LAHORE – On December 16, the Taliban attacked an army school in Peshawar and killed 132 children and nine adults. Eight terrorists dressed in military uniform penetrated the school’s well-guarded perimeter and opened fire on the students and school personnel. Pakistani army commandos fought the intruders for several hours before killing the last attacker.
The assault on the military school was the single deadliest attack in the Taliban’s history. The question now is whether it will turn out to be a turning point for Pakistan in its relations with the group. Pakistan’s military is the country’s most respected and powerful institution. By attacking the children of military families, the Taliban has dramatically increased the likelihood that Pakistan will move resolutely against it.
This may, of course, take some time. A Pakistani court’s decision to grant bail to Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, who is accused of masterminding the 2008 terror attack that killed 166 people in Mumbai, underscores the challenge of getting every Pakistani government institution on board.
Pakistan has had a complicated relationship with the Taliban. The country’s intelligence services had a hand in the group’s formation and in its rise to power in neighboring Afghanistan. Many in the international community suspect that some in the Pakistani military and its spy networks continued to support the Taliban even after the country joined what then-US President George W. Bush called “the war on terror” in 2001.