ISLAMABAD — Pakistan's top civil and military leadership has held an emergency meeting to formulate a response to Tuesday's attack on a school in Peshawar by the Pakistani Taliban (TTP).

A number of proposals has reportedly being discussed, and the moratorium on the death penalty for terrorism cases lifted.

A statement by the military's media branch, Inter Services Public Relations, outlined Army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif's visit to Afghanistan today where he secured pledges of help from Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Gen.eral John F Campbell, head of NATO forces thereISAF commander.

It stated, "Matters related to security situation along Pak-Afghan border region came under discussion," the statement said. "Vital elements of intelligence were shared with concerned authorities, with regard to Peshawar incident."

However, aAnalysts are uncertain as to what will actually be done, though they highlight required changes.

Claude Rakisits, nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's South Asia Center, believes there is little the military can actually do "except to try to prevent more of these terrorist acts — an almost impossible task."

This is because "while the TTP may be divided and the operation against it has weakened it, the Pakistani Taliban are not a spent force. This was a daring operation. The school is located in a secure area of the city and several check points need to be passed to get to it."

Rakisits has heard from colleagues in Peshawar that the attackers were speaking a language other than the native Pashto, which he believes indicates they may have been Uzbek allies of the TTP who have executed many high-profile terrorist attacks.

He also thinks the attack removes any hint of negotiations with the TTP, and "given the depravity of this attack, it must mean that the military's six-month old operation must be starting to bite."

Furthermore, "the TTP finally realizes that the military has indeed decided to target all militants, and that the days of differentiating the 'good' and 'bad' Taliban are over with."

Brian Cloughley, former Australian defense attache to Islamabad, said says the TTP have "gone too far, this time, and the Army will be absolutely merciless."

Though rRegarding whether the military may pursue the TTP into Afghanistan, he saidthe scope is limited.

"They've been doing 'hot pursuit' already, but just over the border by a few hundred meters" he said. "It is probable that the government in Islamabad will try to enlist the help of Afghanistan and ask that the Afghan Army [to] block entry by Taliban leaving Pakistan, but the Afghan Army is incapable of taking such action.

Adding, "It would be unacceptable to attempt deep penetration in hot pursuit and I doubt they will try that."

Demands that Kabul hand over the TTP leadership may not get far either.

"They may ask for the handover of Fazlullah, but it is more likely he will be taken out in a drone strike."

Though aAnalyst Haris Khan of the Pakistan Military Consortium think tank said the attack was "yet another intel failure on the part of both military and civilian security apparatus," yet he blames the provincial government, not the military.

"The military has been involved in operations in [Federally Administered Tribal Areas] for some time now and they can't be held responsible for safety and security of the areas which are governed by the elected-political parties. Even though this school belonged to the Pakistan Army Foundation, the onus of security is on the shoulders of the PTI [Pakistan Movement for Justice] government of KP [Khyber Pakhtunkhwa]."

If similar attacks are to be prevented, analysts believe that there must now be changes, and Khan said a lack of civil-public coordination has caused a "complete vacuum regarding homeland security."

"The forefront of this problem is the there is no effort or plan to coordinate between public [government], and private [citizenry and local business] to activate some type of a plan which institutionalizes some type of tangible action for homeland security," he said.

Adding, "Localizing the police is the first step along with all facets of the local governments. The crux of the problem is that none of the provincial governments have any intentions to institutionalize this very basic pillar of governance."

Salma Malik, assistant professor at Quaid-i-Azam University's Department of Defence & Strategic Studies in Islamabad, said there needs to be immediate steps before a range of changes are made.

"The first and foremost is that the political government and actors, military and law enforcers be on the same page in responding to this act of terrorism instead of playing favorites and still harboring fanciful notions that these elements can be negotiated with,"she said.

Adding, "Depending on who takes the responsibility, (though initially attributed to Khorasani's group), this act proves that they have stepped beyond the expected limits of action and may not hesitate to strike such vulnerable and soft targets again."

She outlined a series of steps that must now need be taken.

The foremost would involve holding a joint civil meeting to formulate a comprehensive action plan aimed at "eliminating terrorism from the entire country and shunning any policy even if at the minutest levels of treating the terrorists as assets or angry Muslim brethren.", (which took place today).

Counterterrorism bodies must "be fully utilized to coordinate, implement and work out the desired strategy to effectively deal with the problem," and law enforcement agencies "be made stronger and more professional to provide the effective line of defense to the military, which is for the moment the lead player in counter-terrorism operations."

Furthermore, intelligence networks should be improved and increased "for effective preemption and timely response."

However, Malik said highlights reforms "need to strike the right balance" despite the difficulties, to prevent abuses.

She also highlighted that help is required from regional states "mainly Afghanistan and Iran and (even central Asian states) in effective border management, pursuit of terrorists, and on question of sanctuaries."

Help is also required "from other involved international players such as US in helping improve security apparatus, intel and law enforcement capacity and provide material as well as moral support in countering this issue," and they should also be "empathetic to our concerns regarding terrorism sponsored by enemy states."


Usman Ansari is the Pakistan correspondent for Defense News.

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