ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court asked the Attorney General (AGP) on Wednesday to look into grievances of the parents of children martyred in the attack on the Army Public School (APS) on Dec 16, 2014.
Headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Gulzar Ahmed, a two-judge Supreme Court bench took suo motu notice of complaints by the parents, asking the AGP to update it about the steps taken by the government to redress their grievances when the hearing resumes after two weeks.
A total of 147 people, 132 of them children, were martyred when militants stormed the APS-Warsak School, in Peshawar, almost seven years ago.
The chief justice said a number of women had submitted petitions seeking accountability of those civilian and military officials who, they believe, were responsible for security measures at the school.
When the parents insisted on registration of an FIR, Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel, the other member of the bench, reminded them that those who attacked the school were killed in an operation while some of those who were arrested after the tragedy were sentenced to death. But the parents argued that even though the attackers had been eliminated, those responsible for ensuring security were never called to account.
The parents said they were not interested in any kind of compensation, but wanted that those responsible for the massacre were brought to justice.
Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed assured them of the court’s assistance in their efforts for acceptance of their demands.
“The AG has been put on notice on the complaints and asked to take action, as required by the law, and if those who have been named are found guilty of negligence in the performance of their duties, necessary measures should be taken,” an order dictated by the Chief Justice said.
The court emphasised that unless some drastic efforts were made, the petitioners would not be satisfied.
After the hearing, a group of mothers told the media outside the courtroom that their case had finally come up for hearing after a year, reiterating that “we don’t want any compensation but only action against those responsible for the APS tragedy”.
On Oct 5, 2018, former chief justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar had appointed a judicial commission to probe the massacre, asking the late Peshawar High Court chief justice Waqar Ahmed Seth to nominate a PHC judge for the task.
Justice Mohammad Ibrahim Khan of the Peshawar High Court conducted the proceedings and presented the commission’s report, which the Supreme Court ordered to be made public.
The commission observed in its 525-page report it was regrettable that the APS episode had tarnished the image of the armed forces. It took to task the Askari Guards, as well as the other guards on duty, for “inertia in the face of initial heavy firing by the terrorists”.
The commission’s report consisted of statements by the bereaved families, evidence given by the bureaucracy, the police and the military. It made a special mention of “the belated response” to the assault by the security detail and highlighted the grievances shared by parents of the Shuhada (martyred students).
“Had the force shown a little more response and could engage the militants in the very beginning of the attack, the impact of the incident might have been lesser,” the report observed.
It praised the MVT-2 and the Quick Response Force for blunting the terrorists’ advance towards a student block through their prompt action.
“Our country was at war with an enemy which carried out occult activities and let loose terrorism which hit the highest point in 2013-14,” the report recalled. But it does not mean that our “sensitive installations and soft targets could be forsaken as a prey to terrorist attack”, the commission stressed.
Meanwhile, the federal government said in its reply that although the loss of precious lives was irreparable and no human action could lighten the pain of the bereaved families, the federal as well as the provincial governments had made every effort to arrest, prosecute and punish the culprits.
The government conceded it was but “natural for some of the bereaved to have doubts and reservations”, prompting them to “approach the apex court for redress”.
Recalling its follow-up action on the commission’s recommendations, the federal government stated that it had taken steps for medical and psychological treatment of the injured, their education and also provided financial assistance to some of the families.
Published in Dawn, October 21st, 2021