As Pakistan began to bury its children Wednesday, the world reacted to one of the most horrifying terrorist acts in recent years: the Taliban’s methodical assault on a school in Peshawar. The death toll in Tuesday’s attack stands at 141 people, including 132 children, as survivors recounted point-blank-range elimination of one student after another.
The news was splashed across front pages, as both Pakistani and foreign commentators tried to take measure of this latest chapter of violence by Islamic extremists.
Calling the massacre a "black day," Pakistan's Dawn newspaper offered detailed reporting on just what happened inside the school, which included many students from military families. The daily described Pakistan as a country in "deep mourning," and published this dramatic photo essay on its website.
Pakistani daily The Nation, instead, included an editorial that took aim at the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, saying it has contributed “absolutely nothing towards building a narrative against extremism.” The newspaper wrote that “everyone, from the wider population to the civil and military leadership is responsible for the barbarity our children were subjected to.”
Omar Quraishi of Pakistan daily Express Tribune used Twitter to give some chilling perspective on what happened:
There is no Class 9 anymore at Army Public School Peshawar - all the students were killed in the attack - 1 survived - his alarm didnt ring
— omar r quraishi (@omar_quraishi) December 17, 2014
The news dominated newspaper front pages around the world.
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The Times of India amply reported details of the attack, noting how many of the children had been systematically shot in the head. In an accompanying article the paper wondered if sectors of the Pakistani army long suspected of ambigious relationships with terrorists might now change their ways. This article said we should read closely the "narrative" that the army will put forth, and see if it would change its discourse on the Taliban. If the Pakistani army decided again to blame "outside countries" for the attack, the daily wrote, that meant more "business as usual."
In China, the government, via the pages of the People's Daily expressed its condolences to the victims and their families. The spokesman of China's Foreign Minister Qin Gang declared that China stands firmly with the international community in the fight against terrorism.
At the same time on China's ever active social media, there was a small wave of panic about what happened in Peshawar. On Weibo, the Chinese Twitter, some users were comparing the Taliban to Islamic minorities in the country’s northwest, and even to Nazis.
-Islam and Terrorism are not the same thing. Terrorism belongs to an extreme minority with certain political demands. The Islamic belief of a person is not the reason that he becomes terrorist. And it is not wise to isolate and demonize Islam.
-So what you mean by that is that Nazis had nothing to do with German people? No, they are closely related.
-Yes, Nazis WERE German people.
-So in this case, the Communist party represents all Chinese.
In Iran, the conservative daily Jomhuri-e Eslami cited agencies to carry a factual report of the "bloody attack," while Jaam-e Jam, the newspaper of Iran's state broadcaster, called a "massacre of children." though its report remained factual. Another very conservative Tehran paper, Kayhan, briefly reported on the "bloody hostage" incident, calling the Taliban terrorists. Next to that it had a report of similar size on the Islamic State recently murdering 150 women in Iraq, perhaps intended to put it "in perspective." The Iranian leadership despises the Taliban, but also have little sympathy for Pakistan and its military, whom Iran intermittently suspects of backing Sunni separatists in southeastern Iran.
The New York Times lead editorial Wednesday was entitled "The Taliban's Massacre of Innocents in Pakistan," and urged the country's leaders to recalibrate their policy toward the insurgents. "To defeat the extremists, Pakistan will need more than a military strategy. It will need responsible governance and an acknowledgment by top leaders that they cannot contain attacks from one terrorist group while enabling another one.
One commenter on the Times website referred to a quote from French mathematician and theologian Blaise Pascal: "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it with religious conviction."
Radio France Internationale reported that the aim of the Taliban attack on the military school was, above all, "to make the military suffer" for the army's operations in its stronghold of Waziristan — and indeed most of the dead were children of soldiers attending the academy. Pakistan specialist Maryam Abu Zahab told the broadcaster the bombing was a strictly vindictive act, because she said, the killers know that "the Pakistanis have long stopped supporting the Taliban."
Lebanon"s L'Orient le Jour called the attack the "bloodiest killing in Pakistan's history," while its columnist Anthony Samrani asked "how far will the horror race go?" It is, he observed, as if "terrorists from around the world were competing week after week to win the title of the year's most monstruous act."
Milenio newspaper in Mexico citing Notimex, carried a factual report of the attack, though citing a Taliban spokesman's comments that the assailants had been ordered to "shoot older students, not the young ones." Another newspaper, Excelsior, carried pictures of dead and injured children in its report on a "bloodbath at a Pakistani school."
TeleSur, the broadcaster affiliated with Venezuela's socialist regime, reported the incident as an attack, without using words like massacre or terrorism. The next day it "condemned" the attack of sorts, by reporting Nobel laureate Malala Yousefzai's reactions.
Madrid newspaper, El País, cited the analyst Michael Kugelman as saying that the attack opened a "new phase" indicating that the Pakistani Taliban had regrouped and were ready to fight. Pakistan's successful response he said, depended on its ability to destroy their "ideology and funding."