“A young student sits in a dark wooden locker placed in the corner of his classroom. He covers his ears to block out the blood curdling screams of his friends and teachers. He wishes to burst out in the open and to try to save them but fear keeps him rooted to the spot as he sheds silent tears. Cradling his tiny figure, he rocks back and forth praying for his parents to find him, praying for the safety of all the other innocent people in the building, praying for his life to be spared, praying for the horror to come to an end. Abruptly, the door of the locker he sits in creaks open and a tall figure stands in front of him. A turban is tied to his head and his tangled beard is streaked with henna stains. He holds a rifle twice the size of him in his right hand and with his left he holds the door of the locker. He wears an auburn uniform just like that of his father. He wears the uniform of the Paramilitary forces of Pakistan. The child cries out in joy as relief floods him. “I am safe.” He thinks to himself and cautiously reaching out he places his petite hand on the man’s arm. Unexpectedly the soldier harshly pulls out the boy and he lands on the blood spotted floor with a blow. They boy looks at him with tears flooding his eyes. With one last cry of Allah hu Akbar the man drills a dozen bullets in the frail boys’ body. He had thought of the bearded soldier to be his savior, then why had the man put him in such pain? As he breathes his last breath the young boys mind is fogged by agony, terror and confusion. His last thought is that of his mother who had waved him goodbye as he unknowingly walked towards his death and that of the warm smile of his father as he had hugged him one last time before he stepped into his grave. For good measure, the man kicks the lifeless body to one side and moves onto the next room, looking for another child to murder.”
At around 10:30 A.M on the 16th of December 2014, a terrorist attack took place in Peshawar. Seven gunmen affiliated with the Tehrik-i-Taliban led the attack on the Army Public School which led to the killing of 141 people, including 132 schoolchildren, ranging between eight and eighteen years of age. They had disguised themselves as members of the Pakistani paramilitary force, the Frontier Corps thus allowing them easy entrance into the building. The terrorists moved quickly, killing every living being in sight. As they opened fire, many of the pupils ran toward the two exits on the other side of the auditorium, but many of them were gunned down in the garden. The principal of the school Tahira Qazi was an immensely brave woman who was also killed during this massacre. The hallways and classrooms were soon piled with lifeless bodies of children and teacher alike. Several reports state that the students were forced to watch as their teachers were brutally murdered (including the principal). The bloodshed was on such a large scale that fears gripped the entire country.
According to the Director General of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the public relations department of the Pakistani military, Major-General Asim Bajwa, the terrorists did not intend to take any hostages but instead wanted to kill as many pupils as they could. This caused further distress as the entire attack turned into a revolting mass murder of innocent people. Soon, a rescue operation was carried out by the Pakistan Army’s Special Services Group (SSG) Special Forces. The forces carried out their duties bravely and successfully killed all seven terrorists. They also managed to rescue 960 people out of an estimated total of 1,099 pupils and teaching staff who were present on the school premises. This attack was the called the deadliest terrorist attack ever to occur in Pakistan. The families of the students and staff alike waited doe what felt like centuries outside the gates of the school hoping that their loved ones would come out alive and safe. Yet where many prayers were answered many had to return home with what little was left of their families. More than a hundred corpses were later discovered. Some of them were so gruesome that it would be hard to describe as it is. Even though it had not been their intention at first, the bombers took hostages in the administrative box after the rescue teams entered the school. A major amount of time was taken in the clearing of this block and in making sure that the hostages were freed.
Later, the Tehrik-i- Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack, describing it as revenge for Operation Zarb-e –Azab that the Pakistani military’s offensive in North Waziristan had started in summer 2014. One of the seven terrorists was killed by the military personnel near the auditorium, while the other six managed to make it to the administration block. Three of the six attackers were killed by the snipers from the windows and air vents, while the other three were killed when the commandos stormed the building and rescued the remaining hostages in the process.
The 2014 Peshawar school massacre came as a shock not only to Pakistan but also to the rest of the world. Although the Taliban were known as violent and cruel this event that targeted innocent children was highly unexpected. It caused uproar, receiving condemnations from public, government, political and religious entities, journalists, and other members of the Pakistani society. Pakistani media reacted strongly to the events, with major newspapers, news channels and many commentators calling for renewed and strong action against militants, especially against TTP. For many days, every television screen in the country displayed the tragic news and with the help of communication services many channels helped the families of the victims in looking for their kin. Internationally, many countries were grieved as well as furious about the attack. They offered their condolences to the families of the victims and condemned the attack. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also condemned the attack, calling it a national tragedy and announced a three-day mourning period during which the National Flag would fly at half-mast. A series of candle vigils were held throughout Pakistan in solidarity with the victims and number of international communities recorded their protest to condemn the attack. Numerous other schools and colleges were shut down due to the threat posed by the Tehrik-i- Taliban and the rapid panic of this massacre turning into a series of mass killings across the country by the terrorist organization.
The survivors from the massacre were left scarred and battered; many of them were dangerously injured. The courage and firmness shown by the pupils was astounding as the Army Public School Peshawar was reopened on the 12th of January 2015 under the guard of Pakistan’s security forces. Many had deemed it too early to reopen the school and allow the children relive the horrors that still plagued their nightmares but the students and parents were both determined not to let their fear overcome them. To uplift the morale and spirit of the students and victims of school the chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif himself had attended the morning assembly of the school and confirmed them that no such incident will ever occur in Pakistan again and that they will break the backbone of Taliban.
This bloodbath revealed the valor of the Pakistan. Not only did the Taliban learn that Pakistan had strength and audacity beyond their imagination but also that it was hard to defeat the determination of the young generation and that it would take much more than mere iron and fear to put an end to such motivation and valor.