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Oh captain, my captain…

CHARSADDA: Their plans ranged from a simple vacation in Swat to joining the army and becoming the nation’s pride. But alas, all these hopes and dreams were dashed when terrorists stormed Army Public School and killed over 130 of its students.

Tightly clutching her brother Uzair Khan’s clothes, seventh-grader Malaika cries herself to sleep at night. “She cannot sleep without holding his clothes in her hands,” says Ahmad Ali, whose son was among those brutally slain. The boy wanted to serve his nation as a captain in the army.

His brother Jalal, on the other hand, is coming to terms with the tragedy in his own way. “He believes Uzair has gone to see Allah and will come back soon. They shot my son so brutally that we could not recognise him,” the grieving father says. 

The genius 

Among those whose lives were cut tragically short was Muhammad Umar Hayat. His father Hayat Gul tells The Express Tribune that Umar always topped his class from sixth grade onwards. Constantly striving to reach greater heights, the student told his father the night before his death that he wanted to ace his Federal Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education examinations. His future plans included joining Kohat Cadet College with the ultimate goal of becoming part of the Pakistan Army Medical Corps and treating the sick.

With a love for nature, the boy decided to treat himself to a holiday in Swat after his examinations, which he would surely have passed with flying colours. Sadly, neither his dreams of becoming a doctor, nor his vacation to Swat, became a reality. “I thank the almighty that I am the father of a martyr,” an emotional Hayat Gul says. Umar’s demise is a devastating loss for the family, including his elder brother Muhammad Faisal Hayat and two sisters, both of whom are studying. Faisal says his brother never harmed a fly. He recalls that Umar was the school’s pride and always came first in class. “He was a true leader,” he adds.

“We are proud of his character.” While all around him took pride in his achievements, the boy himself was a model of humility. “We went to school on the same bus. He would wait for all the students to get off the vehicle before climbing down himself,” Faisal says. On the day of the attack, Umar was in the auditorium receiving first aid training from his instructors.

The auditorium was the first place the terrorists struck. “I waited for two hours outside the school in the hope that he would come out,” the elder brother says. He later went to Combined Military Hospital to see if Umar was among the injured, but the boy was not to be found. That is when he feared the worst. “It was the most wretched moment of my life when I heard about his death. From then on, I was with Umar till we lowered him into the grave,” says a weeping Faisal, now unable to continue speaking. 

Salute the captain 

Another army officer in the making was young Hamza Kausar Ali. That would be Captain Hamza to you as that is what the boy insisted people call him. Having topped the all Pakistan ISPR physical training (PT) show and being the drill team leader, the captain definitely had the credentials to realise his dream. Just last week, Hamza told his uncle that he wanted to embrace martyrdom as an army officer for his nation. Though his death came before he could join the army, the boy’s family believes he is a martyr in his own right. 

Brothers in arms 

For bank manager Tariq Khan, nothing can compensate for the loss of his sons Nangyal (10th grade) and Shamyal Khan (eighth grade). However, he finds solace in the fact that his two boys embraced martyrdom. The elder son Nangyal was like his father’s right hand, says the boy’s other brother Sohail, who narrowly escaped with his life from the Army Public School. “He was the eldest and baba relied on him for domestic matters.” As devastating as the loss of his two brothers may be, Sohail says terrorists can never stop him from going to school. 

A true martyr 

Colonel Sareer Khan is a devastated, but proud father. “My son Rizwan Sareer is the nation’s martyr,” the father says. The victim’s brother, Nouman, serving as a captain in the army, says his father had been a soldier for 27 years. “I also followed my father’s footsteps, but none of us ever had the chance to embrace martyrdom for the country. Now, we can proudly say we are the relatives of a martyr.”–Published in Express Tribune

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