By Abdullah Zahid.
Marked as the ‘Black Day‘ in Pakistan, 16th December evokes anguish and spine-chilling memories of the drab morning on which the Taliban assailants stormed the school and opened indiscriminate firing on the students.
However, APS survivor, Ahmad Nawaz, who was shot in the horrible massacre now serves as a bastion of hope for the youth of Pakistan
The real number of victims is uncertain. Reportedly, 150 people including the school principal, teaching and other staff members were massacred. 141 of the slain were children and teenagers. The number varies in different reports. The youngest was six, the oldest was 20.
Recalling the incident, President Dr Arif Alvi said it had brought the nation to tears. “These flowers laid their lives & brought focus of the nation to suppress terrorism with all its might. I thank them,” he said.
Speaking at a hospital inauguration ceremony in Peshawar, Prime Minister Imran Khan started his speech remembering the dark day, and recalled how the tragedy united the country after which “we were able to defeat” the scourge of terrorism in Pakistan.
“Today, six years ago, the nation was shocked & grieved by the extreme act of terrorism against children & teachers of APS; & the nation came together with a resolve to take on those responsible.
“We remain determined & are moving forward in fulfilling this commitment to the nation,” the prime minister tweeted later in the day.
“The fateful “black day” continues to remain a scar on the collective memory of the nation. We cannot forget the agony of this day,” stated the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Twitter.
On the sixth anniversary of arguably the worst day in the history of Pakistan, Ahmed Nawaz, 19, the tenacious survivor of the APS attack in 2014, exclusive conversation with The Pakistan Daily says:
“Every year on December 16th, we must ask ourselves a question: What have we done to ensure such incidents don’t happen again? And what have we done to make Pakistan a better place? — That’s the only way we can honour the lives of all the martyrs of APS.”
“Young people of Pakistan must realise the responsibility that rests on their shoulders”. [The responsibility of bringing the country out of extreme poverty, inequality and extremism], the survivor said.
“If our young people don’t start taking action, no one ever will and our beloved country will continue to suffer”, the young student concluded.
Heroic APS surivior, Ahmad Nawaz has also initiated a global campaign, with a focus on empowering the youth through education and by giving them a voice and other opportunities so that they can come forward in their communities.
In this regard, he attended various conferences, was invited by the President of Portugal last year in May to speak at the World Leader Conference, as well as spoke at One Young World Conference and UK’s House of Lords.
Since, young people who have been deprived and underprivileged in various parts of the world, have been Ahmad’s main focus, he mentioned that he built a school in Lebanon for the Syrian refugees’ children, and considers it an achievement.
Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar reflected that December 16, 2014, was not only a dark day for Pakistan but for humanity as well.
PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari noted that the bloodshed of innocent children and martyrs of the APS attack continue to shake the “conscience of the nation until the perpetrators and facilitators of this gory crime were not brought to justice”.
He saluted the martyred students and their brave parents, whose immeasurable agony could only be felt by those who have lost their near and dear to terrorism.
“Being the son of a martyr Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, I, and the PPP, stand in complete solidarity with these parents,” he added.
“The terrorists snatched children and our future,” wrote PML-N vice-president Maryam Nawaz. She added that the martyrs were avenged by the armed forces during her father, Nawaz Sharif’s, government.
Army Public School attack is trending atop in the worldwide trends on social media. Colossal messages of solidarity and reverence for the APS victims flourished on Twitter.
Federal Minister of Human Rights, Shireen Mazari, in her Twitter message, expressed her pain which echoed the collective sentiments of the nation. We can never forget and we will continue to fight against the extremist mindset that feeds the hate and violence of terrorism.
In his message to mark the day, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Shah Farman said the “little heroes” were the nation’s pride. “We will never forget what they did for the cause of the nation.”
KP Chief Minister Mahmood Khan said the sacrifices of the students martyred in the tragic APS incident would always be remembered. He added that the security forces and the nation are united to eliminate terrorism from the society and the government would always extend a helping hand to the bereaved families of the APS.
“Words will never be enough,” wrote KP Finance and Health minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra. “On this day, the memory of those who sacrificed their lives at #APSPeshawar must spur us on to build a country where the future of millions of children is bright.”