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The day we will never forget

Nazia Ali

The writer is a social activist.

The darkest day in Pakistan’s history – December 16 – returns every year reminding us of the innocent children who went to school to receive an education, not realizing that their books and bodies would be drenched in blood.

I clearly remember that horrific day when TV screens flashed over the terror incident and the nation united to pay tribute to the martyrs. I attended a memorial event at the APS Malir to pay our respects. While working as a TV anchor, I hosted a programme with the relatives of the victims of APS Peshawar tragedy to highlight the situation they were going through. I was torn apart to see the determination and resilience of the APS students and their families.

It has been six years since the terror attack and my heart sobs at the incident as if it has just happened. It was 10 AM on 16th December 2014 when one of the worst’s terror attacks in our country’s history took place. It’s the day when seven TTP terrorists dressed in uniforms of the Frontier Corps stormed from the back of the APS Peshawar building and opened indiscriminate fire in the hallways. Around 144 people including nine staff members and three soldiers were martyred while 113 others were wounded in the incident.

The 132 children martyred were aged between 9-18 years, while 950 others were safely evacuated. One terrorist blew himself while six others were shot dead. The proscribed TTP claimed responsibility for the incident. TTP spokesman Umar Khorasani told BBC Urdu the attack was revenge for the ‘Zarb-e-Azab’ military operation in North Waziristan and the operation in Khyber Agency.

The government announced three-day mourning and now year we commemorate the incident with special prayers and ceremonies to honour the martyrs. The month of December reminds us of the APS carnage which shames humanity and a school was turned into a battleground. Millions of people around the country have not been able to overcome their grief over the incident.

The families of APS victims are still waiting for justice even after six years. It is the responsibility of the state to provide them justice.

These children had dreams and aspirations and went to school just to get an education for their bright future but never returned home after that fateful day. On the sixth anniversary of the incident, we still remembered our martyrs despite the coronavirus pandemic.

The inquiry report by the judicial commission formed by the Supreme Court to probe the matter has been made public. The report blamed a security lapse for the tragic incident. The families of the APS victims have demanded accountability for those responsible for the security lapse. The chief justice has vowed to hear the case but the real tragedy is that those at the help of power are hardly ever held responsible.

We need to end this tradition and start handing out punishments right from the top. I urge the chief justice and prime minister to give an exemplary punishment to all terrorists and their facilitators and take notice of the lack of security lapses as our lives are still not secure.