By Bala Sai:
The darkness of the night can’t bring the nightmare to an end. Wails and screams ring in the air, but it is a ghastly silence that deafens you. You see empty coffins piled up outside the hospital. Lifeless bodies dressed in green blazers and grey flannel trousers- children who were only terrified of their exams in the morning – have begun their final journey.
You watch army men bringing in the little ones, wounded, bleeding, fighting for their lives. Kids who have seen their friends killed before their eyes; kids who witnessed their teacher strapped to a chair and burned alive; kids who have just walked through the corridors of their school, passing by lifeless bodies of the people they knew, stepping on the blood of their friends. Children who survived the horror of feeling hope slip away, believing that they were going to die. Kids, scarred for life.
The terrorists were dressed in Army uniforms. The same uniforms the fathers of these children wore. Who can they trust anymore? How will they ever feel safe again?
“I folded my tie and pushed it into my mouth so that I wouldn’t scream.” Shahrukh Khan (16), battling gunshot wounds in both the legs hid beneath the benches in his classroom, as he saw terrorists dragging out his writhing, shivering friends and riddling them with bullets. Shahrukh Khan had to play dead and pray that he would escape death. He, unlike most of his friends, survived one of the darkest days in humanity’s recent history.
The day when Pakistan’s ticking time bomb finally went off.
On the 16th of December, the world stood shocked as dreams were shattered, families destroyed and hopes crippled. At around 10:30 AM local time, as students were engrossed in their exams, 9 militants of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), donning paramilitary Frontier Corps uniforms and suicide bomb vests, stormed the Army Public School in Peshawar, scaling walls and cutting through wire fences, via a graveyard behind the school- a graveyard they would eventually bring inside.
The van they had travelled in had been rigged to explode. Once they entered the premises, one of the terrorists blew himself up, taking the security personnel down with him. The others scattered across the school, chanting “Allahu akbar”, and carrying cold, metal death on their shoulders. They entered the classrooms one by one, smashing through locked doors, and they opened fire at screaming, terrified children; some so young (as young as 10) that they didn’t even know how to protect themselves.
Through the 8 painful hours of the siege, as terrified parents crowded around the school gates praying for the safety of their children, the terrorists staged a massacre inside, killing at least 132 students and 9 members of the staff. When they weren’t murdering them, the Taliban militants used children as human shields to escape the army’s gunfire. It didn’t take long to figure out that they did not have any demands. They were not interested in taking hostages. They had only one agenda- to kill.
Pakistan has always treated terrorism and militancy as mere rashes and allergies, like a necessary evil, even as it silently rotted and gnawed at their flesh. Today, they see it for the blistering, festering sickness simmering under their skins. They see why terrorism shouldn’t be used as a strategic weapon. They see why they can’t pick favourites among militants. They have paid the price time and again, and a cursory look at their recent history will reveal their self-inflicted scars.
This time, terror has struck at their heart. The sheer cowardice and audacity of the Taliban has made sure that the impact has transcended national and regional boundaries by running a stake through the very idea of humanity. Now it is a global issue and people around the world stand with Pakistan.
Condolences and support poured in from across the globe. Even terror outfits like Jama’at-ud-Da’wah and the Afghan Taliban have condemned the attack, calling it ‘against Islam.’ It is time the power-holders of the country come together to raze this evil off their land.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has struck the most defenceless target its sick minds could think of. Their spokesperson claims that this savage attack was an answer to Pakistan’s continuing offensive against them in the North Waziristan region. What did it yield them in the end? Ten new airstrikes before the dawn struck; a horde of army officials raring to wipe the TTP off the face of the earth; loss of every iota of support the TTP might have hoped to get from the Pakistani public; every politician on whose ambiguities they had survived this long, turning against them. They have made sure that nobody in their right minds would support the TTP’s cause any more.
The message from the people of Pakistan and around the world is clear. This act of cowardice will not make us bow down to terror. The Taliban has perhaps sounded its own death-knell. They have slaughtered their own ideals, their own beliefs (however skewed they were). With the massacre of their conscience, they have heralded their own destruction. They have to answer for their actions- to the family of the deceased, to the people of the world, to their own children and to their God. We stand together to ask those responsible for the bloodbath-
How can you ever muster enough courage to look at yourself in the mirror? Won’t your wives and children spit on your face if they find out what you’ve done? How could you possibly justify your actions? Revenge? Religion?
What do you think you have achieved? If this is about creating fear in the minds of people, you have failed miserably. You have only created disgust and revulsion for yourself, and hatred- a seething, glowering hatred- even among people who once sympathized with you.
I wonder what the gunmen were thinking when they rained death on that school. How inhuman have you made them? Don’t you dare point your finger at religion again. This is as anti-Islam as it gets. What does your Sharia law- which you fight for- say about child-murder? This act is more than just revenge, this is senseless, remorseless brutality. Look at the creatures you have created- without empathy, without morality, without anything human. You have created vile monsters. If there is evil in the world, then you are the face of it.