Despite calls made through social media, only a handful of people came to the National Press Club (NPC) to participate at a protest, marking two months since the attack on a school in Peshawar. There was a strong reaction from civil society, following the attack in Peshawar on December 16, 2014 which left 150 students and teachers dead.
A large number of citizens participated in protests and vigils for the dead. One month after the attack, on January 16, 2015 a large number of people gathered at Aabpara Chowk and brought 150 symbolic coffins to protest the incident. However, on Monday, not many people responded to the call through social media to gather for a protest to mark two months since the attack. Some speculated that rain could be the reason for low attendance. Leaders of the protest outside Lal Masjid, Jibran Nasir and Shan Taseer, also failed to reach Islamabad to protest outside the NPC.A participant at the protest, Tabinda Zafar, expressed disappointment at seeing such a small number of participants. “I don’t understand how many more need to die before people come out on the streets. There should be more people here, despite the rain,” she said. Shan Taseer told Dawn that since he could not make it to Islamabad, he organised a protest at chairing cross in Lahore. “A large number of people gathered at the chairing cross and protested against the Peshawar incident, Lal Masjid cleric Abdul Aziz and terrorism,” he said.
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Similarly, Jibran Nasir said he did not come to Islamabad as he was participating in a protest at Teen Talwar in Karachi. At the NPC, participants of the protest held banners proclaiming that they would never forget those killed in the attack in Peshawar and would not let the government and the chief of army staff forget them either. Participants chanted slogans against terrorists and said that two months have passed since the Peshawar attack but the National Action Plan on Counter Terrorism has yet not been implemented. They said that attacks on Imambargahs in Shikarpur and Peshawar took place because of government’s inaction. Assistant Commissioner Kamran Cheema and large number of police officials were present at the protest to ensure security. Human rights activist Farzana Bari, speaking to participants at the protest, became overwhelmed with emotion and said that unless the entire nation comes out on the streets, attacks like the one in Peshawar cannot be prevented.
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She said that people like Abdul Aziz and organisations like Jamaatud Dawa are allowed to stage protests but civil society activists like Jibran Nasir are arrested when they raise their voices. “The government does not care about national interest and the army is too busy doing business,” Ms Bari said. PPP Senator Rubina Khalid, addressing participants, said it appears as if the operation against terrorists has lost its pace. “The government should eliminate terrorism at its roots. It should be a priority for the government,” she said. Civil society activist Nazir Dhoki said the Taliban cannot be defeated unless mindsets are changed. “So many terrorist attacks have taken place since December 16,” he said.