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The Pakistanis Choosing Light Over Darkness After the Horrific Peshawar School Attack

Photo tweeted from vigil in Islamabad  by @Fmullick. "In times of darkness we come together to bring light- @P_Y_A & @khudipk light lanterns for victims of #peshawarattack"

Photo tweeted from vigil in Islamabad by @Fmullick. “In times of darkness we come together to bring light- @P_Y_A & @khudipk light lanterns for victims of #peshawarattack”

Across the border in India and the world over, people were shocked by the brutality of the attack on an army-run school in Peshawar. In Pakistan, there was horror, rage and resolve. 

As Pakistan's special forces rescued the last of the hostages at the Army Public School, which six Taliban gunmen had besieged for eight hours, killing 145 people, 132 of whom were children, many Pakistanis tried to find light in the darkness.

With their permission, I am sharing Facebook status updates from friends that gave me strength. The first three women here are trailblazers in Pakistan's happening start-up scene

Kalsoom Lakhani, the founder of Invest2Innovate, a company that supports and launches civic-minded start-ups in Pakistan, said this on Facebook:

My heart was heavy yesterday, thinking of the children, teachers, and families torn apart by monsters. I went to bed early, conflicted by a deep-seeded desire to block out this world and my simultaneous guilt for the privilege to even do so.

I woke up this morning with my heart still heavy, but my resolve much stronger. There is so much evil in this world, but there is also so much goodness. I see it on a daily basis when I work with our entrepreneurs – people who are striving tirelessly to make Pakistan a better place – improving and challenging education standards, employing artisan women, helping young people get jobs, the list goes on. I see it among our partners, our friends, and our mentors, who are committed to improving this country, who fearlessly challenge the status quo.

As far as I'm concerned, we can wallow in the dark or choose to live in the light. In honor and memory of all those senselessly killed and stolen by the dark, I choose the light.

Jehan Ara, the president of the Pakistan Software Houses Association, which is a trusted Google for Entrepreneurs partner, and Bolo Bhi, a non-profit dedicated to internet freedom, privacy and gender rights in Pakistan, shared:

I don't want to hear political statements; I don't want to see flags at half mast; I don't want to see your gloomy faces indicating how sad you are; I don't want to hear that you have said a prayer in the Assembly; I don't want to see posters or hear empty platitudes. I want all of you who ask for my vote each election to get together and work out how you are going to fix this so that these lives may not have been lost in vain.

Today my colleagues across the country and I re-commit ourselves to continuing our work for the young people of this nation. We know that there is so much good that is happening in so many nooks and corners of this country but we must also take our heads out of the sand and recognize that some things require courageous decisions and actions – and they must be taken now.

If you are indeed leaders, show us your strength and resolve today. Show the mothers and fathers and siblings of those youngsters whose lives were cut short that this will never be allowed to happen again. We want more than empty words this time.

Saba Gul, the founder of Popinjay, a company that Invest2Innovate helped kickstart and has introduced luxe fashion accessories by underprivileged Pakistani artisan women to the global market, shared this post on Facebook after attending a vigil in New York:

As I lit a candle and said a prayer, I thought to myself – is this all I can do? For now, perhaps it's all most of us can do.  But I choose to believe that as we all stood in solidarity in Washington Square Park – Jews, Muslims and Christians – we represented the coming to age of a polarized world. People young and old had tears in their eyes and sorrow in their hearts for the innocent souls that came to school and never went home to their parents. We represented the unity this tragedy has created. The understanding that we have no one but ourselves to blame for this. And like someone aptly said – this is our own shit to fix. No conspiracy theories, no excuses, no pointing fingers.

My biggest hope and dream with Popinjay is that the women and girls I work with can be empowered to raise sons that choose tolerance, peace and love.

A day after the attack, Isfandiyar Shaheen, co-manager of Cyan Capital, a $50 million private equity fund in Pakistan, offered his thoughts inspired by motivational speaker and popular Pakistani blogger quadriplegic Sarmad Tariq, who passed away earlier this year:

To live is to try by Sarmad Tariq. Today is also his birthday. I am mentally paralyzed following what happened in Peshawar. Reading this post again reminded me that the vast majority of our countrymen are criers and not triers.

Despite that obvious and sad fact, I feel fortunate to have met and known a handful of triers, the same triers are organizing blood drives, raising funds for aid, putting themselves in the line of fire, organizing trauma stress therapy initiatives, taking steps to hold our leaders accountable for adopting a flawed foreign policy, choosing to see the light and not giving up.

Don't give up and make sure that when you die, you are trying for the next step and not waiting for the next miracle.

As the eight-hour siege came to a close, before the death toll rose from 141 to 145, proving this to be the deadliest terror attack in Pakistan's recent history, this simple website started being shared widely:

Screen shot 2014-12-17 at 10.45.07 AM

Within a few hours thousands had signed up to help. Using the contact option, I got in touch with the person behind the site. A man named Zaki responded in an email:

Someone on social media came up with the idea – I read it and it struck a chord with me, so i decided to set up a quick website and put the word out there about this initiative.

The response is overwhelming – people want to see this happen. I'm trying to figure out how to set up to make it happen. Any connections or ideas you have are most welcome :)

We're at 4400 and the numbers been growing fast.

Our work building bridges across cultures, languages and perspectives is more urgent than ever before.

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