PESHAWAR: Eidul Fitr just breezed past. While for some it brought respite—a breather to those who work tirelessly all year round—there were those for whom the moment of festivity opened wounds that might never heal.
Seven months have gone by since militants launched an organised assault on Army Public School, Warsak Road – an incident that forced the government to change gears en route to peace and normalcy. While the deaths of over 150 people, most of them students, were mourned across Pakistan and the world over, the bereaved families have yet to escape the haunting memories. It’s times like Eid when the loss hits one the most.
This was the first time the grieving fathers left their houses for Eid prayers without their sons and families found no reason to rejoice. This year the significance of Eids gone by was driven home by the absence of the loved ones at the food table and in pictures.
“He used to stand with me shoulder-to-shoulder at the congregation. This year, it all felt so pointless. There were faces at the mosque that I could recognise but my boy wasn’t there by my side,” said Tufail Khattak, father of APS victim Sher Shah. Sher Shah was an authority on aesthetics at the Khattak household. Every year during the numerous shopping trips in the last ten days of Ramazan, he would select the colour each member of the family would don on the big day. “Ramazan and Eid were spent battling his memories,” Tufail added.
Although he admitted words do little to assuage grief, Tufail said not a single government representative extended support to the families of victims. “We were left to fight our own emotional battles. We just exchanged phone calls with families of Shah’s schoolmates whom we knew,” he said.
Tufail said a good majority of the victims’ families were ignored while some took up the opportunity to politicise the deaths and use them for their own benefit. “Most aren’t even aware of any aid packages that were announced for them,” he added.
Dost Muhammad recalled the deafening silence that filled his house all three days. His son Asad Aziz exited the house on December 16, 2014 never to return again. Aziz was a student of grade eight.
“Aziz was the one who made all the plans, convinced everyone,” he said. Dost added his only request to his fellow countrymen is not to forget his son’s sacrifice.
In the absence of any significant government attention, Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif visited the city on July 16 and attended an Iftar dinner arranged to honour the families of APS victims.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 21st, 2015.
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