PESHAWAR: As the nation marks the first anniversary of Peshawar's Army Public School (APS) massacre on Wednesday, the country's top civil and military leadership honoured those who lost their lives during the attack in a sombre ceremony at the school.
Blood of innocents united us: Nawaz
Addressing the ceremony, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif termed the APS attack "an incident that shook the nation" and announced December 16 as the day of "national educational resolve".
He also announced the construction of APS Shuhada University.
Following the APS attack, the premier said, the military and civil leadership sat together. "It was then when I said desperate times call for desperate measures."
Nawaz thanked the political leadership with whose cooperation the constitution was amended to set up military courts, and the National Action Plan was formulated.
"Our brave forces, security and civil institutions have come together as one in this mission," the prime minister said, adding that operation Zarb-i-Azb has broken the back of terrorists.
"The blood of our children speaks in our war against terrorism."
Speaking directly to the slain children, Nawaz said: "We will avenge every drop of your blood."
"I desire that whenever we recall the sacrifices of these children and their teachers, we also remember that we have to eliminate the darkness of illiteracy from Pakistan."
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Rashad Mahmood distributed medals to the families of the APS victims, along with rights to plots of land. Brief tributes were said as families of the victims came up to receive the medals.
Sindh Chief Minister (CM) Qaim Ali Shah, Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif, Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) CM Hafeezur Rehman, Balochistan CM Abdul Malik Baloch, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa CM Pervez Khattak and KP Governor Mehtab Khan Abbasi also distributed medals among the families of the victims.
Attendees stand for National Anthem
The proceedings of the ceremony began with the recitation of verses from the Holy Quran by an APS student.
The attendees then stood up as the National Anthem was sung by APS students.
The ceremony at the Army Public School commenced with the arrival of Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar are also present at the ceremony.
Television footage showed the Army chief receiving the families of the APS attack victims at gates of the venue.
Families of those who lost their lives in the event participated in a parade holding up photos of the victims.
The CMs of Sindh, Punjab, KP, Balochistan, GB and premier of Azad Jammu and Kashmir were among those attending the ceremony. PTI Chief Imran Khan was also present.
Ambassadors of several countries along with services chiefs and provincial and federal ministers also attended.
Editorial: APS: One year after
A ‘Martyrs Monument’, installed at the school, will be inaugurated at the event and an opening ceremony will be held for the newly-built school auditorium.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan commemorated the horrific attack in a series of tweets, expressing resolve against terrorism and extremism.
In preparation for the ceremony, security across the provincial capital was beefed up with heavy military deployment on Warsak Road, the main thoroughfare leading up to the Army Public School.
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.
Meanwhile, families of children killed or wounded in the attack accuse the local government of breaking its promises of medical treatment and justice.
Victims' relatives say they will attend the official anniversary commemoration on Wednesday, but vowed to pressure the authorities to deliver on their commitments.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has announced a public holiday for all educational institutions across the province on Wednesday.
Rallies and vigils have been planned across the country in order to mourn the deadliest attack to hit Pakistani soil.