Pakistan has commemorated the victims of a Taliban attack that took place a year ago in which gunmen executed students and staff at the army-run Peshawar school by detonating bombs on the school premises, resulting in the deaths of 150 students and faculty.
On the anniversary day, schools across Sindh, Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces were closed, The Tribune reports. They commemorated the event and expressed their solidarity with their country’s efforts to fight the extremist militants. The decision to close all schools was also partly a precaution taken by the government against any potential attacks related to the anniversary.
In the city of Peshawar and elsewhere, individuals have mourned and remembered the victims by leaving flower wreaths and lighting candles for them. According to the Associated Press, Andleeb Aftab, a Peshawar teacher whose son was killed during the school attack, said on the anniversary day:
“My son is a martyr. Martyrs never die. I still feel that my son is around. I see him playing on the school grounds. Every child of this school is my son.”
The school welcomed students about a month following the attack, but the physical and mental trauma was too fresh and vivid for those still recovering, Jon Boone reports for the Guardian.
Politicians and military leaders honored the victims and their families at a ceremony that took place in the city and the country awarded medals to the victims’ families. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed his determination to avenge for the victims.
A year following the attack, security in and around the school is still tight. Armed officers guard the school and metal detectors are used at the school gates.
Mehran Khan is a 14-year-old survivor of the attack. His leg was broken and he needed more than six months to recover from bullet wounds. According to the Guardian, he was shot by the Taliban gunmen three times when the gunmen attacked a school auditorium full of students.
Khan, who hopes to join his country’s armed forces once he graduates, he says his school is not like it used to be:
“There are new buildings, my friends are gone and some of the teachers are different,” he said. “Everything has changed.”
The country’s military leadership says that about 3,400 extremists were killed in 2014 in the country’s efforts to protect its people from Islamist militants across the North Waziristan tribal region. The Maulvi Fazlullah organization, who claimed responsibility for the school attack, said it was a form of retaliation for the North Waziristan campaign that sought to weaken their activities in the region.
Following the internationally condemned attack, the country put to trial alleged extremists and lifted the moratorium on the death penalty, among other security measures.
Ajoon Khan, a lawyer whose teen son died in the Taliban attack, told the Guardian that Pakistan has changed entirely after the attacks.