Militants have once again raided an educational institution in northwest Pakistan. The attack at Bacha Khan University has seen over 21 people killed and many injured after the militants stormed the University campus. The militants were met with resistance from security forces and after a period of intense gun fighting, the situation was brought under control.
The latest attack was designed to maximize casualties and create terror and chaos in Pakistan since there are 3,000 students enrolled at university. Only just over a year ago, the militants had barbarically murdered 130 children in an Army Public School in Peshawar that shook both Pakistan and the world to its core.
The mastermind of the Peshawar attack, Umar Mansoor, of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed that this cold-blooded rampage was in response to the military operation that Pakistani Army is carrying out against the Taliban in the region, and that four attackers had been sent by them to the university. However, a spokesperson from the TTP, Mohammad Khorasani, issued a conflicting statement shortly after Mansoor's claim, in which Khorasani condemned the attack, terming it "against Shariah".
Whether TTP is responsible or not remains to be seen. However, whilst in Pakistan a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that Daesh were growing its supporters amongst the TTP sympathisers. The new generation of militants seem to be ISIS-inspired. Last month, Pakistani Counterterrorism unit captured a group in eastern Punjab who had allegedly pledged allegiance to the self-declared caliph of the so-called "Islamic State", Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Baghdadi has spoken on camera only once. But his address and the numerous propaganda videos released by ISIS are being watched by young people across the globe, including Pakistan.
The Taliban group, who failed to establish an "Islamic State" in Afghanistan, is now looking towards ISIS-governed territories for inspiration. ISIS also seems to be offering its moral support to these sympathisers. Whereas ISIS has been critical of Al-Qaida and the Afghan Taliban in its official magazine, 'Dabiq', it has been silent on the Pakistani Taliban and Pakistani sectarian organisations.
Needless to say that ISIS is not Islamic and it is certainly not a state. The horrific actions of these terrorists are neither Islamic nor legitimate, in any way shape or form. Targeting innocent civilians in educational institutions is satanic, and not Islamic. From the actions of the terrorists, it is clear that they are politically driven agents of hate and aim to cause as much carnage as possible. They are enemies of our civilisation and human progression through education.
Islam values human life and dignity, and the Noble Qur'an prohibits any persecution or killing of innocent human life in all its forms: "... whoever kills a soul ... it is as if he had killed mankind entirely. And whoever saves one, it is as if he has saved mankind entirely" (5: 32). Violent extremism, terrorism and taking lives of innocent people is against the teachings of Islam. One can only infer that those who commit such terrorist activities are against Islam and Muslims.
The Terrorists are not following any version of Islam, as some people claim. The modern-day extremists/terrorists are known as Khawārij; (literally 'those who went out' the fold of Islam). They emerged in 7th century (less than 40 years after the passing away of the Prophet (peace be upon him)). Essentially, when they emerged Khawarij had political ambitions and wanted to impose a distorted version of Islam on Muslims. The modern day terrorists have similar aspirations. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has prophesised that such people will not be following Islam and will not be admitted to Paradise because of their ill-actions.
These terrorists must be brought to justice by the government of Pakistan. Executions and military operations, although important, will not on their own prevent the spread of terrorism and potential recruitment of extremists. The breeding grounds of such khawarij, ideological and monetary sponsors of such extremists must also be exposed and dealt with according to Islamic law and the law of the land.
Given that ISIS are trying to recruit members in Pakistan, Pakistan needs to enhance its understanding of the changing extremists milieu and consider remodelling of its existing counter-terrorism strategy in the light of new emerging realities and online radicalisation of young people.