By Waseem Ahmad Shah
December 17, 2014
December 16, which is the blackest day for the country due to its dismemberment in 1971, has added another black chapter to the national history.
Now, the day will be remembered for the gloom and destruction descended on the provincial capital.
There was no letup in the wailing of ambulance sirens. Dozens of ambulances, both of government as well as non-governmental organisations, seemed to be running short for ferrying bodies of students and teachers of the Army Public School and College, who fell prey to the devastating act of terrorism on Tuesday.
There were ambulances of different hue and colour, but all serving the same purpose of carrying the injured and the bodies to major hospitals, including the Combined Military Hospital and the Lady Reading Hospital.
The ambulances were bringing gloom to those whose children were killed by terrorists.
People searching for their near and dear ones in the hospitals and on the Warsak Road, where the ill-fated educational institution is situated, were rushing towards ambulances in the hope of getting information about their missing children and other relatives.
Ambulances kept shifting bodies, the injured to hospitals all the day
The ambulances were owned by Rescue 1122, the army, government hospitals, Al-Khidmat Foundation, Edhi Foundation, Falah-i-Insaniat (charity wing of Jamat ud Dawa) and other organisations. They sprang into action soon after the violence began at around 10:00am and continued until around 7:00pm.
The news of school attack spread like a jungle fire in the provincial capital and adjoining areas.
The attackers entered the school from the backyard as there is a security cordon and military check post on the small road off the Warsak Road on which the school is located.
The visibly perturbed and traumatised parents and other relatives were seen asking why there were no security arrangements at the backyard of the school, where there is a field and a graveyard.
Witnesses said attackers parked their van by the boundary wall in the backyard and put it on fire before scaling the wall to enter the building.
One of the staffers, who did not want to be named, said while spraying bullets, the attackers ran towards the auditorium straightaway where a large number of eighth, ninth and tenth graders had gathered to attend a first aid training course.
He said it appeared as if the attackers had prior information about presence of a large number of students there.
“We recovered around 30 bodies and scores of injured students from the auditorium. Those students had either died of bullet wounds or in a suicide blast,” said Bilal Faizi, the chief of the Recue 1122 service.
Rizwan Ahmad, a student of second year in the college, said he along with colleagues was busy taking the examination in a hall on the second storey of the school when he heard some gunshots.
“When we looked down from the windows, we saw gunmen scale the boundary wall and enter the premises. When they saw us, they started firing gunshots at us forcing us to duck to save our lives. After half an hour, we saw the army men and ran towards the main entrance,” he said.
The student said while crossing the playground, he saw some blood littered bodies lying there.
Apart from relatives waiting on the Warsak Road for information about their children, several staffers and students, who had escaped the school, also stayed put until night as they were worried about their fellow students and colleagues.
“I have heard that our principal, Tahira Quazi, was held hostage by attackers along with some other staffers due to which I am worried and staying here so as to know about them,” said sanitation worker Mohammad Irfan. He said he had taken shelter along with some teachers in a classroom and later managed to come out.
The sanitation worker said the principal later died in the attack.
Another person, Hameed Mohammad, was seen searching for his nephew, Waleed Mohammad, an eighth grader. He said his brother had been searching for Waleed in the hospital, whereas he was staying near the school.
Sporadic gunshots and explosions were heard from the school throughout the operation, which continued for around nine hours.