Sometimes a single incident or calamity instead of a prolonged effort is substantially impactful to alter the life of a nation, such events leave great lessons and become a reason to strive and continuous struggle, reason to fight for the most important factor of nation’s life; it’s Freedom!!
Such events become the turning points for a nation when the recipient of its bitterness and harshness are the youngest ones from the nation. Either the nation take them as a defeat and vanish in the abyss of history’s dark chapters and corners, or fight back to turn into a legendary tale, which will be then narrated for the generations to come. APS has definitely become our turning point. But will it become our strength or weakness; it is yet to be seen!!
The Army Public School massacre by Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan, in the morning of 16th December 2014, in the city of Peshawar was definitely a horrendous tragedy but parallel to this, it taught some basic yet significant lessons, lessons that are taken as alien concepts in the society now. In this era of chaos, inhumanness and gloom, the young ones of nation revived the lessons of bravery, compassion, selflessness and patriotism.
Though 144 lives were lost but love and valor prevailed that day. Farhan Jalal who was just fifteen years old, leapt to his brother’s safety at the sight of terrorists entering the auditorium where they had gathered. Saving his brother’s life, he lost his own. The gallantry of Malik Taimoor was such that when he saw the terrorists setting his principal Mrs Tahira Qazi on fire, he jumped to her aid but failed to do so and the attackers murdered him.
The courage of a fourteen year old Fahad Hussain aches the heart and brings tears in the eyes. When the terrorists entered his class, he opened the class’ door, stood guard at the door and made sure that his classmates evacuated the room. He did achieve his target but militant’s brutality took his life. This one boy saved the lives of over twenty students.
The altruism of Bahram Ahmed is not found quite often. During the attack, a friend of Bahram fell to the floor and broke his glasses due to which he could barely see. Bahram saw his friend’s misery and came back to get him but on their way out, he was stopped by a terrorist. His friends recall that Bahram pushed the terrorist and received two bullets in the chest which resulted in his death.
The sense of responsibility of Yasir Iqbal can even move a stern man. Though Yasir had managed to save his life by lying on the ground and acting dead but when he saw that his friend was copiously bleeding from a bullet wound he picked him up and tried taking him out of the school when the attackers struck him down and killed him. The height of the bravery of Mohammad Uzair Ali is second to none. This eight grader’s body had thirteen bullet wounds because that day he had lain on his friends, shielding them from harm.
Their heroism gave shivers to us and sends shock waves to our conscience. These young people, who had no prior experience of such brutality, reacted so bravely that it resulted into saving precious lives. In a shocking situation like this, even grown-ups fail to act wisely but the courage, benevolence, and steadfastness of these children shined out amidst the darkness of violence and barbarity.
The acts of bravery which were recorded by the friends and teachers of the departed have been mentioned here but there would’ve definitely been many other deeds of gallantry performed by other children that are not registered. There were many among the deceased who had solely took an admission in this school to join armed forces and there were many who were the children of army personnel and wanted to carry on their parent’s legacy by enlisting in the army, unfortunately they couldn’t achieve this goal but absolutely succeeded in sacrificing their lives for their country.
Great were the teachers of these students who had induced such extraordinary characteristics in them. Miss Hafsa Khush, a biology teacher who had joined APS the previous year was fasting on that ghastly day as her students remembered, despite having a chance to save herself and leave the premises, she chose to stay back to help the injured students. It is during this time that she was shot and martyred. Miss Sahar Afshan, the Urdu teacher was martyred in the same way.
When Miss Saima Zareen came to know that the school’s auditorium was under attack, she rushed to the site of assault and lost her life helping the students escape. Miss Benish Umer, the computer science teacher whose aim in life was teaching had the chance to get out safely during the attack, her husband recalled, but she chose to stay back so she could administer first aid to the injured students. He told that this was the moment when she was shot and martyred.
Miss Sofia HIjab, the Urdu teacher of senior section was present in the auditorium while the gruesome attack was happening and had managed to come out of the school safely. But then that very moment she would’ve realized that how could she escape safely while her students were being shamelessly killed so she went back for her students and pulled out many of those hurt before the attackers targeted her.
Miss Tahira Qazi, the outstanding principal was set on fire by the militants and the students were made to witness this gory scene. She dedicated 37 years to educating children and in the end laid down her life to the cause. According to a student who survived APS attack told that his principal’s last words were “They are my children and I am their mother.” The Conference Room of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly has been renamed the Tahira Qazi Conference Room in the principal’s honor.
