The tragedy that unfolded at the Army Public School in Peshawar on 16 December 2014, was probably an unparalleled enactment of barbarity in the human history involving innocent children, which no religion, dogma and cult permits or approves. Children are said to be the personification of God and their safety and well being invariably gets top priority in any society. Why didn’t the heavens fall and why did the wrath of God not descend on the scum of the earth who perpetrated and masterminded this holocaust?

The scars of the tragedy that unfolded at the Army Public School in Peshawar on that fateful day of December may not heal for a long time to come, bur like all such cataclysmic events, it did produced a rare unity among the nation and gave it a new zeal and determination to fight the forces of ignorance, hatred and bigotry. The government, Army and the people despite their bleeding hearts expressed unflinching resolve to eliminate the scourge of terrorism and avenge every drop of blood of the innocent children. A pledge was made by the armed forces to chase those beasts to their den and bring them to justice. To supplement and reinforce the military campaign launched against terrorist in the shape of Zarb-e-Azb, the government under the stewardship of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif devised a comprehensive National Actions Plan with the unanimous support of all the political forces represented in the Parliament and the Army leadership. Both these operations have been carried out with utmost commitment and unruffled determination dedication with encouraging results.

Operation Zarb-e-Azb has been a roaring success. According to ISPR, since its inception about 3400 terrorists have been killed, 837 hideouts from where they operated have been destroyed. During the intelligence based operations throughout the country 183 hardcore terrorists were neutralized and 21,193 arrested. About 488 officers and personnel of Army, FC and Sind Rangers sacrificed their lives and 1914 sustained multiple injuries during anti-terrorist operations. This indeed created space for action against sleeping cell of terrorist, their abettors and supporters throughout the country. The implementation of the NAP is well on course. As a consequence of which situation in Karachi and Balochistan is well under control and action against hate mongers and terrorist elements in Punjab has also been pursued vigorously. The federal government has also initiated appropriate measures to implement other ingredients of the NAP.

One year down the line the memories of that gory incident are still fresh in the minds and hearts of the people of Pakistan and they would continue to fuel the determination of the nation not only to remain defiant to terrorism but also to work with impregnable unity to eliminate the menace of terrorism. The successes achieved against the terrorists since the APS tragedy not only reflect the fulfillment of the pledge made to eliminate the terrorists but the steely determination of the government and the security establishment to take this fight to its logical end.

The government decision to commemorate the first anniversary of the martyrs of the APS tragedy at the national level this year is an appreciable move. The nation has indeed shown remarkable unity in remembering the martyrs of APS by holding rallies, functions and prayer gatherings to bless their souls and to express gratitude to the departed souls for giving their blood to nurture the national unity against the forces of darkness. The media also deserves unqualified accolades in turning this event into a memorable occasion by highlighting different aspects of that sordid tragedy and airing programmes on the need for national unity to fight terrorists.

The main function of the first anniversary was held at APS Peshawar which was attended by the Prime Minister, federal ministers, provincial chief ministers, COAS, the naval and air chief, political leaders including Imran Khan, where besides paying tribute to the martyrs, honourary medals and certificates were awarded to their parents. The Prime Minister addressing the participants reiterated the national resolve not to relent until every terrorist was eliminated and to launch a crusade against the forces of ignorance through spread of knowledge. He vowed that the blood of the martyrs would not go waste and announced the commemoration of 16 December as national day for dignity of education in the country every year. He rightly remarked that it was time to end the darkness of ignorance from the country. Earlier during the week he reportedly gave approval for naming 122 school and colleges of Islamabad after the martyred children so that the memories of their sacrifices are always remembered by the countrymen and the coming generations.

He also paid glowing tribute to the security forces who under the leadership of General Raheel Shaif were engaged in a decisive battle against the terrorists and have rendered unparalleled sacrifices for this national cause. No person in his right mind can take issue with what the Prime Minister said about the role of the Army in the fight against terrorism. Under the prevailing circumstances, it would not be an exaggeration to say that Army was the only institution which was capable of winching the country out of the quagmire of terrorism. Our valiant armed forces are fighting with unruffled commitment against an invisible enemy. They need undiluted support of the entire nation to complete this task. Perhaps it was also an appropriate occasion for the nation to express its gratitude and appreciation for what they are doing.

It is said that sacrifices of martyrs give eternal life to the nations and those nations who are alive always remember their benefactors. There could not have been a better way to remember the APS martyrs than commemorating the anniversary of the episode at the national level and avenging the spilling of their blood. It was indeed a befitting remembrance and tribute to the APS martyrs. The martyrs while looking at it from the loftiest vantage point from the heavens must be rejoicing the spectacle of their remembrance by the nation and giving a well cherished meaning to their sacrifices. The must also be feeling elated to see their families owned and honoured by the government and their story made part of the national narrative against forces of evil who extinguished the flame of their lives prematurely.

 The writer is a freelance columnist.