Pakistanis are a strange lot; we have witnessed more than our fair share of violence, extremism, dead bodies and devastation. While some believe we have become a brave and resilient nation in the process, there are others who fear that after being subjected to violence on such a large scale it has desensitized us. Today, we mourn the death of 132 innocent children and 9 staff members killed ruthlessly by terrorists in Peshawar.
To say the least, this blatant show of barbarity has moved every soul in a strange way- there is grief, there is anger and then there is grief again like never before. There is also disbelief; what animosity could the killers hold against these children? Did their hands not shiver while shooting these innocent souls one after the other? Why did they not pay heed to their pleading eyes and silent cries of mercy?
There are many who dread that we will move on a bit too soon; replacing the burden of 132 small coffins on our hearts with something less important, less tragic. The families will be left alone in their grief, the mothers forever agonized by the brutal death of their children. Since the past three days, I keep going through the photos of the victims, the stories of the survivors, personal accounts of the nightmare because I want to remember each face, each name and each detail as it is. I never want any of us to get past the grief and anger; I never want us to recover from the horror of what happened because I want it to serve as a reminder, to keep fighting back because we owe it to those children from Army Public School.
Let us never forget that those were not 141 people, those were 141 families that have been forever shattered. The parents who should have received report cards from the school instead got to see a list with their deceased children’s name on it to confirm their worst fears.
Let us never forget that the terrorists showed no mercy no remorse while targeting each child and shooting them point blank or how the lives of survivors are altered forever.
Let us never forget the anguish every mother is going through, every second of the day, knowing she could not protect her child-her life and she will never get to see him again.
Let us never forget the countless stories of bravery and courage; story of a brave teacher named Afsha Ahmed who was burnt alive in front of her students as she tried to shield them from harm’s way.
Let us never forget that it took 131 dead children for the political leadership to come together, to bring the military and civilian government on the same page.
Let us never forget that we have lost too many precious lives in this war-our war to realize that there are no good Taliban.
Let us never forget that while the world mourned with us, condemned the mindless killing of our children, there was a sinister silence from our ‘Muslim brother’ Saudi Arabia.
Let us never forget those who have shamelessly claimed the responsibility of slaughtering humans and those who still refuse to acknowledge their sheer brutality and would rather blame it on “foreign hands”.
Let us never forget that our media seized the opportunity to invite Mullah Abdul Aziz of Lal Masjid on TV who failed to condemn TTP for Peshawar attacks. Let us never forget the apologists around us and those who spread intolerance in the name of religion.
Let us never forget that our silence is equally responsible; the death of one civilian, one policeman, one journalist, one Christian, one Ahmedi, one Muslim, one Aitezaz and the struggle of one Malala, one Kainat, one Shazia should have been enough to open our eyes and see what these barbarians are capable of. Yet, we forgot about Aitezaz a bit too soon, failed to acknowledge Shazia and Kainat, hated Malala for being a survivor and for speaking up against the Taliban.
Let us never forget those 69 children in Bajaur who were killed by a CIA strike on a madrassa in 2006, the deaths of children (aged 17 and under) were highly under reported and failed to get much reaction out of the general public. Let us never forget that each life is precious.
I read somewhere that the smallest coffins are the heaviest; it must be true because today, the whole world is burdened by the weight of those 141 coffins. Let us never forget their names, their stories, their bright faces, their dreams, the vibrant smiles because we have paid far too heavy a price to simply forget and move on.