December 16 will forever haunt Pakistan. There is a strange irony in the fact that the green colour of the children’s school uniforms soaked in blood, is the same colour that the country waves proudly as a flag.
Eight years since the horrific attack on the APS children in 2014, the question is has much changed? Today in Lahore on the landmark Liberty roundabout which now known for protests and political rallies, a man stood shouting into a microphone about ‘Taliban ka yaar’ (friend of Taliban). Surrounding him were soldiers or at least men dressed in military gear.
This brought back memories of that day. I reread an old piece and somehow it stayed relevant:
As the winter chill settles in, the biggest concern in every mother’s mind is to keep their child warm.
How could the parents in Peshawar on that cold morning know that they would be covering their children’s bodies, which they had wrapped so warmly earlier that day, in nothing but white shrouds as they buried them under the cold earth?
The colour of their uniform was green. It is the colour that forms a part of the Pakistani flag, it is the colour of Islam.
To see it soaked a horrible darker shade by their innocent blood makes one wonder, what crime did these children commit to be massacred by those who claim to be working under the banner of religion?
They were primary schoolchildren. They were middle-school goers. They were teenagers.
At the very most, they were guilty of offending their parents and teachers with mischief and not paying attention to their studies.
None of these were sins, and none of these warranted their murders.
The military crackdown in North Waziristan was being hailed a success, and all those worrying about the backlash began to relax.
Divisions and cracks had started appearing and critics of the Taliban waited to see how the umbrella organisation imploded.
This horrific attack on the schoolchildren in Peshawar was not driven by religion, ethnicity, class or creed. It was the result of an organisation blinded by its lust for blood.
And it was a cowardly attack on children simply because they went to an Army public school.
People ask, why hasn’t Pakistan done anything to combat terrorism?
The fact of the matter is, every day when a Pakistani leaves their home, he/she is fighting back against the menace that threatens to tie them to a life defined by fear and terror.
All the blood trails lead back to the Taliban. Condemned and hated, they festered and grew, and their actions spread across the country.
Malala fought for her right to an education and thankfully survived when she was attacked.
Aitzaz Hasan, the child who physically stopped a suicide bomber, sacrificed his life so that his fellow students could live.
Ibtihaj, the little Hazara boy who lost his mother and sisters (in Mastung), thankfully survived and fuelled the fires of bravery as he smiled through his pain.
Sadly, thousands more children, victims of bombs and suicide attacks, did not survive – but their will to forge ahead, suppressing the fear of the unknown and the fear of death, to pursue even the simplest of dreams – is what keeps us alive.
This is a nation of people who have suffered so much, lived through so much horror, that it’s natural to feel overwhelmed by despair, helplessness and hopelessness.
Pakistani children have paid the price for problems that they really had nothing to do with but were forced to suffer.
How much more will they suffer to fulfil the bizarre objectives of these militants?
But as long as the Taliban continue to exist, it is imperative that those of us who want to live and let others live, continue to stay resilient so that our future generations will live in peace – and appreciate the beauty of life.
Children’s clothes are to be stained by ink, not blood.
Children should suffer the occasional graze in the playground and a paper cut in the classroom, not bullets and torture.
Children deserve to experience the butterflies of love in their stomachs, not the sickness of fear.
Children should experience the joy of reading and writing, not the pain of crying for their lives.
And all children deserve to live and no parent deserves to bury their children.
Sunnis, Shias, Ahmedis, Christians, Sindhis, Baluchis, Pathans, Punjabis, Hazaras, rich, poor — classifications don’t matter.
It’s about being human. Rest in peace, my children.
I ran into tears while reading the first sentence. I kept on crying while reading more. I can’t read it today, I can’t read it in days. I can’t read it in years, leave aside understanding it! What a brilliant piece. Not a piece but a portrait of pain. Portrait of callousness. Portrait of carnage. Portrait of helplessness.