PESHAWAR: The Chief of Army Staff, President and Prime Minister of Pakistan along with the chief ministers of Sindh, Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Gilgit Baltistan and premier of Azad Jammu and Kashmir are expected to attend a ceremony at the Army Public School tomorrow, December 16, to mark the one-year anniversary of the horrific massacre that killed 144 children and school staff.
Ambassadors of several countries along with services chiefs and provincial and federal ministers will also attend.
Pakistan People’s Party chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is also invited, and the audience is likely to include several political leaders, including Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan and Awami National Party Central President Asfandyar Wali Khan.
An award ceremony will be the event’s main highlight, where parents of the deceased will be given medals by the army leadership. Survivors of the massacre will also be awarded medals for their bravery.
A ‘Martyrs Monument’, installed at the school, will also be inaugurated at the event.
An opening ceremony will be held for the school auditorium, which was where the militants first attacked on the morning of Dec 16, 2014.
The ceremony is expected to commence at 9.00am sharp. Children are expected to deliver speeches, performances themed on the APS attack, and recitations from the Holy Quran.
On Tuesday, heavy military deployment was seen on Warsak Road, the main thoroughfare leading up to the school. A security checkpoint was established at the start of the road, where vehicles and passengers were stopped and inspected. Only authorised personnel are being allowed to enter the school’s premises.
The school walls were raised soon after the attack when it reopened on January 12, and are now at least 12 feet high.
Over 2,000 policemen have been deployed at various checkpoints across the city, particularly close to the school’s vicinity in case of a terrorist attack.
The KP government has announced a public holiday for all educational institutions across the province on Wednesday.
‘It’s a school, not a war zone’
One APS student, Bilal, remarked, “It’s a school, not a war zone.”
Recalling the day of the attack, Bilal remembers being in the auditorium when two attackers barged through the back door and started firing indiscriminately. The hall was crowded with students from grades 8, 9 and 10 who were waiting for a first-aid training session to start.
Bilal managed to escape through the front door with some of his friends. He attributes his luck to his location: he was sitting near the front, in the second row. The students at the back, however, could not escape.
He recalls the attackers aiming at students who were running away, in order to stop them from escaping. He remembers seeing sparks flying out of AK-47s, and his friends bleeding on the floor.
“We didn’t understand what was happening,” Bilal remembers. Most of the students, he says, thought it was a drill, but realised it was a real attack once the bullets started flying and the children began screaming.