By Nazia Memon
December has arrived, gripped with bitter cold, days are grey and still..! invisible behind the curtain of fog, what I can see outside the window is the silhouette of greyed buildings and trees. Grey-winged blackbird refuses to sit on a naked tree and sing because all flowers have died and empty branches of the trees can’t inspire you rather makes you mourn.
All three years have passed away but we are still mourning as if we don’t want to or can’t move on, grief is still taking its toll on our souls, gripping our feelings leaving us with full of fear and sadness.
It was a cold frozen morning in London and the sun hung in the icy fog..didn’t shine that day. I still remember it was Tuesday “an unfortunate day” the 16th of December 2014 when over a hundred children perished in one of the bloodiest insurgent attacks in my homeland, Pakistan.
Taliban took their war on education and killed 145 people, 144 of them were uniformed school children martyred in the deadliest attack on the Army Public School, located on Warsak Road near Army Housing Colony and a medical school in Peshawar.
Responsibility for the attack was quickly claimed by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, whose strongholds in North Waziristan, close to the Afghan border, have been under sustained assault by the Pakistani army since June. In that time at least 1,200 suspected militants are said to have been killed. The spokesman for the group, Muhammad Umar Khorasani, said: “We selected the army school for the attack because the government is targeting our families and females. We want them to feel the pain.”
It shocked the whole nation. No words can express the ignominy of such an attack against children in their school, even the use of strongest words of condemnation are futile before this heinous act of coward terrorists.
After three years when I’m writing this blog nothing seems to have changed back home, the parents who have lost their children are waiting for justice to be delivered, demanding for the judicial inquiry of the APS attack, so they can sleep peacefully, mothers are singing lullaby, even their arms are empty their eyes are filled with tears not with dreams, they are all going through the tragedy which is heavier than the mountain.
Khaula’s mother still looking at the door with hope that may be one day Khaula would open the door and run towards her to get a warm hug, although deep down in her heart she knows it will never happen.
it was six-year-old Khaula’s first day of school. She was overjoyed that she had finally joined her siblings instead of staying home, never knew it’s her last day.
Another young child Ziaullah wanted to become an electrical engineer when he grew up. He never missed the opportunity to try and repair electrical appliances at home.
Ziaullah’s teacher recalls that the boy loved maths, and always talked about wanting to invent interesting machines such as an electric car. He was very close to his mother and called her his best friend. Did he ever thought on 16th December he is leaving home for school but would never get back to see his best friend (mother) again. Ziaullah’s mother have nothing but to recall best memories of Zia for rest of her life.
Young Shahzeb was among those 144 children lost their lives in Peshawar massacre. Shahzad was a bright student, a good reader, has won several medals in academics and extra-curricular activities. Remembered by his father as a brave boy, Shahzeb chose the lives of his friends over his own. His classmate Samiullah says Shahzeb saved him and their other friends during the massacre.
How could it be possible for the parents to forget that their son Shahzad had dreamed of becoming an airforce pilot. Rashid Minhas Shaheed was his role model. Shahzad would collect pictures of the airforce, and loved reading books about fighter jets and air combat. Recalling the memory Shahzad’s father told the media on that day that Shahzad had woken up early, eager to put on his new clothes. The clothes were for his upcoming interview for AFP College. Shahzad had passed the college test with 90 per cent marks. The result arrived seven days after his passing away how unfortunate it is.
Is it even possible to imagine how difficult life has become for those parents living with dead dreams?
These are only few stories. There are 145 stories to tell and you need a brave heart to listen and write to them.
Every parents have a question “why our children have been chosen to die?”
Unfortunately, what remained an outstanding problem for Pakistan is indeed the government’s inability to guarantee acceptable levels of civilian security.
Over the years Pakistan has let the extremist ideology to flourish, tussle between civil and military leadership has given them more space.
Despite a major military operation Zarb-e-Azb against them since 2014, and Rad-ul-Fassad operation, the Taliban continue to mount frequent suicide bombings and other attacks across the country.
It’s because some extremist groups continued to be tolerated by the state, Yet over the past years the state has been insisting that all major acts of terrorism have been perpetrated by neighbouring countries rather than domestic.
Pakistan had to swallow a bitter pill and except the unpleasant truth, tackle the terrorism with joint, better and broader strategy to deal with it.
After APS attack on 16 December 2014, there emerged a 20 point National Action Plan, a list of pointers of what needed to be done, endorsed by both the civil-military leadership and all political parties.
But so far it didn’t turned out to be a comprehensive winning strategy.
Policy makers should rethink and re-analyse the counter-terrorism policy framework that exists in Pakistan.
This nation can’t bear the burden of terrorism anymore, extremists should be killed, not our children and innocent people. Haunting memories of APS carnage are killing us.
We shall never forget it.
Story first published: 15th December 2017