At a time when Pakistanis thought they had no more tears left to shed, the whole nation from Khyber to Karachi was united in grief, the enormity of this act of terror too big for people to comprehend.
Militants of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan shot dead 126 children on the premises of the Army Public School in Peshawar on Tuesday, claiming it as an act revenge for the Army’s operation against them in the north-west frontier tribal areas.
But they reckoned without the courage and pride of their fellow Pakhtuns. Father after father faced the cameras thrust in their faces and retorted back.
“I am proud that my son is a shaheed as he saved so many students by giving up his own life. My other children will continue to return to school, we will not be frightened”, one middle-aged father responded, tears running down his beard.
Another person, searching for his two missing children, said angrily: “Do these terrorists think that this will stop us from educating our children? They are wrong.”
Wave of volunteers Shutters came down as market places shut down and police struggled to keep volunteers away from inside hospital halls.
Among them were hundreds of students who were going from hospital to hospital to donate blood as it was announced that two hundred students who had been wounded urgently needed blood.
People in Islamabad told this reporter that they were heading for Peshawar with antibiotics and bandages as hospitals ran out of supplies.
Grief stricken, barefooted mothers wrapped in shawls were seen running towards hospital gates, trying to identify their children, many traumatised as hospital staff told them to look among the dead. One mother, totally composed but in shock, looked in disbelief as she recognised her son who had died of bullet injures.
Security issue Questions are being raised about the Army school’s security at a time when military operations are continuing in Khyber Pakthunkhwa and a backlash was awaited all over Pakistan.
Syed Talat Hussain, a journalist, tweeted, “Pakistan’s internal situation has been made so precarious that terrorists don’t have to plan anything. They can just pick a target, anywhere.”
As SSG commandos continued till late in the evening to clear the building of militants, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army Chief General Raheel Sharif reached Peshawar where a three-day mourning was announced and the Prime Minister called for an all party conference.
“Such cold blooded cowardly acts cannot weaken the resolve of the people of Pakistan, the government, and the Armed forces, to combat all terrorists. These terrorists are enemies of Pakistan, enemies of Islam and enemies of humanity”, Tasnim Aslam, spokesperson at the Foreign Office said in a statement.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan also arrived at the province his party governs.
“There is no justification for this,” he said as he reached Peshawar.