Pakistan observes a day of national mourning for the 21 people killed when heavily-armed gunmen stormed a university in the troubled northwest, exposing the failings in a national crackdown on extremism.
Pakistanis mourn, bury their dead from the university massacre
Pakistan mourns university massacre victimsCharsadda (Pakistan) – 21 January 2016 – AFPPakistan observed a day of national mourning Thursday for the 21 people killed when heavily-armed gunmen stormed a university in the troubled northwest, exposing the failings in a national crackdown on extremism.Armed police, some perched on the roofs of buildings, were still deployed Thursday morning at the Bacha Khan university campus in Charsadda, where students were targeted with grenades and automatic weapons, an AFP reporter said.Security forces remained on alert, with police foiling a bomb attack at a crowded bus station in nearby Peshawar Thursday morning.Wednesday’s assault, claimed by a faction of the Pakistani Taliban, bore a chilling resemblance to a December 2014 massacre at a school in nearby Peshawar that triggered a crackdown on militants that had been credited with a palpable improvement in security.Around 1,000 people in a nearby village attended the funeral on Thursday of a university caretaker killed.”I want to tell the terrorists, they can never win, they will lose, we will win, we the followers of peace and not terrorism,” Shah Hussain, father of the caretaker Fakhr-e-Alam, told AFP. One of the wounded students, a geology major, died overnight and his funeral was also being held Thursday. The majority of the dead were buried Wednesday in accordance with Muslim tradition. Seven other survivors were in stable condition and being treated in local hospitals, officials said.Defiant authorities kept schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province open Thursday.”Militants want them shut down,” provincial education minister Arif Khan told AFP. “We wanted to send the message that education will continue.”Only Bacha Khan university and its sister university Abdul Wali Khan in the town of Mardan were closed, he said.- ‘Heroes die young’ -Flags flew at half-mast on government buildings while a prayer ceremony was set to be held in Islamabad, where Pashtun students were also organising a protest. Pashtuns form the dominant ethnic group in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.More than 200 sportsmen and women gathered along with officials from the Pakistan Sport Board (PSB) at a complex in the capital earlier Thursday to offer prayers for the victims.”We are determined that the young generation of Pakistan will not bow down to the terrorists,” PSB director Akhtar Nawaz said.Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has vowed a “ruthless” response to the massacre and ordered security forces to hunt those behind Wednesday’s attack.Pools of blood and overturned furniture could be seen inside a hostel where the majority of the students died, while in a back alley outside, an old wooden plaque on the wall proclaimed: “Heroes die young”.The assault resembled a December 2014 assault at a Peshawar school in which more than 150 people were killed, mostly children.The strike prompted the military to intensify an ongoing offensive against extremists in the tribal areas, and the government to launch a National Action Plan (NAP) cracking down on extremism.Security improved in 2015 — but critics have repeatedly warned the government is not taking long-term steps to tackle the underlying scourge of extremism.Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission called Thursday for a “critical reappraisal” of the military operation, warning that the NAP cannot succeed “without a crackdown on institutions and groups that train terrorists or help them otherwise”.”We are not safe,” Ajun Khan, who lost his only son Asfand in the attack on the Peshawar school, told AFP Wednesday.