The non-teaching and junior staff showed equal heroism. Ehsanullah who had joined APS as a driver just 10 days before the attack, had helped shift 40 injured children into an ambulance before the attackers apprehended him and killed him. Mohammad Sadiq, the clerk since 1996 lost his life saving the kids too. Muhammad Bilal, the gatekeeper who was the sports partner of many children succumbed to his bullet wounds while helping the students exit the building through a back door.
Among many, these are some remarkable tales of the martyrs of that dreadful day. The country won’t forget their sacrifices. May Allah rest the souls of:
Teachers: Miss Tahira Qazi (principal), Hafsa Khush, Sadia Gul Khattak, Hajra Sharif, Benish Umer, Sahar Afshan, Farhat Bibi, Saima Zareen, Nawab Ali, Shahnaz Naeem, Sofia Hijab, Muhammad Saeed.
Non-Teaching Staff: Muhamad Sami (peon), Ehsanullah (driver), Muhammad Hussain (gardner), Mudassar Khan (lab assisstant), Pervaiz Akhter (lab assisstant), Muhammad Bilal (gatekeper), Akbar Zaman (head clerk), Muhammad Shafiq (clerk), Zahir Shah (gardener), Sajjad Ali (superintendent).
Students: Khaula Bibi (youngest and only female student killed), Shahzad Ijaz, Shahzeb, Ziaullah Islam, Yasirullah, Ahmed Ali Shah, Azaan Toraylay, Fahid Hussain, Gul Sher, Hamid Ali Khan, Hammad Malik, Muhammad Azhar Naseer, Rizwan Sareer, Wahab ud Din, Wasif Ali Khattak, Abdullah Ghani Awan, Adil Shahzad, Ailian Fozan, Ammar Iqbal, Arham Khan, Atif ur Rehman, Awais Ahmed, Awais Naseer, Baqir Ali, Fahad HUssain, Fazal Raheem, Muhammad Furqan Haider, Humayun Iqbal, Hamid Saif, Hamza Kamran, Haris Nawaz, Hasnain Sharif, Khushnood Zeb, Muhammad Abdullah Zafar, Muhammad Ghassan Khan, Muhammad Haris Khan, Muhammad Salman, Muhammad Tayyab Fawad, Naqyal Tariq, Muhammad Shaheer Khan, Sahibzada Umer Khan, Saif ullah Durrani, Shahood Alam, Sher Nawaz, Syed Mujahid Hussain Shah, Ali Abbas, Sohail Aslam, Syed Hussain Shah, Tanveer Hussain, Uzair Ahmed, Muhammad Uzair Ali, Umair Arshad, Abrar Hussain, Ahmed Elahi, Ahmad Mujtaba, Asad Aziz, Asfand Khan, Bahram Ahmed Khan, Basit Ali Sardar, Farhan Jalal, Muhammad Waqar, Haider Amin, Hamza Ali Kakar, Hayatullah, Muhammad Ali Rehman, Muhammad Ammar Khan, Muhammad Mohsin Murtaza, Muhammad Tahir, Muhammad Shafqat, Muhammad Uzair Khan, Mouzzam Zulfiqar, Muhammad Yasin, Noor ulla Durrani, Osama Zafar, Rafique Raza Bangash, Saad ur Rehman, Shahbaz Ali, Shamowail Tariq, Shayan Nasir, Syed Afaq Ahmed, Maheer Rizwan, Mobeen Aslam, Muhammad Ali, Usama Bin Tariq, Zeeshan Ali, Zeeshan Shafique, Adnan Hussain, Hassan Zeb, Huzaifa Aftab, Malik Taimoor, Malik Usama Tahir Awan, Mubeen Aridi, Muzzamil Umer Sadiq, Muhammad Umar Hayat, Nadeem Hussain, Shah Fahad, Sher Shah, Sohail Sadar, Syed Abdullah Shah, Syed Zulqurnain, Usman Sadiq, Zargham Mazhar, Zeeshan Ahmed, Bilal Arshad, Muhammad Sahiban Durrani, Aimal Khan, Ibrar Zahid, Imran Ali, Ishaq Amin, Muhammad Imran , Muhammad Zeeshan Afridi, Shafique ur Rehman, Yasir Iqbal, Maher Ali Azam, Muhammad Daud, Saqib Ghani, Zain Iqbal, Abdul Azam Afridi, Waseem Iqbal.
Pakistan would not have been the same if this calamity had not happened. Those terrorists targeted this particular school in response to the then ongoing military operation Zarb e Azab but the children and later on nation reacted remarkable that they ended up setting an example for the rest of the world. This bloodbath has given us a sterner reason to fight the evil of terrorism and pursue the path of sustainable peace and progress!