The Massacre on Warsak Road
December 16 – It started like any other day- workshy, reluctant, and full of all the gusto expected of a mid-20s Pakistani guy. The plan was to drop off my coat at the dry cleaner’s, look around the town, and collect my brother’s bi-monthly result report from Admissions at the University of Peshawar.
I was almost ready to leave the house when an announcement was made through the mosque address system: [a soft unsteady voice] “Three children passed away. The funeral prayer will be at 10 pm in the field opposite the mosque’s main gate. You are requested to attend”. It felt strange. Names weren’t mentioned. They always mention names of the deceased. Then another announcement followed: [same voice] “The field opposite the main gate of mosque won’t be well-lit because the transformer is down. The funeral prayer will be held at 10 pm across the bridge”. I headed to the mosque to get the scoop.
People had gathered outside a house. Those distressed looks and bleary eyes. I cornered one of the guys. “Who was it?” I asked. He told me the names, and right away I had vivid memories come to mind- times that I’d spoken with these kids, times that I’d taken them to school, times that we’d laughed together. I didn’t ask how it happened. I couldn’t believe it happened. I wanted to go inside the house. It was too crowded. Then I heard someone saying that Taliban had attacked their school – the Army Public School on Warsak Road. “Is it over now?” I asked. “The army is still inside” someone replied. My three cousins go to the same school. I called my uncle. Before I could ask anything he said “They are fine. Don’t worry. The army was able to rescue some of the students. I am going to the hospital now”, and he hung up. I thought it must be the main hospital in the city, the Lady Reading Hospital.
I decided to go to the hospital. Checked my cell phone for updates. Around 22 children were killed. By the time I reached the hospital, the figure reported was 46. Parents and family members had gathered to ask about their loved ones – students and teachers. I could see the blood stains on the floor. Families sobbing and hugging each other. It was horrible. I came back home after donating blood at the Marwat Foundation. Around 9 pm an announcement was made pertaining to the funeral prayer of the three children. This time they mentioned the names. The scene at the funeral was indescribable. The mother who lost her two kids. Two sons. I can still hear her cries. Their father sitting by their graves, screaming “God, I had two dreams. They snatched both”.
The attackers wanted to kill as many children as possible. They machined-gunned them en masse. In total 132 children and 9 staff members lost their lives. I'm at a loss for words and I keep typing and deleting what I really want to say about these cowards. How quickly innocence can be lost. With everything I had seen and been through nothing will ever come close to this day. As a mark of respect and sympathy, a public holiday was declared. The government condemned the attack. The security establishment promised to punish the perpetrators. But we have heard all of that so many times. These condemnations have become a joke. We must force our government to take a concrete step. Categorising the militant outfits as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ shouldn’t be allowed. Crushing militancy in every shape and form should be the top priority of our federal and provincial governments. A full scale war should be launched against these insane fanatics. We as a nation cannot afford to forget this massacre.