PESHAWAR / CHARSADDA: When a chowkidar (an untrained private guard) and a chemistry professor fight off terrorists to protect students, bravery justifiably becomes a laurel worn by citizens.
Judging from his looks, Shahzad could not be more than 20 to 25 years old. But the contract employee held on to his Kalashnikov assault rifle, turning it on the terrorists he saw scaling the back wall of the Bacha Khan University Wednesday morning.
Shahzad told The Express Tribune he was near the Arts and Social Sciences Block when he saw four terrorists breach the school. “They opened indiscriminate fire,” so he fired back.
Shahzad said he asked staff members to go hide, escape.
“My firing cornered them, forcing them to enter Mahmood Makhfi Hostel for boys,” he said. “I fought with only my Kalashnikov till the police arrived.”
Eight police commandos reached the campus, said Mardan circle DIG Saeed Wazir, paying tributes to the guard who fought bravely.
Shahzad remained unscathed by some miracle but the same could not be said for Dr Syed Hamid Hussain, the assistant chemistry professor who joined the university three years ago. Hauntingly reminiscent of the Army Public School attack in 2014, Hussain died trying to save students.
University guard Ashfaq told The Express Tribune that Hussain fired at the terrorists with his pistol, trying to prevent them from gaining ground. No one can begin to quantify the value of his actions, but the father of two died guns ablaze, the role of armed protector forced upon the educationist in the blink of an eye.
Ten days ago, Hussain could only think of celebrating his son’s third birthday, posting pictures of the occasion on Facebook, his last update. From an impoverished family in a village in Swabi district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, he was the only one who pursued higher education – a PhD in chemistry from the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Hussain’s close friend and class fellow from Government High School Swabi, Tariq Ameen, said Hussain always worked very hard. “That’s how he got a scholarship at UoP.”
Ameen added, “We just met last week in our village. He told me they were celebrating his son’s third birthday.” Ameen said Hussain laughed and said time was going very fast and “we were now almost old”.
His funeral prayers were offered in his ancestral graveyard in Swabi. He was married in 2012 and leaves behind a wife and two children – three-year-old Hasher Hussain and a one-year-old daughter.
When the security forces concluded the operation, Hussain was found with the pistol still in his hand.
At the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar, another university employee’s loss was tearing at the heart of his family – his brother. Assistant Librarian Iftikhar Ahmad died at the LRH, as a result of Wednesday’s carnage.
“Someone help me identify the terrorists and I will fight them alone to avenge my brother’s death,” cried Younas, Ahmad’s elder brother.
Younas, who followed the ambulance which carried his brother to the LRH, was utterly broken by the loss. Younas, who was inconsolable, propped up by people present at the hospital, kept repeating, “What was my brother’s fault? Someone please show me the terrorists [so I can take revenge.”
Ahmad was meant to get married in 20 days. Instead of rejoicing, Ahmad was instead prepared for his final rites on Wednesday.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 21st, 2016.