In Memoriam: Peshawar & How Things Come Full Circle

Feb 2015

Candlelight vigil in London, UK for the victims of the terrorist attack | Photo credit: Kashif Haque

Candlelight vigil in London, UK for the victims of the terrorist attack | Photo credit: Kashif Haque




Email Format 

 

Please click on the tip jar and donate!


Subscribe
Details HERE.
About us
Editors-in-Chief: 
M. Ahmad & M. Tahir
Editors: 
A. Hashim | A. Kamal S. Hussain | S. Hyder | K. Hamzah Saif | K. Zipperer
Contributing Editors: 
M. Kasana | R. Mehmood | I. Tipu Mehsud | H. Soofi
Urdu translators: 
S. Bhatti | S. Hussein Changezi | S. Hussein | P. Mushtaq | A. Naz
Social media:
M. Kasana & K. Hamzah Saif
Interns:
P. Mushtaq | A. Naz

For many, October 20, 2009 may not ring a bell. For me, however, it’s a day that’s forever etched into my mind: Two bombs exploded at my university, the International Islamic University in Islamabad, and killed nine people. My friendTayyaba Hina was one of those fateful nine. I remember her waving at me and crossing the corridor on her way to lunch. I did not know that this would be the last time I would see her smiling face. Had I known, I would have gotten up and hugged her; would not have let her gone to that now-infamous cafeteria.

My memory of that day is still all too clear: I was in my popular fiction class taking notes when the blast happened. Like an earthquake, there was a rumbling, but there was also an accompanying thunderous noise that gave me a sinking sense of dread. A few moments later, we heard another. There was smoke in the corridors, and confusion gripped the campus as students and teachers tried to comprehend what had happened. We found out that there had been two suicide bombs—one at the entrance of the girls’ cafeteria and another one at the boys’ academic block.

The cafeteria was the place where all us girls would hang out, do our assignments, make plans and have endless conversations. But the attack changed it in a fraction of a second. The bomber, covered in a burqa, had tried to force his way into the cafeteria, but our cafeteria’s cleaner, Pervaiz Masih, had obstructed him before he was able to enter. In response, the bomber had detonated the bomb right there. In their place, the ground was scuffed with the bomb’s shrapnel, and charred flesh and fresh blood covered the area. Several girls who had been sitting next to the entrance were critically injured. They were put in private cars and rushed to the hospital.

——————————————————————————————————————————

Like us? We survive on generous support from our readers.

———————————————————————————————————————————

Tayyaba had been with two friends in the cafeteria at the time of the blast. Her friends died on the spot. Tayyaba, however, fought for one more week in the hospital with critical stomach injuries. When she passed, it took months to sink in that she was actually gone. I would see her face in the corridor, classrooms and auditorium. I was only 19, but the attack had paralyzed me with trepidation, pain and revulsion. Petrified, I had to drag myself to university while my mind became a playground for nightmares. Then, I finally came to term with the fact: Life moves on.

Just two months after we marked the fifth anniversary of the university blasts this year, terrorists attacked another school, this time in Peshawar. My grandmother and I were watching television when I heard the news, and my heart skipped a beat. The story was all too familiar, but in many ways much worse: This time, 132 children, some as young as 8, were killed, and their school was stained with blood. The entire country reeled with shock, pain and grief.

And yet, in the aftermath of the attacks, I couldn’t help thinking about the cyclical process of things: A tragedy happens, people react with sadness and fear, and then in a little while, things return to the way they were, and there is little thought of action or change. Then, another tragedy happens, and the cycle repeats. Shia genocide, minority killings and terrorist attacks are part of our fabric of life these days, and because of this, we become immune, and block out the tragedies by which we were not personally affected. As a result, the nation never strongly unites against this violence. This is not how things should be, since it is never clear who will be the next victim.

Although it was never confirmed who was behind the attack at my university, the Tehreek-e-Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in Peshawar. They stated it was an act of retribution for the many innocent young children’s lives that have been lost as a result of drone attacks. As Pakistanis, we have too often been silent spectators of these attacks, and disunited in our response to them. While the government is certainly no innocent in any these violent tragedies, and has turned a deaf ear in response, we as citizens should also do what we can to prevent more of this violence from happening—if we don’t, it will continue to happen again and again and again. An educational institute should never have to bear the brunt of politics.

———————————————————————————————————————————

Want to see more articles as good as this one? Help us!

———————————————————————————————————————————

After the Peshawar attack, I couldn’t help but remember Pervaz Masih, our university cleaner who gave his life in 2009. I couldn’t help but think that Pakistani citizens and the government have let him down with our indifference. Pervaiz Masih’s was the ultimate sacrifice, but this did little to change the bigger picture. For its part, the government should work to revise its foreign policies so that its air base is no longer used for drone attacks, and bolster its presence in the remote corners of the country and make sure these populations are given the resources they need to prosper. The country’s terrorist activities are in part rooted in poverty – individuals often receive money or protection for planting a bomb – and so efforts in this regard have the potential to reduce the amount of violence. As individuals, we should honor Pervaiz Masih by going out and protesting for more government action. Let us hope that this time, we will not move on and forget so soon.

Mahru Najam is currently a graduate student at Comsats, Islamabad. She is pursuing her M.S. in linguistics and literature.

Tags: , ,

4 Responses to In Memoriam: Peshawar & How Things Come Full Circle

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *