IT began like any other morning in Peshawar’s Army Public School. Students were busy with their books while teachers delivered lectures. At least 132 students and nine teachers were killed in the assault with around the same number injured. Following a military rescue operation, the siege ended around eight hours after it began with all six militants killed. Marked as the ‘Black Day’ in Pakistan, 16th December evokes anguish and spine-chilling memories of the drab morning on which the Taliban assailants stormed the school and opened indiscriminate firing on the students. The tragic incident hardened Pakistan’s resolve in the fight against terror and brought the nation together. Four terror convicts identified as Maulvi Abdus Salam, Hazrat Ali, Mujeeb ur Rehman and Sabeel were executed at a high security prison in Kohat for their involvement in the APS attack. They were sentenced to death by the military courts. Since the establishment of military courts, 345 terrorists were given death penalty and 296 rigorous imprisonments of varied durations, ranging from life imprisonment to a minimum duration of five years. Five accused were also acquitted. Those, who have been given death penalty, included masterminds, executers and abettors or facilitators. During the last two decades, Pakistan has been worst hit country by terrorism. More than 70,000 citizens including 6,900 security personnel have perished due to terrorism and alongside inflicting loss of $123 billion to the state. The year 2008 witnessed worst onslaught of terrorism in Pakistan. During that year, 2,267 Pakistani citizens were killed in 2,148 terrorist incidents that included 63 suicide attacks.
In May 2009, the government launched a military operation called Rah-e-Raast (the Right Path) in Malakand (Swat) Division against terrorists. More than one and a half million people had to be temporarily displaced before the launch of this operation. In 2009, another military operation, Rah-e-Nijat (the Path of Riddance) was launched in South Waziristan Agency after the Swat operation. The gains of this operation could not be consolidated due to lack of required public support; the environment was also not as much conducive as it was in the case of the Swat operation. On the night of June 8, 2014, the terrorists launched a brazen attack at Karachi airport killing 28 people. The post-operation intelligence confirmed that planning of this attack took place in the terrorist sanctuaries in North Waziristan. Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) – a terrorist outfit took the responsibility thereby challenging the writ of the state.
The government launched a full-scale operation in North Waziristan Agency on June 16, 2014; Operation Zarb-e-Azb (Swift and conclusive strike). On the night of June 8, 2014, the terrorists launched a brazen attack at Karachi airport killing 28 people. The post-operation intelligence confirmed that planning of this attack took place in the terrorist sanctuaries in North Waziristan. Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) – a terrorist outfit took the responsibility thereby challenging the writ of the state. The security forces, in collaboration with law enforcement agencies, continued their surge in urban areas to eliminate hiding terrorists. Since remnants of the terrorists fled away to far flung areas of Balochistan focus of intelligence based operations also shifted accordingly. “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” – Khalil Gibran. These children who seek education are a promise for a better future of Pakistan. These children are a promise of peaceful Pakistan. These children are a dream of prosperous Pakistan. These children are the warriors of light in the battle with darkness. These students of the APS Peshawar are the real heroes of our nation. They witnessed their friends and their teachers die in front of them. They watched the horrors of the gore massacre and the grim darkness of death. But yet these students faced the grisly reality and firmed their resolve for attaining education. These students of the APS Peshawar are the real heroes of our nation. They witnessed their friends and their teachers die in front of them. They watched the horrors of the gore massacre and the grim darkness of death. But yet these students faced the grisly reality and firmed their resolve for attaining education.
The students who lost their lives that day and those who survived dare the peaceful warriors of this battle; and hold the torch of hope for victory. The incident prompted the civil and military leadership of the country to unite and launch a national action plan against terrorism. The barbaric killing of innocent children melted the hearts of those who have been on a killing spree across the world for years now. A lot of effort was put in by the teachers and the staff. They not only kept themselves composed but also guided the students towards life. Operation Zarb-e-Azb has successfully been completed by February 2017 after achieving the desired results, replaced with another operation named ‘Radd-ul-Fasaad’ to conduct Counter-Terrorism operations by Rangers in Punjab, to keep continue the ongoing operations across the country, focus on more effective border security management, countrywide explosive control and de-weaponisation and pursuance of National Action Plan. The brazenness of the APS massacre united all the political parties and military leadership of the country to unanimously condemn the attack and make the National Action Plan (NAP) to eradicate terrorism. The blood of the innocent united the nation against all forms of extremism, terrorism, violence and hatred. On this day while paying tribute to our young martyrs, we also laud the sacrifices of our defence forces, police and law-enforcing agencies in the fight against the scourge of terrorism.
—The writer is Peshawar-based columnist.