By Anshul Tewari:
What does courage look like?Â Aitzaz Hassan Bangash could not survive to see the world rejoice his heroic act that saved nearly 2000 students from a suicide bomber, but for me, he has set an example of what courage looks like.
News in Pakistani media is often filled with headlines of sectarian violence, but this one story makes all the difference. Like any other day, Aitzaz was headed to his school with a few friends on a Monday morning, when a man wearing a school uniform asked them for directions to their school. One of the students saw the man’s detonator and the group ran away, but not Aitzaz – who stayed even after his friends and cousin pleaded him.
“So he told them ‘I’m going to stop him. He is going to school to kill my friends.‘ He wanted to capture this suicide bomber. He wanted to stop [him],”Â Musadiq Ali Bangash, Aitzaz’s cousin, told theÂ BBC.
Aitzaz reportedly threw a stone at the bomber, then tackled him when he tried to enter the school courtyard. The bomb went offÂ 150 metersÂ from the main gate, killing both Aitzaz and the bomber, and injuring two others – but saving nearly 2000 of his schoolmates who had gathered in the school courtyard for morning prayers.
“My son made his mother cry, but saved hundreds of mothers from crying for their children,” Aitzaz’s father told Pakistan’s,Â theÂ Express Tribune.Â “Aitzaz died for education and no one can snatch this right from us”Â saidÂ his classmateÂ Atif Hussain. The suicide bomber has not been identified yet, but Lashkar-e-Taiba took responsibility for the attack.
The Government of Pakistan has decided to honour Aitzaz’s bravery with, Sitara-a-Shujjat, a bravery award.Â News of Hassan’s act led to an outpour of tributes on social media, and has sent out a clear message to the perpetrators of terrorism in Pakistan that the young are no more willing to accept violence.
In October 2009, Malala Yousafzai was shot by a member of the Taliban for writing an anonymous blog for the BBC, detailing her life under the Taliban rule.
While many innocent lives are lost, and heroes like Aitzaz killed, one thing is clear: Heroes and the bravery of children like Aitzaz should never be forgotten by the world. What Aitzaz’s story should do is, tell the world to stand stronger against acts of terrorism, and to fight back to put an end to it!