With candles and rose petals in their little hands, children stood alongside adults at Liberty Chowk on Wednesday chanting Pakistan Zindabad. Five-year-old Christopher Khan was dressed in his school uniform. He said some children had been killed at a school on Tuesday but he did not know why.
Hundreds of people of all ages poured out into the streets to show solidarity with the families and victims of the Peshawar carnage in which 141 people died. Candle vigils and demonstrations were organised by civil society organisations, political and religious parties and students’ federations at several locations in the city. All schools and colleges held special prayers and walks to condemn the terrorist attack.
The largest gathering was held at Liberty Chowk in which hundreds of protesters lit candles in the memory of the victims. National anthems played in the background but the atmosphere was sombre.
The demonstration was organised by the city district government. Several organisations including the Imamia Students Organisation, the Rising Welfare Foundation, the SOS Children’s Village attended the vigil. Members of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf were also present.
DCO Captain (retd) Muhammad Usman said it was an apolitical gathering. They had all had gathered there to show solidarity with those who had lost their lives in the horrific incident. “All I want to say to the terrorists is, you have made a big mistake and you will rue it...this is the voice of Lahore.” Commission Rashid Mehmood Langrial said there could not be a more painful day. “This incident has changed Pakistan. Today’s Pakistan is a new one,” he said.
Those present offered prayers for the departed souls and shouted slogans in support of the army.
People’s Democratic Front, Aurat Foundation, National Students Federation (Pakistan) and political parties including the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid gathered in front of the Press Club and held demonstrations throughout the day.
Jehanara Wattoo, head of the PPP’s social media team, said the Peshawar incident was inhumane and defied the principles of Islam. NSF central president Sabir Ali said such brutality had never been witnessed before.
Insaf Students Federation and several civil society organisations gathered at Charing Cross in front of the Punjab Assembly and held a candle vigil. “This is a national tragedy. We stand with the families of the victims and those who were martyred,” said Waqas Iftikhar, president of ISF Punjab. He said there was a need to stand united to bring an end to terrorism.
A peace walk was held at Forman Christian College in the afternoon. Rector James Tebbe said, “we are all united and standing with the aggrieved families. The candles we have lit depict hope, love and mercy.”
Neyha Edgar, a student, said, “our hearts go out to the families of the victims... we are united against terrorism.”
Pastor Babar said, “Together we cherish the freedom we have. We pray for all the victims and ask for mercy from Him. We pray for the moms and dads who sent their kids to that school on Tuesday expecting them to come back.”
Solidarity walks, candle vigils and prayers were also held at the Government College University, the Beaconhouse National University, the Home Economics College, the Punjab University, the Lahore Leads University and several other public and private schools.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 18th, 2014.