Pakistanis around the world remembered the victims of the Peshawar school attack exactly one month after the tragedy with vigils and demonstrations, expressing solidarity with the families of slain children and demanding firm actions from the government against extremism.
Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants stormed the Army Public School in Peshawar on 16 December 2014, killing 145 people, including over 130 children.
Ceremonies and protest vigils were held in different cities around Pakistan on 16 January, including in Islamabad, Karachi, Abbottabad, Sialkot, Sargodha, Peshawar, Hyderabad, Jhelum, Jhelum Cantt, Bahawalpur, Dera Allah Yaar, Sukkur, Larkana, and Nawabshah.
In addition to Pakistan, social media campaign ‘Pakistanis against Terrorism’, organized by the Never Forget movement, arranged global protests in USA, UK, Canada, Australia, Germany and Kenya to stand united against extremism, sectarian violence and injustice.
The campaigners urged overseas Pakistanis to join the protest campaign “not just by sending funds, but by going to Pakistani embassies wherever they live” to give a strong message to the government.
In Mumbai, the victims were remembered during a marathon:
— Mohsin Khan (@mohsinnow) January 18, 2015
A spirited demonstration was held outside a Pakistani consulate in Houston in the United States:
— Syed Muhammad Ashraf (@SyedMuhammadAsh) January 17, 2015
London saw a protest too:
— Jibran Nasir (@MJibranNasir) January 16, 2015
Demonstrations in Pakistan
Pakistan has seen many vigils since the attack in December, but one particular protest that emerged from the capital has turned into a movement: the Never Forget campaign. Sparked after controversial Islamabad-based cleric Abdul Aziz initially refused to condemn the Peshawar attack, the movement demands Abdul Aziz's arrest and urges the government to adopt a zero tolerance policy against militants and extremist mindsets.
Spearheaded by lawyer and social activist Mohammad Jibran Nasir, the campaign aims “to ensure that we remember the thousands of brave souls Pakistan has lost due to terrorism and religious extremism.” In an interview, Nasir explained the idea behind the movement: “We are trying to empower the people of Pakistan into setting a precedent. We want to tell them that if they stand united and be loud and consistent enough to be protesting even after a month of the tragedy, then action can be taken against the likes of Abdul Aziz.”
In Lahore, a human chain was formed at the Army Public School to protest against the killings.
In Islamabad, citizens, civil society members and political representatives gathered to mark the one-month anniversary and restate their resolve to fight violence. Protesters in the capital city also placed over a hundred mock coffins as a symbolic reminder of the horror witnessed on 16 December in Peshawar.
— Amber Rahim Shamsi (@AmberRShamsi) January 16, 2015
Government Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid also participated in a candle vigil organized outside Parliament House in Islamabad, saying the nation is united against militants and emphasizing that no militant will be given refuge in Pakistan.
But activists who could not hold back their anger against the government shouted against Abdul Aziz, demanding his arrest, which forced the minister to cut short his speech and eventually leave the venue.
Tributes in music and sport
Pakistan’s national cricket team visited children who were injured during the attack. Cricketers were quite impressed by the spirit of the kids. “The kids gave us tremendous courage and wished the best for us in the coming World Cup” said the team captain Misbah-ul-Haq.
— Faizan Lakhani (@faizanlakhani) January 17, 2015
As the students of Army Public School returned to school on 12 January, the military media outlet Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) released a touching musical tribute to honour the memories of young victims slain in the horrific attack. Many people shared the touching song. It conveys a message of conviction and resilience from a slain child to extremists in response to the massacre.
The main verse of the song is packed with emotions: Main aisi qoum se hoon jis kay woh bachon se darta hai … Bara dushman bana phirta hai jo bachon se larta hai (I am from a nation whose children frighten him… Some enemy he is, he who targets children):