Shadow of grief: A month on, families of victims struggle with loss

Published: January 15, 2015
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Security personnel deployed on Warsak Road. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD IQBAL/EXPRESS

Security personnel deployed on Warsak Road. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD IQBAL/EXPRESS

PESHAWAR: 

The atmosphere of mourning continues to loom large a month after the Army Public School (APS) massacre.

The memory of that ill-fated day in December when militants stormed the army-run school and ruthlessly killed 150 people, including 132 children, is still afresh. It is likely to cast a long shadow over the province for many years to come.

Schools in the province, including APS, have reopened amid fresh challenges. Parents of students who were injured or narrowly escaped death have voiced mixed feelings about sending their children back to the same classrooms where they could have died.

Muhammad Tufail Khattak, father of slain Sher Shah, a tenth grade student at APS, told The Express Tribune that the attack continues to haunt his family. “My son Ahmad Shah survived the deadly attack,” he said. “But we cannot forget how the militants brutally murdered our eldest son. Every corner of our house reminds us of him.”

According to Khattak, his wife is still struggling to recover from the shock of losing her son.

“She has practically stopped speaking,” he said. “The only time she says anything is when she asks me what our innocent child did to deserve this. That is a question I cannot answer.”

Khattak also criticised the attitude of politicians who have not valued the sacrifices their children have made for the country.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, Ajun Khan, father of APS victim Asfand Khan, said their family life will never be the same. “No one at our house talks to each other,” he said. “The death of my son has robbed us of our happiness,” he said.

Last month, as news of the Peshawar school carnage made headlines across the world, a wave of panic and grief spread like wildfire in Peshawar. People across the country witnessed how the sheer loss of humanity could shatter the dreams of so many families by snatching their children away from them. As the bodies of teachers and schoolchildren who lost their lives were laid to rest a day later, stories of human suffering became all the more real and frightening.

The government acted quickly and announced extended winter vacations to enable parents and students to recover from the tragedy. In the meantime, the provincial government directed all private and government educational institutions to tighten their security. It also issued a series of instructions. Schools were prompted to install CCTV cameras, increase the height of boundary walls and ensure they are covered with barbed wires. Moreover, schools were instructed to hire security guards and implement security checks at their gates. The government also warned that if any school violated the order, it would not be issued an NOC to reopen after the winter vacations.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 16th, 2015.

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