Pakistan is a resilient nation that takes pride in its resolve. Pakistan has been tested many times. It has been pressurized, threatened, and isolated by the world for the crime of following its own national interests. Regardless of this, Pakistan has endured with patience and courage. The very first challenge Pakistan faced was that of survival where in 1947, it was speculated that Pakistan would have to seek Indian support to survive. This, however, was proven wrong as Pakistan emerged as a strong and growing economy. Next, we were tested in 1965 when our homeland faced a surprise attack from our neighbor, one where the valor and bravery of our nation destroyed the enemy’s evil intentions. Our bravery, however, was rewarded by sanctions from the US, which was again a test that we faced without regrets. Our nation’s resolve was tested again in 1971 when Pakistan was divided and we were left to mourn the loss. Even then, we remained patient and relied on time to heal our wounds.
Our resolve was again tested in 1998 when US slapped sanctions on Pakistan for conducting nuclear tests, which were aimed as defensive measures and not as an offensive, either way we were bullied and we endured paying little heed to the sanctions as it was a small price to pay for the security of Pakistan. It seemed, at that time, that the worst was over. However, after 9/11, we realized that there are still many trials that we have to face. Thus, Pakistan geared up to face the deadliest and the most taxing era in its history. Our nation also faced terrorist funding by foreign enemies to spread havoc and to launch separatist movements in Pakistan. For over a decade, we fought this war and still we endured. As a result, the Almighty granted us with victory as our enemy was weakened significantly. Just as our resilient nation was tending to the wounds inflicted by terrorists and was being thankful that the worst has passed, all hell broke loose.
The morning of 16th December 2014, started off just as any other day. Children got up to get ready for school while their mothers made their breakfast. In some homes, the young ones threw a tantrum while their parents consoled and forced them to put on their uniform, while in others the children got ready enthusiastically in anticipation of a fun filled day. Fathers slept or some put on their office suit, hurrying all the while, as they were required to drop off their kids to school. Mothers kissed the children goodbye and off they went to school. This was the normal situation in the homes of the students of Army Public School Peshawar on 16th December 2014.
“Ah! Off they go, now for the rest of the chores.” One mother might think while remembering what her child had demanded for lunch and all the while dreading to clean the messy room of her child. Perhaps that was what most mothers were doing when suddenly the news flashed that seven accursed terrorists had attacked the school of their beloved children.
The attack began at around 10:30 A.M. when seven gunmen entered the school from the back through a cemetery adjacent to the school after having scaled the walls. They were disguised in uniforms of the Pakistani paramilitary force, the Frontier Corps. They set fire to the vehicle they used, before entering the building. All seven terrorists were equipped with automatic weapons and they went straight for the auditorium, which is situated in the middle of the complex. The Godless cowards opened indiscriminate fire on the unarmed children who had gathered there for First aid training. In accordance with the statement of Director General of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major-General Asim Bajwa, these terrorists did not intend to take any hostages; instead they had clear instructions to kill as many students as possible. As the terrorists opened fire, many of the pupils ran toward the two exits on the other side of the auditorium, but many of them were gunned down in the garden.
In the most heinous act ever to take place on Pakistani soil, the terrorists inflicted psychological torture on the innocent minds of the students by forcing them to watch while their teachers and friends were killed. This included witnessing the murder of Principal Tahira Qazi. Within 15 minutes, teams of SSG commandos rushed to the scene. Immediately, the SSG personnel engaged the terrorists, preventing them from going after, and killing other remaining teaching staff and students. The gunmen moved to the administration block of the school and took hostages there. One of them was shot by the military personnel near the auditorium, while the other six managed to make it to the administration block.
SSG commandos surrounded the administration block and undertook an extensive operation to clear this block and rescue the hostages taken by the gunmen. Special teams of snipers and their spotters pinpointed the terrorists; three of the six attackers were killed by the snipers from the windows and air vents, while the other three were killed when the commandos stormed the building and rescued the remaining hostages in the process. Seven commandos, including two officers, were injured in the battle. A search and clearance operation was started immediately to defuse any IEDs planted by the gunmen within the school premises or in the suicide vests that the terrorists were wearing. The terrorists were in contact with their handlers during the attack, but soon after the SSG had moved in, the security forces intercepted the terrorists’ communications. “We know who they are and who they were in contact with but details cannot be shared due to operation reasons. They were aware of locations and they must have carried out the recon of the area. And it is highly possible that someone from inside might have tipped them off” said Bajwa.
We won’t Forget
It has been a year since this attack and the blood of APS martyrs is still fresh in the minds of Pakistanis. Once again the nation has proven its resilience but in the face of the most terrible trial ever. On that day we lost doctors, engineers, scientists, philanthropists and soldiers. This makes it the most severe test that the nation has faced since inception. However, we remember the 144 martyrs, and we remember that they died while standing tall in front of the enemy. This is a lesson our children have taught us and it is one which we will never forget.
They have taught us to never yield and to remain resilient no matter how difficult the trial be. Our young martyrs will never be forgotten and we will ensure that Pakistan never has to pay such a severe price again.