On the morning of 16 December 2014, most Pakistanis woke to a damning reminder of the chequered record of the one institution that many call ‘Father’. That day is the anniversary of the loss of Pakistan’s eastern wing in 1971. Victory Day in Bangladesh is, in contrast, a day of sadness in much of Pakistan; more so in recent years following allegations that the national army was complicit in human rights abuses against its Bengali citizens. But forever more, 16 December will now be remembered for another atrocity: an act of indescribable inhumanity against the children of the nation’s soldiers. This was the deliberate, targeted, calculated, and cold-blooded murder of more than 130 children attending Peshawar’s Army Public School. The mornings to follow were characterised by grief, remembrance, helplessness, and the anger brewed by such vulnerability.

16 December became the day when all Pakistanis wept uncontrollably together. Pakistan’s soul had been stabbed.

Perhaps sensing the scale of the reaction, the Pakistani Taliban, while claiming responsibility for the attack, pretended to justify its massacre—as if any defence is possible—in retaliation for military ‘operations’ in North Waziristan and the killing of Taliban militants in government custody. Reports emerged that Pakistani intelligence was privy to a suspected attack on the school. According to the leading national English-language daily Dawn the government had prior knowledge that the killers had entered Peshawar three days ahead of the attack. The tragedy still occurred.

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