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Pakistan remembers Army Public School massacre

A man looks at a banner displaying pictures of the students who were killed during the APS massacre in Peshawar, Pakistan. (AN photo)
PESHAWAR: Sadeel Ahmed thinks he is living a second life because he survived when militants attacked the Army Public School (APC) in Peshawar on Dec. 16, 2014.
He said the trauma he suffered that day still haunts him, especially on the anniversary of the massacre.
Ahmed recounted his memories of that day to Arab News. “Firing started outside the hall while we were taking a chemistry paper,” he said. “At first, we thought it was army training, but when the intensity of the firing increased, the teachers told us to lock the doors from the inside. But some of the students went outside and were shot dead instantly.”
The 22-year old student said there were 25 pupils inside the hall, but only two of them survived.
“When two gunmen wearing security forces’ attire entered our hall, we thought they were our own army or FC (Frontier Corps) soldiers, but suddenly they started shooting to kill all of us,” he said.
The incident prompted the civil and military leadership of the country to unite and launch a national action plan against terrorism.
However, Fazal Khan, head of the Shuhada-e-APS (Martyrs of APS) Forum, who lost his son Sahibzada Umar in the massacre, told Arab News that parents of the students are not satisfied with the steps taken by the government so far.
After the incident, Khan said, the government should have taken concrete steps to stop terrorism, but cites this year’s attack on the Agriculture Training Institute (ATI) in Peshawar as evidence that it has failed to do so.
“From the day (of the massacre), we have been demanding that an independent judicial commission probe this incident and bring all those responsible for the security lapse to justice, because there was already a threat alert prior to the attack. And this is the army’s own school,” he said. “Questions will continue until a judicial inquiry is conducted and made public.”
The Shuhada-e-APS Forum held a ceremony at Peshawar’s Archives Library on Saturday, inaugurating a monument in memory of the victims of the 2014 attack.
Earlier in the morning, a ceremony was held at the school, attended by victims’ parents, along with Corps Commander Peshawar, Lt. Gen. Nazeer Ahmed Butt.
Civil activists also staged rallies, condemning the 2014 attack.
Malik Tahir Awan, whose son Malik Usama Tahir was killed in the attack, told reporters at the Archives Library that Dec. 16 should be declared a public holiday so that future generations learn about the day that united all of Pakistan against terrorism.
Pakistan’s civil and military leadership drafted a National Action Plan in January 2015 to supplement the country’s anti-terrorism offensive and crackdown on terror networks in northwestern Pakistan.
The country now claims to have largely abolished terrorist bases on its soil and has launched intelligence-based operations in urban centers — as part of Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad — to hunt down terrorist sympathizers and financiers.
However, given the porous 2,430-km border with restive Afghanistan, preventing future atrocities seems a daunting task.