Friday Dec 16, 2022
NEW YORK: Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari Friday warned of “direct action” against the cross-border terrorism by the proscribed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) or other militant groups.
The foreign minister made the remarks while addressing an event to commemorate the 8th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar held at the UN Headquarters in New York.
“Pakistan will not tolerate such cross-border terrorism by the TTP or other terrorist groups, like the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), which are also receiving financial and other support from hostile quarters. We reserve the right to take direct action against them,” he said.
The outlawed TTP called off the ceasefire last month and has been attacking citizens and armed forces alike. The terrorist group's foothold has also started increasing after the Taliban came into power in Afghanistan.
Hosted by Pakistan, the event was held as part of the UN’s Office of Counter Terrorism’s “Remembrance of the Victims of Terrorism” campaign.
Started with one-minute silence, the commemorative event brought together the UN member states, victims, experts, academics, civil society organisations and representatives of law enforcement agencies.
In his address, the foreign minister said 132 children and eight teachers and staff at the School had died in that attack and several others were injured.
The attack was claimed by the so-called TTP, an entity listed as a terrorist organisation by the Security Council and many Member States, he added.
“This terrorist attack was particularly heinous because the clear aim of the terrorists was to kill children. In this sense, it was a targeted attack designed to deal a grievous blow to the morale of the people of Pakistan,” Bilawal said.
He told the gathering that instead, the shock of the APS massacre mobilized the Pakistani nation and motivated it to eliminate all terrorists from their soil as massive military operations were undertaken to cleanse the frontiers of the TTP and associated terrorist groups.
“Pakistan’s operations were successful. Our territory was cleared of terrorists. We paid a heavy price — 80,000 civilians and soldiers killed or injured and the economy set back by $120 billion,” he remarked.
However, Bilawal said unfortunately the TTP and some other terrorist groups found “safe havens” and even more frequent attacks have been conducted against Pakistan’s military and civilian targets.
He said the brutal nature of the TTP, and its callous targeting of children in the APS attack, and other crimes should also reinforce the world community’s determination to combat and defeat the TTP, along with other terrorist organisations, like ISIL-K, operating in Afghanistan.
He told the participants that Pakistan’s intelligence agencies had “solid proof” of financial and organisational support and direction provided to the TTP.
“We have shared a comprehensive dossier with the Secretary-General and the Security Council containing concrete evidence of such external support to the TTP and other terrorist groups operating against Pakistan.”
The foreign minister said Pakistan had expected that the new authorities in Kabul would be able to convince or constrain the TTP from conducting cross-border terrorist attacks against Pakistan as they had promised to do in the Doha Agreement and in subsequent policy declarations.
“However, endeavours towards this end appear to have failed. The TTP seems to have been emboldened to declare a “war” against Pakistan. Its attacks have intensified.”
He expressed the hope that the remembrance of the APS attack would serve to mobilize the UN’s counter-terrorism machinery to address the threat of terrorism which presently emanated from Afghanistan and adjacent regions in a comprehensive and effective manner.
“We need to eliminate the “safe havens” of these terrorists; to cut off the sources of their financing and sponsorship; and to target and hold accountable individuals and entities responsible for the terrorist attacks or for sponsoring and financing such attacks,” he commented and assured Pakistan’s support to the UN and the international community in realising the said objectives.
The foreign minister also read out the last word of APS Principal Tahira Qazi “They are my children and I am their mother”; she uttered before being burnt alive by the terrorists in front of her pupils as she struggled to protect them.
He also showed the picture of a student Sher Shah Khattak who sacrificed his life while trying to save his classmates.
Bilawal told the gathering that he had also lost his mother in a terrorist attack carried out by the same terrorist organisation.