Five years have passed since we carried the heaviest coffins, wiped our tears and consoled grieving parents whose children went to school and never returned. The tragedy at the Army Public School in Peshawar was so traumatic that the nation has not moved past ever since.
Terrorism and violence was at its peak when the massacre occurred in 2014. Khyber Pakhthunkwa was the hotbed of terrorism and Peshawar was a frequent target. The worst nightmare occurred as a group of terrorists attacked the school that morning killing 144 innocent students and teachers.
The nation has made strides against terrorism ever since, yet many people are still living with the tragedy. Families of the victims still mourn their loved ones. The students who survive still suffer from mental stress and trauma. The ordinary mother still shivers for a second as she sends her son off to school today.
The APS tragedy of 2014 shook the conscience of the nation. The army launched a full-scale operation to eliminate the remnants of terrorism. The civilian government came up with a comprehensive National Action Plan (NAP) but it failed to be implemented effectively. Five of the attackers have been hung till death but the victims’ families demand more.
The families seek more answers as to who was responsible for failing to prevent the incident. They have yet to receive any satisfactory reply as no one is willing to take responsibility. Local authorities state that it was an army-owned school and the management belonged to the military.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) were quick to take credit for the barbaric attack. It is ironic that terrorists quickly accept blame but officials don’t. The army eventually arrested TTP’s spokesman Ehsansullah Ehsan but he remains under custody even though victims’ families have called for his death sentence.
December 16 will now forever remain in our memories as a day of tragedies. We saw the Fall of Dhaka in 1971 in which the nation’s limbs were cut off from us, and now the APS tragedy will haunt us every year. The day serves as a grim reminder of the sacrifices that the entire country made in the war against terror.
The day also reminds us of the resilience the nation has demonstrated in time of adversity. APS survivor Waleed Khan, who sustained eight bullet wounds in the incident, once said ‘were attacked by guns but will reply with the pen’. Pakistan will continue to emerge victorious against the war on terror but for this the nation must always stand united.