On its fifth anniversary today, the memory of the APS massacre lives on in people’s hearts. The 147 students killed by a terrorist attack in an army school in Peshawar are reminders of an undying perseverance for the nation’s fight against terrorism.
This day, five years ago, an army-run school in Peshawar was stormed by a group of terrorists from the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and martyred 150 people, of whom at least 135 were students.
At the time of the event, the Army Public School housed more than 1000 staff members and students. The children mostly hailed from military backgrounds. The terrorists ambushed the building around mid-morning. Reports state that they bombed their own vehicle as a distraction to ward off the school guards. A child’s first aid lesson turned deadly as the attackers , armed with grenades and automatic rifles, began firing inside the classrooms concentrating on teachers and older children. Official sources also say that they aimed only to kill and take no hostage.
A confrontation by the Pakistan Army succeeded in killing the attackers while some soldiers sustained injuries. Eight hours passed and 150 people were massacred by gunmen with 100 injured.
The incident left people around the country with numb and heavy hearts. Family of the students massacred recall their loved ones leaving home in pursuit of a good day at school but never returning.
Asfand Khan, 15, was an eldest child who was killed in the attack. Speaking with Dialogue Pakistan, his mother reminisces the time she dressed him up and the kids in the neighborhood to send them to school.
In the evening, she discovered them in the form of dead bodies.
“It took just a day for the rest of the days ahead for us to change. If you meet the parents of those children 5 years ago and now, the difference is significant. Our conditions have changed, our faces. Our happiness is changed.”
Talking about how five years have passed since the attack, Asfand’s mother recalled,
“I spend time remembering the kids, we (parents of the martyred) recite the Quran for them, we look at their pictures, we talk about them, except for that we have nothing. We can’t do anything.”
She remembers when she first heard the news, she ran on the street wandering aimlessly. Upon reaching the hospital, she searched for her son’s coffin,
“I searched through the coffins looking for my Asfand. I will die with these memories etched in my brain. The parents of the martyred and us share these memories and heal collectively.”
Asfand’s mother advises that strong and positive policies should be open to the public, otherwise we cannot fend atrocities like these ourselves.
This and many other recollections reflect the agony set in our hearts forever for those innocent lives taken away five years ago.
A post on social media by Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa spoke in homage to the fifth anniversary. The top army official said that five of the terrorists involved in the massacre have been hanged through military courts.
“We have come a long way in failing terrorism as a nation. United we move towards lasting peace and prosperity of Pakistan,” he added.
According to sources, the mastermind behind the APS massacre, Umar Mansour, alias Khalifa Mansour, alias Umar Naray, had been killed in a drone strike in Afghanistan. In response to the attack, political parties and security departments created a National Action Plan in aim of ending extremism and terrorism.
Reports say that since the school attack, at least 1,584 terrorists were arrested and imprisoned.