What Does The Pakistani Taliban Want, Exactly?

The city of Peshawar has been left shaken from Pakistan's deadliest Taliban attack in history. On Tuesday, Taliban militants stormed a school and opened fire, killing at least 141 people in the hours-long attack. The vast majority of the victims were children. The Pakistan Taliban has been known to ruthlessly kill people for their cause, but this is horrific even by their standards. In the wake of such an atrocious massacre, many are wondering what exactly do the Pakistani Taliban want? Retaliation, for one.

The Pakistan Taliban (formally known as Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP), the same extremist group behind the attempted execution of Malala Yousafzai, chose the Army Public School and Degree College for very specific reasons. Most of the city's army personnel have their children enrolled at the school, and these kids became tragic casualties in an ongoing fight between the Taliban and Pakistani military.

Before tensions escalated into a full-on offensive, the Pakistani government tried to hold peace talks with the TTP in June, but they were suspended after the militant group launched a brutal attack on the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi. Thirty-six people were killed in the assault and 18 were injured.

In response to the airport attack, the Pakistani military launched an indiscriminate offensive code-named Operation Zarb-e-Azb against the Pakistan Taliban in North Waziristan on June 15. Targets of the operation included the Pakistani Taliban, Punjabi Taliban, Al Qaeda, and Al Qaeda affiliates the Haqqani network. Since its launch, the operation has displaced tens of thousands of people and killed hundreds of militants, many of them also children.

The shorthand answer to the question "what do the Pakistani Taliban want?" would be revenge. However, that only goes so far as to explain the recent school attack. What is the TTP's stated mission overall?

To Enforce Sharia Law

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The TTP are closely affiliated with the Taliban in Afghanistan and share the same ideology. Also predominantly Pashtun, the TTP follow a very strict interpretation of sharia law that draws on extremely fundamentalist Wahhabi doctrines. The TTP specifically want to impose sharia law in Pakistan. Sharia law determines every facet of life: politics, economics, law, sexuality, and social issues.

To Fight the Pakistani Military

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Where the TTP differs in mission from the Taliban in Afghanistan is its target. Raza Rumi, director of policy and programs at the Pakistani think tank Jinnah Institute, told CNN:

Their primary target is the Pakistani state and its military. It resents the fact that [Pakistan] has an alliance with the West.

The TTP emerged as a result of the Pakistani army's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) operation in 2002, which, like Operation Zarb-e-Azb, hunted down militant groups along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan.

To Oppose Education

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The TTP is staunchly opposed to Western education for children and women. Their most notable target was Malala Yousafzai, who was gaining prominence in Pakistan for her activism in women's education rights. In 2012, TTP militants boarded Malala's school bus and shot her in the head. Malala survived and went on to become the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Some experts believe that the school attack in Peshawar was also in retaliation against Malala's winning the Nobel Prize.Images: Getty Images (3)