PESHAWAR - On the morning of 16th December 2014, armed terrorists in military uniform scaled wall of the Army Public School Peshawar and attacked the students. Everyone who came in their way was shot and brutally killed but the school left many undying stories of human courage and valour, one such story is of the sacrifice of Principal Ms. Tahira Qazi.

A number of stories about her death have circulated on various forums, the media and narrated by word of mouth, and each version is different from the first. To clarify the rumors about this incident, the Nation talked to Ahmad Qazi the grown up son of Ms. Tahira Qazi working for a humanitarian organization in Peshawar, who narrated the actual happenings of that fateful day.

He said, “She (Mrs. Qazi) was in the hall when they (Taliban) attacked, she managed to come out to look at other children. That was the first time when she could have escaped the building. But she went around the class rooms and raised alarms calling the students and teachers to stay in their places and the teachers to lock the classes from inside. She found some kids running around trying to save their lives who she managed to gather under a staircase with the section head of the School Wing, and asked her to take the kids out from the back door. As she was leaving to go back inside the hall, the Head asked where she was going. She said to save the other children.”

Ahmed said, “That was the second time she had the option of leaving but still she was determined to save the children. She heard firing from the College Wing Admin block side, and again raised the alarm and asked the kids to stay put.”

By then the Army had reached the school and she was asked to leave the premises as she had done all she could, however she replied there were many kids still in the school and she could not leave them. As soon as she reached the Admin Block she was confronted by the terrorists who asked her about the kids, she replied, “You can take my mobile, money and everything but leave the kids.” He said, “We want the kids,” on which she exclaimed, “Talk to me I am their mother.” Those were her last words as the terrorist shot her in the head and she died on the spot. A short while later there was an explosion (probably one of the terrorists blew himself up then) which hit her body from the back and burnt her. Apart from that burn and head injury her body was intact.”

Talking of the support that the family has received from Government and Army he said, “The army has stood up for us and they have shown they mean business. They have shown that they will not allow anyone to do this to the kids of the nation. Apart from that I want to see the Government to work on core issues, especially education as my mother was an eduationist and this was very close to her heart.” He got emotional and added, “People say that it’s a military failure, but to me it’s a governance failure.”

On the life of survivors of the APS carnage he said, “Students need to get back to life, they need to be encouraged to move forward. Instead of asking them about that day and about the kids who died, they should stop taking them back in the past.”

He feels that it is rather early to speak about the results of the National Action Plan against Terrorism, adding, “The military has shown its seriousness (in this regard), but the Government still has to work seriously. They are lacking in a number of things, until they put their act together nothing positive will come out of NAP.”

When asked about what results of hanging the culprits involved in APS attack, he said, “Hanging these people will not make any difference. These people are not the terrorists but the ideology that they follow is. It is the ideology that needs to be countered. We need to understand why people have been exposed to this ideology. That is something we have to root out of our system.” He is of the opinion that we need a new narrative to offset the terrorists’ narrative so that we can prevent youth and others from being radicalized to the extent of becoming terrorists, and for this all organs of governance have to play their role.

About how life has changed for his family after the incident Ahmed said, “My mother was running the show in the house; I was least concerned about anything in life apart from my own needs. She had time for everyone despite her busy schedule. Now I have to do everything (for) myself and look after my (sick) brother and father along with my job. The whole family was shattered but my father was hit the most, as he was very close to her.”

On his memory of his mother, he fondly recalled that on the morning of 16 December he met her at breakfast and hugged her before she left for school and since she was not very much into such display of affection, and I was being naughty with her she lovingly beat me up and said stop this childish behavior. He wished that that morning could come back. She was a wonderful person, and was always concerned about her students. She would stay back in school till all students had left and if a student had to stay back due to conveyance issue she would send them home in her own car. That day (16/12) even during the attack, she told one of the teachers that she would leave the school once all the students were out safely. Ironically hers was the last body to come out of the school that day and that too when the operation had concluded.”

Ahmed said that he hoped that this conversation with the Nation would put to rest the various stories about Mrs. Tahira Qazi’s last day and the media and other people would let her soul rest in peace and let the family have closure without having to content with hurtful rumors.