PESHAWAR: It was on this day last year that terrorists struck the most unkindest cut of all. One hundred and twenty-two children and 22 staff were methodically killed in a sickening Taliban rampage at the Army Public School in Peshawar.
The appalling massacre shocked not only the Pakistani nation but the whole world, and prompted a paradigm change in the country’s counter-terrorism strategy.
The nation is observing the first anniversary of the gruesome assault today.
PM Nawaz addresses participants of APS ceremony
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday declared December 16 the day of ‘national educational resolve’.
Addressing the ceremony to mark a year to the deadly APS massacre, the prime minister also announced the construction of APS University in remembrance of the 144 children and teachers who lost their lives as Taliban gunmen stormed the school on this day last year.
“We will take revenge for every drop of blood of our innocent children, the premier said.
The prime minister vowed to permanently uproot the menace of terrorism from the country. “Time has come to uproot terrorism from the country,” he said, while adding that “a dialogue process can only be initiated with human beings.”
NA declares APS massacre a crime against humanity
The National Assembly on Wednesday passed a unanimous resolution expressing profound grief and sadness over the killing of 122 children and 22 staff members of the Army Public School in Peshawar on December 16 last year.
The House strongly condemned the barbaric atrocity, terming it a crime against humanity, while further recommending that December 16 should be observed as Pakistan Children’s Day in memory of the deceased.
PM, CJCSC, K-P governor, provincial CMs distribute honorary shields, medals among relatives of APS victims
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Rashad Mahmood, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Governor Sardar Mehtab Ahmed Khan Abbasi, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Hafizur Rehman, Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Malik Baloch and K-P Chief Minister Pervez Khattak give away honorary shields and medals to the relatives of the APS staff and students who were killed during the APS attack.
Ceremony commences to commemorate APS attack victims
The ceremony to commemorate the APS attack victims kicks off with the students reciting verses from the Holy Quran.
Attendees rise up for national anthem to formally start the ceremony.
PM Nawaz, army chief arrive in Peshawar
The APS Peshawar is hosting the main event which is being attended by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, key members of his cabinet, army chief General Raheel Sharif. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan and four provincial chief ministers and foreign dignitaries are also present at the ceremony.
Parents of the 134 children killed were greeted by General Raheel Sharif at the start of the ceremony at the Army Public School.
Earlier, the parents had visited their children’s graves in Peshawar.
Educational institutions closed across the country
Educational institutions across the country, both private as well as state-run, will remain closed while events will be organised to commemorate the victims.
Paramilitary forces, police deployed in major cities
Pakistan deployed paramilitary forces and police in major cities Wednesday as it marked the first anniversary of a Taliban school massacre that left 151 people dead, shocking a country already scarred by nearly a decade of attacks.
The assault by nine gunmen on an army-run school in the northwestern city of Peshawar, which mostly claimed the lives of schoolchildren, was Pakistan’s deadliest ever extremist assault.
“Security has been beefed up throughout the country and additional police troops have been deployed in major cities, while paramilitary troops have been deployed at places deemed sensitive,” a spokesperson for the Interior Ministry told AFP on Wednesday without elaborating.
Soldiers were standing at alert on main roads and junctions in Peshawar early Wednesday ahead of the ceremony. A security official told AFP Tuesday that almost a full brigade would be deployed in the city.
Army Public Schools across the country are “particularly under threat”, he said, especially in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, which neighbours the capital Islamabad.
Traffic police direct govt vehicles on their way to attend ceremony to mark first anniversary of APS massacre
Shahbaz Sharif meets Chief Minister of K-P Pervaiz Khattak at the airbase
Imran calls on nation to stand firm against extremism
Imran called on the nation to stand firm against extremism in honour of the victims of the “unimaginable tragedy”.
“A yr later we must honour the memory of APS martyrs & courage of the survivors by strengthening our resolve to defeat terrorists’ agenda,” he said on Twitter.
Students of the Army Public School in Peshawar participate in the ceremony marking first anniversary of APS massacre
Of the 151 people slaughtered by the Taliban in the hours-long siege, 134 were children, according to the army’s final toll.
The attack hardened public opinion against extremism and prompted a military-led crackdown that has improved security, with 2015 on course for the fewest deaths linked to extremist violence since 2007, the year the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan was formed.
But critics warn that long-term steps are not being taken to eradicate the scourge of extremism in society.
Two survivors of the massacre attended a sombre ceremony on Tuesday in the British city of Birmingham organised by Nobel price winner Malala Yousafzai who herself survived a 2012 Taliban attack.
Malala was shot in the head in retribution for publicly advocating education for girls.
At the ceremony, Malala condemned Donald Trump’s views on Muslims, saying the US Republican presidential candidate’s comments were “full of hatred, full of this ideology of being discriminative towards others”.
One of the massacre survivors, 14-year-old Ahmad Nawaz, recounted the horror of the attack in which he was shot in the arm and his brother was killed.
“I saw my teacher burned alive in that incident and the friends with whom I was playing,” he told AFP in Birmingham.
“I was surrounded by the dead bodies of those friends. So it was the horrifying experience of my life and I still have nightmares.”
One year on, a veneer of normality has returned to the Peshawar school where classes have resumed and children play while soldiers stand atop recently fortified walls.
But the trauma lingers and parents of the slain children say they are still seeking answers about how the nation’s security apparatus could have failed them so completely.
“We think a lot about the students who lost their lives,” Abu Bakar, a teacher who was shot three times as he threw himself in front of fleeing children during the siege, told AFP, saying the loss was “something that cannot be described”.
On social media, Pakistanis were changing their profile pictures to an image depicting an Army Public School uniform with a bloody bullet hole resembling a poppy, and a caption reading: “Some stains don’t wash out”.
Many political leaders took to Twitter to express solidarity with APS victims.
In August, after a military trial that took place behind closed doors, the army announced that six militants linked to the Peshawar assault would be executed, while a seventh was given a life sentence.
On December 2, four were hanged at dawn in a prison in the northwestern city of Kohat, enraging parents who wanted to witness their deaths.
The Taliban have said they carried out the attack in retaliation for an army offensive on extremists in the tribal areas.
The mastermind Khalifa Umar Mansoor stated: “If our women and children died as martyrs your children will not escape.”
Some parents are also demanding a full judicial inquiry, complaining that no government, security or military official has yet been held to public account.
But at the school, teachers and students told AFP that education was their best revenge.
“The Taliban want us to quit our studies and become ignorant like them,” 13-year-old Uzair Khan told AFP.
“We don’t want to do that. God willing, we will continue our education, move forward and avenge them.”