What Came Back Home That Day Was Not Her Child, But A Coffin
December 16th, 2016
Peshawar School Attack
The Last Dawn
It was a cold Tuesday morning. She went to his room to make sure his blanket was shielding him from the bitter chill. As per her routine, she readied his school bag, pressed his dress, and polished his shoes. Ignoring the spondylitis induced pain in her arm, she lovingly prepared breakfast with pure ghee, and also packed his lunch with almonds, banana and Rotis. Her growing boy has to stay healthy and needs his mental acuity for the dreaded math test today. Even the hot water was ready for his bath.
It was only after all the arrangements were done, she went back to wake him up to get ready. The 10-year-old loved school and was excited to get up and get going. He considered the school his second home. The enthusiasm with which he talked about his school always brought a smile on her lips. He wore his bright uniform at lightning speed and was ready to go. She had to force him to eat an extra roti for breakfast. And only then did she give the green light to start walking to school. He was excited to learn something new and meet all his friends. As much as his impatience to leave amused her, she also felt proud of him for his curiosity and enthusiasm to learn. They set off hand-in-hand, discussing what he would want to eat for dinner that night.
She kept fixing the handmade hat and sweater on him to keep him safe from the cold air. Wishing him good luck, she kissed him a goodbye at the school gate with a promise to make his favourite dinner when he came back home.
But what came back home that day was not her child, but a coffin.
Remembering the Peshawar School Attacks
16 December 2014 will be remembered as one of the most gruesome days in the recent history of Pakistan. It was the day militants armed with suicide bombs killed innocent children in Army Public School, Peshawar.
The students were assembled in the auditorium, learning about first aid. The terrorists disguised as army personnel entered the school premises by scaling the walls through a cemetery behind the school. They opened fire in the auditorium. More than 141 people were killed including 132 schoolchildren, ranging between eight and 18 years of age. The children who tried to run away were killed in the garden.
The Pakistan Army’s Special Services Group (SSG) launched a rescue operation, which killed the terrorists and rescued 960 children and staff.
The school reopened only one month after the attacks, but the parents and pupils are traumatised to this day. This was the deadliest attack by an armed group in Pakistan’s history.
The authorities at the educational institute have carried out massive renovations in an attempt to erase the memory of the attacks. But the second anniversary once again lays bare the scars left by the tragedy. The District Administration of Peshawar announced a holiday on Friday and functions will be organised all over the country to honour the students and staff members of the school. A distraught father who went to collect his son’s body from the hospital said,
“My son was in uniform in the morning. He is in a casket now. My son was my dream. My dream has been killed,”
The attack was carried out by the terrorist group Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP). They claimed it was a retaliation for the Pakistan Army’s Operation Zarb-e-Azb. This operation was for the Jinnah Airport attacks that TTP claimed responsibility for. This is part of the ongoing conflict in North-West Pakistan where nearly 2100 people have died so far. The terrorists wanted revenge for the military operation and wanted to ‘make them feel the pain of the loss of their families’.
The deadly attack sent shockwaves across the nation which prompted the government to launch a National Action Plan (NAP) to eradicate the scourge of terrorism. Military courts were also set up to expedite the trial of terrorists and local militants. The Pak Army made targeted attacks on the terrorists. They were either captured or killed.