PESHAWAR: A year ago on January 6, a teenager stopped what would have been a catastrophic suicide bombing at his school in the Hangu district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
Aitzaz Hassan Bangash ran into the panicked bomber before wrestling with him at the gate of the Government High Secondary School, Ibrahimzai. At that point the bomber detonated his suicide vest, killing himself and Aitzaz.
This intrepid teenager helped save hundreds of lives at the school and became a hero for a nation roiled by a deadly Taliban insurgency for over a decade.
On his first death anniversary, a modest ceremony was held at the central Imambargah of Ibrahimzai where relatives, teachers and schoolmates paid glowing tributes to Aitzaz who has already been awarded a national civilian award, Sitara Shujaat, for his feat of bravery. The ceremony could not be held at the school due to security concerns.
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the front-line province in the fight against militancy, has suffered colossal losses – both in men and material – as Taliban militants have unleashed a reign of terror in the province.
They have targeted security forces, police, media persons, academics and innocent men, women and children in their bloody campaign. They are loathed to secular education – which is why they have blown up hundreds of schools in K-P and adjoining tribal regions.
The January 6, 2014 abortive suicide attack was part of this vicious campaign. However, Aitzaz thwarted the attack and embraced death to become immortal in the annals of this nation’s history.
“Even we couldn’t believe in the heroics of young Aitzaz,” said his elder brother, Mujtaba Hassan Bangash, while talking to The Express Tribune by phone from Ibrahimzai.
The school principal, Tahir Ali, said that the death of 15-year-old Aitzaz was tragic but he made the whole nation proud by saving the lives of hundreds of other schoolchildren. “Since Aitzaz belonged to our school, we all, teachers and students alike, are proud of him,” Ali told The Express Tribune by phone.
Ali said that Aitzaz’s sacrifice would be remembered forever. “He has become not only a beacon for his parents, family, tribe and Hangu but also a symbol of peace and bravery for the whole country.”
In recognition of Aitzaz’s heroics, the government had renamed Government High School Ibrahimzai as Aitzaz Shaheed Government High School. The government had also promised to build two degree colleges – one for boys and another for girls – and a sports stadium in Hangu. But the pledge has remains unfulfilled.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 7th, 2014.
Correction: In an earlier version of this story, it was incorrectly mentioned that Aitzaz was killed on January 7. The error is regretted.
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