one week six terrorists were executed. Officials say 500 other prisoners on the death row for terrorism chargers will be executed in the coming weeks.
Pakistan’s human rights commission has expressed its concerns about the decision. Zohra Yousuf the group’s chairperson says the government should focus more on create tolerance and de-radicalisation programs.
She says there needs to be clear and consistent polices. “We cannot for example one day say that there are good Taliban or bad Taliban. Or there are certain extremist groups that we were happy with because they may not be acting against the Pakistani state, but for example they may be acting against our neighbors. If you take the case of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba that is involved in Kashmir and seems to be acting against India even that should not be tolerated,” said Zohra Yousuf.
She says unless there is zero tolerance for any form of extremist group or religious militant the problem will not resolve.
Many Islamic political groups like the Jamaat-e-Islami have also condemned the killing of school children. But there are some other groups that are openly preaching pro-militant ideology.
In a live television talk show the chief cleric at the famous Red Mosque, Moulana Abdul Aziz, refused to condemn the Taliban attack on the school. He also said enforcing Shariah law is the only solution to the problems facing the country. His religious seminary infamously taught female students that Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was an Islamic hero.
Zohra Yousuf chairperson of the national s human rights commission says the media should not be airing these views. “Unless there is boycott of such organizations by all, we will not be able to confront terrorism,” said Zohra Yousuf.
After the television program hundreds of the people protested outside the mosque in the capital Islamabad and also lodged a criminal case against the cleric.
27-year-old human rights activist, Jibran Nasir, is spearheading the street protests. “These clerics are in fact blaspheming. They are teaching a wrong interpretation of the holy book to children. They are creating misunderstandings. Enough is enough. Now, we will attend prayers and Friday sermons. If any of the clerics supported the Taliban and protect any murderer then we will stand up and oust that cleric from the mosque,” said Jibran Nasir.
The political and military leadership has established special military courts to conduct speedy trials of suspected terrorists and carry out executions. But, many say religious leaders promoting extremist views are the main problem that need to be addressed rather than hanging terrorists.
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