Heaviest Coffins

Its been only 2 posts in 4 mounts. I didn’t feel like writing lately. But I had to write today. 4 days have passed since the inhumane tragedy hit Peshawar and the whole country with it, but the pain is still fresh. I thought, writing about it may make me feel any better.

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Dec 16th. The same day my homeland once broke into two, her heart was filled with tears again. I was on a class trip to Neelum-Jehlum Power Project site when the news broke. Peshawar, school, Terrorist Attack, 132 children. I don’t have the luxury of a strong heart like most ppl. I rarely remember watching a news channel in the past couple of years. I believe that if I don’t hear about something, it doesn’t happen. But the ppl, they keep talking and taking and never stop. I was grieved, but I pushed it from my head like I never heard it, like it never happened. On our way back, someone told that the school attacked was Army Public School. What was the figure again? I asked. One say 103, they other said 140.

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I was an Apsacian, my brother was an Apasacian, our 10-year-old brother is still an Apsacian. Every single boy and girl in our family either is or was an Apsacian. I couldn’t help picturing my little brother and dearest cousins. Everything changed. 132 was all that remained. I put my headphones thinking music might distract me, it mostly do. but I just scrolled my playlist with no song I wanted to hear. I sat by the bus window with my legs folded coz it was chilly and focused on the lights outside, trying to sleep, no help. It felt like the road will never end. It did though. I forgot about the whole tragedy. We had dinner and went to our friends’ house for the sleep over. I checked my Facebook, filled with the news and disturbing images. I didn’t touch the videos. I logged out. Then one friend played a video on his laptop. I tried not to watch, but I could hear it. Parents lost their children. Some lost 3, others lost their only child. They didn’t have to cry, they words were even stronger than crying a million times. I was in no mood to play cards with friends. I started making a house of cards with the space deck. Kept me distracted. Then I tried to sleep but couldn’t get much of it. Mostly because it was a new place and bad dreams kept coming. Twice I dreamt dying, once by drowning and once by falling. After the morning prayer I went for a walk with my best friend. He talked. but the crazy imagination of my brother, little cousins, my friends and the number 132 was in my head again. My heart was filled with pure hatred for Taliban and imagined myself torturing them to a slow and hellishly painful death. Later I started putting a song I heard on the trip, in a loop to get my head occupied. Worked. We had breakfast and headed home.

On my way, at the red light I saw a few school kids in a suzuki-van firing shots at me with hand pistols. I just smiled and shot back. One pretended to be dead. I felt odd. Others were still ‘firing’, so I played dead. Now one of them was like “pagal uncle mar gaay” (crazy uncle is dead). I felt stupid. But it only brought 132 back. I pictured them dead. They are kids, innocent kids, they aren’t supposed to die.

I came home, but no one was there. Everyone was off to school or work. I finished the novel I was reading for 2 days. My uncle called from Saudi Arabia, telling grand-father that, news there says that, there are threats to other Army Public Schools, so all kids (coz all kids in our family are Apsacians) must not be sent to schools for a couple of days. (that’s when winter vacations kick in). Then flashes came back, but by this time they were not intense. I was over it.

I came home and lied down to sleep. Only an hour and I dream myself drowning. I woke up to find myself nose blocked by the blanket, mouth gasping for air and it felt like dying. Now if you are one of ppl who sleep with their face in the blanket, you will know that this thing never happens. I slept again. In the morning I couldn’t open my eyes for a sec and a terror hold me for that sec, that I might have lost my eye-sight. 2nd night with no sleep. By the morning I had high fever. There were 6 lectures that day, I could not miss university, but I was in no condition to go. I took some pills and lied down to sleep. Slept from 9am to 2pm, woke up, had lunch and medicine, and slept again from 5pm to 6am next morning.

I live in near Harley street, a place known for having most number of schools in area. All the private schools in twin cities have a branch here. Plus living in cantt, there are 6 Army Public Schools around. APS hamayun road, APS ordinance road, APS wesdridge 3, APS Fort road, APS Askari XI, Hamza APS. So every morning half of the kids I see going to school are in green blazers with APS monogram. Its cantt, Army soldiers on traffic duty. On security duty they stand at every corner. Army vehicles make up 1/3 of the traffic. It all adds up to make the inhumane tragedy unforgettable.

I recalled my days at APS. In grade 8’s winters, I was in 2nd shift.  One day, the morning shift closed at 10:30. Everyone was happy to go home. No one was told that there is a kid in a classroom with an explosive jacket (some say he had bomb in his bag… Allah knows best, I heard it from class-fellows). As it was winter season, the doors of the room were close. The window to the hall was soon blocked and all the class rooms around were quickly evacuated. Soon 2 army soldiers moved in from the back door. The lady teacher, who had informed about the suspicious bomber kid, knew not to react. The kid was taken. What happened afterwards in not clear. No one told us what happened. Some say the bomb was defused. Other say it was a false alarm. But that was the only day that kid ever came to our school. We believe he was involved. Also as I was home, I was watching GEO news (the only private news channel at that time) clearly state that the bomb at APS was  ‘defused’. But our teachers said there was no bomb.

Next winter in grade 9. I was in 1st shift. One friday our van was late so we started playing football at Pasban sports complex, which is also our school’s playground. Me, my brother and few of my best friends, we were about 10-15 boys. Vans came, jummah prayer was near so we stopped nearby and offered prayer at a small mosque. Meanwhile there was a call from home, to driver, to confirm where we were. When we came home the news channels were filled with the parade lane accident. The Parade lane mosque was barely a kilometer away from our school. By brother had a friend, Muhammad Ali Hasan, his classfellow. His parents were coming back from hajj that day. He went to the mosque with his younger brother. Soon after the farz nimaz, the 1st bomb explode, window panels break into pieces with the sheer force of the bomb. He was near the gate, he ran out. Then he recalled his brother. He went back inside. His brother was injured with glass in his feet. He picked him and took him to the gate. He got shot, twice. He saved his brother and got martyred himself. Next day the whole school attended his funeral. His father showed great strength, but the grief of a mother on the lost of his eldest child cannot be expressed in words. A friend put his photo on the notice board, near the staff room and principal office, along with the photos of best teachers and students of APS westridge. He died a hero and will forever be remembered.

I grew up in a pro-army environment. Never have a questioned my army or ISI. But I did question it today. Our GHQ hit, Our standing fighter jets bombed, Mehran base accident, RAW completing undercover missions with success without our in-time knowledge, Americans took away Osama from the heart of our the country with live streaming to US, but we had no idea before morning. Our radars, signals, jammed at will by US. The list is longer that one imagines. The ‘unknown’ forces had made their point perfectly clear “Pakistan Army can’t protect their most secure locations”. We say ISI is the best, we say it because we grew up in Pakistan. If we were of some other country, we would rather laugh at this phrase and whoever says it. If ISI is the best, 132 children would have been alive. Maybe I am saying it now because I want to blame someone for a “what if” scenario for those kids to be saved. But whoever I blame, my heart will not find peace untill every single terrorist bastard in the country is killed or hanged.

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