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The APS Attack: Pakistan's 9/11


16th December 2014 was a day like no other. It was to change Pakistan forever. On this fateful day, seven armed gumnen stormed the building of the APS campus located in Peshawar and indiscriminately opened fire on teachers and children, killing a total of 150 people. The majority of which were students. This was an attack that shocked not only Pakistan but the world. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack so it was categorised as a terrorist offence. Nonetheless, this was a deadly massacre that not only proved fierce enough to be named as Pakistan's version of the 9/11 but also included schools as sites of violence in the war against terrorism.


In the aftermath of the APS attack, educational institutions were rendered vulnerable. There was immense fear amongst students from the school itself alongside those countrywide of attaining education. It was as if schools and education were a new target for the terrorists against the army and it terrified the youth as well as the parents. The attack's aftermath expected competent action from the Pakistani state. The Peshawar massacre had proved that there was something deeply flawed not only in terms of national security and the manner in which the state chose to engage with the terorists but also it was education and schools that needed reform as well. This attack did not only prompted swift short term action but had forced the state to enquire the matter deeply and look for long term plans to prevent this from happening again.


However, in wake of this incident, the government's reaction has not been anything but disappointing. Following the attack, the Pakistani military intensified its offensive against the Taliban in the north. Schools were asked to hire snipers and jack up their security. All the children that lost their lives in the attacked were named as martyrs and the ISPR also released an emotionally overpowering song to pay tribute to the victims, "bara dustman bana phirta hai jo bachon se larta hai", It was as if the state was not ready to pay attention to the larger issues at hand that could have been an underlying cause of this attack such as the education that these "mujahideen" receive in madrassas and how they needed reform. The main and only response was to deal with violence through violence. School security was immensely heightened across the country so much so that schools became a rather scary, militarised and suffocating space for children to study in instead of being comfortable and welcoming.


The survivors of the attack, enrolled students at APS also did not receive the required psychological support needed. According to a teacher, some counsellors were only assigned for certain months after the attack and then they left. Trauma and unhealthy enviornment to study in led to students getting bad grades and their future career choices being affected. The government simply provided monetary compensation to households that lost their children or had them injured and tightened the security of the school instead of providing the victims with justice and the survivors with emotional support and a guarantee that this would not happen again. The Pakistani government should have also looked at making counsellors mandatory at all schools as living in an active war with terriorists, experiencing and watching bomb blasts all day on television screens does affect children. Even if this attack is kept in isolation, it was terrible and full of sorrow for all the students nationwide.


Response to a tragedy as grave as the Peshawar massacre is incredibly pertinent. Pakistan's response to it can only be counted as a short term fixture with beefed security and increased war efforts in the conflict against the Taliban. However, such an attack questions the state's priorities, focusing on a long term reform involving madrassas, psychological services at school amongst others are some of the policies that the state should have adopted and even must adopt now. It is important to question whether Pakistan has learned if anything from the APS tragedy in the long run.



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The APS attack was a devastating event that shook the nation. Your analysis rightly points out the need for a comprehensive and long-term response beyond immediate security measures. Prioritizing education reform, addressing the root causes, and providing psychological support to affected students are crucial for preventing such tragedies in the future. It's essential for the government to learn from this incident and implement measures that ensure a safer and healthier educational environment for all students.

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Thank you for raising this issue Sarwat, the INEE guidebook mentioned that a conflict analysis may be carried out by means of a workshop in the affected area or a desk study. Education stakeholders should advocate for appropriate agencies to undertake comprehensive conflict analyses, including education-specific information, and to share the findings with all interested parties. It also talked about the psychological support that needs to be given after such a tragedy. The handbook also talked about keeping education safe from attack which meant enriching the curriculum to include safety messages, psychosocial support and education on human rights, conflict resolution, peace building and humanitarian law. I think these are important things to take into consideration to help those who are…


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I agree with a lot that you have to say Sarwat! There is a proper method of going about such terrible incidents, and even if we take this incident as isolated, the state's response was inadequate on so many levels. However, one additional thing I would like to point out in your criticism of madrassas and the kind of education they provide is that do you not think the radical kind of education provided in the few madrassas that then promote violence has a lot to do with our education system being a direct inheritance from the British colonial system, and hence having a very top-down nature? If education in the different regions of Pakistan was altered and tweaked according…

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Thank you for raising an extremely pertinent question, Emaan. Even if education is transformed keeping in context local ideologies and beliefs, considering the overarching influence of religion in the country and the way it it more often than not rigidly weaponised against certain communities and imposed on the population at large. I believe that the concept of "martyrdom" and even fighting for the cause of Islam, the kind of radical Islam that is taught in madrassas even now will remain and crime rates will also be equally high. It would take effort and studies along with expert opinions I feel then to help transform madrassa curriculum, it is important to inculcate local ideas by separating them from fundamentalist tendencies,

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Fiza Jaffer
Fiza Jaffer
Nov 28, 2023

I agree with you Sarwat. The priorities of our government are indeed questionable. The government increased the security of schools and other educational institutions after APS attack, and provided monetary compensation to the families of the victims. The schools were also asked to hire snipers and jack up their security, and the ISPR released a famous song to pay tribute to the victims. However, the government did not provide adequate psychological support and justice for the survivors, and did not reform the education sector and the madrassas to prevent radicalization and promote tolerance and diversity. My blog on Madrassas also focused on how the government needs to reform the madrassa system and formalise the institutions.

Moreover, the government launched a…

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Exactly, thank you for mentioning the NAP Fiza. The tragedy with Pakistan is mostly that policies and laws would be in place however there is no proper implementation go such laws that then fuels such instances.

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Saghaam Fatima
Saghaam Fatima
Nov 27, 2023

There is no denying that this event was terrifying—I still get chills thinking about that day. It was an ordinary day at school, and when we heard the news, there were cries and an unsettling silence at the same time. I agree with you that the government has made an unacceptable error by failing to address the underlying causes of the attacks and their long-term effects on psychological health and education. Simply putting up strict security measures, in my opinion, shows how inadequate the state's response was. At the time, I felt unsafe despite the overwhelming number of guards at the entry and the electric boundaries around the school. I cannot even begin to comprehend the pain that the victims…


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Thank you for your for comment, Saghaam! In terms of psychological support, as even I mentioned in the blog, counsellors should be mandatory in schools who are able to talk to students and teachers about such harrowing incidents and help them process their feelings. For long term reforms in education, it is important too encounter the radical concept of "martyrdom" that is mostly taught in madrassas and also any intolerance that is exhibited, inter faith dialogues should also be introduced in schools to promote peace.

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