Saifullah and Noorullah were their family’s pride and joy. They were students of class eight and nine, respectively, at the Army Public School.
In a dramatic twist of fate, both boys fell victim to the guns of militants who stormed the school’s building on December 16, 2014. The incident will forever be remembered as a dark chapter in the family’s history.
In the fractured spaces between all-consuming grief, the family is struggling to come to grips with the tragedy.
“My brothers promised to buy me a New Year’s present,” says Hafsa Durrani, their bereaved sister who is a pre-medical student. “It is difficult for me to imagine that they will never come back.”
Stricken by the demise of her siblings, Durrani cannot understand why anyone would want to kill innocent children.
“They meant the world to me,” she says, trying to hold back her tears. “Taking care of them was my duty. I assumed responsibility for them and paid for their tuition.”
When the family learnt about the attack, they found it difficult to register the news. “At the time, we had no idea what to do,” she says. “We tried to search for them but our efforts were of no use.”
In the evening, Saifullah and Noorullah’s bodies arrived at their doorstep.
“My elder sister, Sana, was shocked and speechless for many hours,” explains Durrani.
Umm-e-Amara, their younger sister, studies in class five. She went to the same school as her brothers. She is one of the survivors and narrates a haunting story of that fated day.
“We were initially told they were army instructors,” she explains. “However, later an uncle came and told us the Taliban had stormed into the school.”
According to Umm-e-Amara, he told them to hide under their chairs. “The uncle helped us escape from the school’s back exit,” she says.
After they managed to get out of the school’s premises, the ‘uncle’ asked them to go home.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Noorullah and Saifullah’s mother said she had high hopes for her sons.
“My husband and I wanted to make them strong and conscientious people,” she says. “We wanted them to become doctors and engineers and work for the betterment of the country.”
For her, Noorullah and Saifullah were her pillars of strength and support.
“Before they went to school in the morning, my sons told me that we would go to our village for the winter vacation.” she says. “All of us did visit the village. The only difference was that we brought their bodies here for the last rites.”
Their father, Tahsinullah, is still coming to grips with the tragedy.
“What crime had they committed? Why did my sons have to die?” he asks. “The government owes us an explanation. They have forgotten the plight of the people in their political point-scoring and desire to remain in power.”
Published in The Express Tribune, December 18th, 2014.