R UMAIMA AHMED

CHARSADDA - Though they are too young to understand, they somehow feel that all is not well at their home. They are all under the age of 10. Their father, Raheem Ullah, a driver at Bacha Khan University Charsadda, was martyred in the tragic incident at the varsity. The family now faces a bleak future.

Zubaida, the mother of Raheem Ullah, with tears in her eyes, told The Nation about the plight of her family which lives at some distance away from the varsity in a small settlement which cannot even be called a village. It was a very cold afternoon. “I came to know about the attack as soon as it happened. When my nephew contacted Raheem Ullah, he told him that he could not leave until the students left the place. We received his dead body at 2pm. How can I raise his four kids and the fifth, yet to be born? His wife is expecting. He was my only son.

“Everybody is sympathetic right now. But a few years from now the world will forget his sacrifice. I cannot sleep at night. I keep thinking about the family. How are we going to raise the children, educate them, give them good food and keep them warm,” Zubaida sadly said. Her last words sent chills of fear through this scribe’s body.

The January 20 attack on BKU by four militants in a foggy morning not only left many in tears, but also led to resolve to overcome all fears of terrorism.

“The guesthouse was the first part of the varsity to be attacked. They broke the gate lights so that no one could see what was happening. The visibility was almost zero due to fog. The guesthouse caretaker, Fakhr-e-Alam, was caught unaware and shot dead,” Saad Tauheed, a staff member in Directorate of Admission and Academics, said.

After the guesthouse, they went to the sheds where the buses were parked. Five buses, riddled with bullets and windows shattered bear testimony to the attack. One bus was burnt from the back due to a grenade attack, soot could still be seen on the ground; the tin roofs of the sheds had uncountable holes caused by grenade explosions.

Right next to the bus stand are family quarters of the staff members. “Thank God, none of the families was outside his home nor did anyone hear the attack and come out to investigate, otherwise the damage would have been unimaginable. The attackers’ aim was to cause as much damage as possible due to which they shot the fuel tank of a van, thinking it had petrol, but it had diesel and did not explode,” Saad said.

As militants inched towards the boys’ hostel, news of attack spread like wild fire. Two of the militants headed for the Arts and Social Science Department. Shehzad, a security guard of BKU, charged towards the terrorists with his service weapon. When his bullets ran out, he called the security in-charge to send more bullets, but no one came and by that time the militants had gone to the administration section of the university.

“As soon as two militants saw me, they opened fire and threw hand grenades. Miraculously, I remained unhurt. I fired intermittently while my bullets lasted. The terrorists were wearing FC uniform. I still remember the face of one who was clean shaved,” Shahzad said.

Shazia Khan, a student, said they were in the common room at the time of the attack. “We hid there for some time and then were told by the staff to vacate the place as the security forces took charge. But till the arrival of the security forces, Shehzad, the security guard, engaged the terrorists. She said.”

Fauzia Shah said they were able to escape from the girls’ hostel due to thick fog. “It acted as cover for us. Otherwise there was no chance of getting away. The police came late, the students in boys hostel tried to engage the terrorists as long as they could,” she averred. Kamran, another student, was killed while trying to save students and Deputy Librarian Khalid who had two kids was killed by the terrorists. Haider, a topper, was also killed,” said Fauzia.

“Why are Pakhtuns always killed? Look at our dean. He ran away when the attack took place despite the fact that he had a gun. Our VC came at 11:30am when the operation had ended. Why do they take so much money from us if they can’t provide us with security? We come to study and not to fight terrorists. The Dean has so many bodyguards, but they never came in use,” Kishwar Asad said.

The boys’ hostel still smelled blood that had been shed there. All doors were locked, only a few rooms were open and were being washed. There were blood stains on walls, ceilings, furniture and even on the beds. The furniture was scattered, pens, paper and clothes were lying everywhere, sheets with assignments lay on tables and floors. The places where the terrorists were killed spoke the tales of how they were cornered by the army and killed.

Nasir Ahmed, a student of 4th semester at Chemistry Department, said his roommate Sajjad came from Buner. “He was a very quiet, but wonderful person at heart. He needed some money and sold his laptop to me a few days ago. Sadiq Ullah (Hafiz), son of Mir Afzal, was also a good friend. Both were my seniors,” Nasir said.

Deputy Registrar Dr Sajjad who is also a teacher of biotechnology, stated how the girls evacuated the university. “I got a call from the girls’ hostel asking for help. The girls’ warden was briefed on the situation and guided to take steps for vacating the place.”

“Then I got in touch with the boys hostel and spoke to its in-charge, Sadaqat. They tried to evacuate, but were attacked while hiding in the canteen. I called the police and asked them to reach the boys’ hostel,” Dr Sajjad recalled.

He spoke about Dr Hamid’s death, “I got a call, informing me that Dr Hamid had been killed in the attack. Instead of hiding or running away, he confronted them with his own pistol, but the terrorists overpowered him. I then rushed to the hospital where only three injured had been shifted till that time. The body of Kamran, the student who fought the terrorists and killed one of them was the first to reach the hospital. 17 dead bodies were shifted at the hospital,” Dr Sajjad said.

“I was horrified to learn that two whole classes had been killed. It came as a huge relief to know it was just a rumour,” he said.

When asked about the rumour of girls slaughtered by the terrorists, he said no such incident had taken place. “I have confirmed it from a number of people; the girls’ hostel was cleared by the local security. The terrorists did not even know the girls were hiding in the common room or the Dean’s office though they crossed those rooms,” Dr Sajjad said.

District Nazim Fahad Khan (from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) said the DCO had paid a visit to BKU a day earlier to apprise the vice chancellor of a possible attack. “The VC did not take any necessary measures. At the time of the attack the security guards were not at their designated locations. The university has 55 guards, but half of them were not on duty that day. The CCTV camera room and the watch tower were empty due to which the attackers found a way into the university. The institutions should make sure of doing the needful too,” Fahad said.

He said: “There are “1,300 schools in the district, and we plan to make a force comprising former police and army personnel who will be deployed exclusively for educational institutions’ security, which will be connected to LEAs for rapid response to any threat.”

Nazir Mian Abdus Samad, tehsil councilor, MC-1, Charsadda, said the government still had a soft corner for terrorists. “They have taken no concrete steps to curb terrorism. Our kids go to school to gain education and not to be killed,” he lamented.