“Riz, you have a phone call,” were the first words I heard as I entered the air-crew room after a mission.
I grabbed a mug of coffee and walked to the land line, hardly expecting it to be my 10-year-old baby sister on the other end. It was a surprise; she had never called me at my squadron before.
I tried recalling if I had forgotten anything she had asked for but nothing strikes my mind. Before I could even say anything, I heard loud erratic breathing. In her trembling voice she said:
“You’re going to kill each and every one of the bad guys out there, right?”
I was stunned. I said, yes, of course, that’s what I am here for.
She replied only with a “thank you” and hung up.
“A school in Peshawar has just been attacked,” I learnt, and for a moment I thought I had heard wrong.
How could someone attack a school, I asked myself. Even taking the perverse exploitation of religion by pseudo cults into account, how could someone think of targeting innocent children who would not even know why were they being targeted?
The unimaginable had happened.
The Army Public School in Peshawar had been attacked by seven terrorists who stormed in and opened fire indiscriminately and killed scores of our innocent angels – it was Armageddon.
Children were killed after confirmations of being sons of armed forces personnel. They were shot in the head. They were shot in the face. They were dragged out from under chairs, under tables and shot. At point blank.
Their offense? They were the children of those who have dedicated their lives to defend their countrymen.
Nine hundred and sixty students and staff members were evacuated safely by Pakistan’s Special Services Group’s, Zarrar Company, which is specialised in anti-terrorism and hostage evacuation aided by the Pakistan Air Force’s airborne surveillance aircraft.
One hundred and forty one of our countrymen died on one of the blackest days in the history of humanity.
One hundred and thirty three children aged between 5-18 years were killed with questioning eyes that asked, “What is our fault?”
A teacher was set alight alive, and students were made to watch. Humanity died 141 deaths that day.
My mother called me last night:
“Fight them. Kill them. They’ve hurt your mothers.”
Never had I heard my mother so enraged before.
“Even my life for vengeance,” I reassured her.
Armed Forces personnel are known to be emotionally distant and strong. My best friend gave his life for the motherland in my arms. I held his hands in mine and the last look on his face was of satisfaction; entreating me to continue the mission of safeguarding the country.
The blood from his chest spilled onto my hands, and sealed the deal.
Perhaps it is the military in us that stays our emotional pendulum from swinging back and forth wildly. We do not mourn our martyrs, we take pride in them.
Even so, it took me days to be able to write this, one is just short on words about this kind of savagery.
I’ve never heard such pin-drop silence in our fighter crew rooms, ever.
Even on losing our comrades in action, we get together and reiterate our resolve to continue the mission.
Thirty days today and no one has spoken a word since, just the exchange of silent reassurances between fighter pilots to avenge our children.
And avenge we will.
The nation has been shaken to its core by this vicious incident. People are eager to play their part in avenging the animals who took away our children.
Every heart in the country goes out to our mothers and wants to take away their pain, however possible.
The international media needs to align its true North too. These innocent children were not targeted because they were going to school; they were targeted because they were the children of the armed forces personnel who are fighting against terrorism.
Today, I visited Army Public School Peshawar.
As desolated as any place ever could be, I could visualise our traumatised children uncertain of what was coming at them in that blood streaked auditorium, I could hear them running in the destructed corridors amidst the gunshots. I could read their last messages on their bloodied books grabbed in pain.
I could hear them all around asking me if I would continue their mission and I inevitably, inadvertently, kept nodding in affirmation throughout.
Every step I took in those corridors strengthened my resolve to get back and fight back stronger than ever, but there was something I had to do first.
I visited the Combined Military and Lady Reading Hospitals in Peshawar to meet the injured children and their families and to visit the great mothers, who we as a nation are indebted to.
Every child I met in the hospital was an epitome of courage and resilience and could not wait to get better and get back to the same classrooms their friends had been shot in.
“I will go back and complete my studies in the same school and join our armed forces to fight all the enemies,” a 10-year-old injured student told me.
What a resolve, what a nation.
I then went to meet the mother of a 14-year-old victim. Believe me, fighting a war, bombing the enemy, facing bullets and missiles is a lot easier than facing a mother who has lost her child.
I walked in, the father of the student embraced me. I could hear his heart beat and his lips quiver as he took me to the child’s mother.
“He’s going to avenge our son,” he said, and suddenly, I felt the entire weight of the world descend upon my shoulders.
The mother looked up at me and all she could do was extend her hand towards me. I knelt down, took her hand in my hands and kissed it:
“Ma, I will avenge every single one of our children.”
A tear fell from her eye, rolled down on her cheek, dropped on our hands, and sealed the deal.
“What can we, as Pakistanis in the civil, do to help?” a very dear friend asked me.
First things first, we as fighter pilots and soldiers only need two things that boost our morale in the field infinite folds: national unity, and motivation.
All we need right now is motivation. There is no denial that this barbaric incident shook all of us. As the saner voices out there, we have all the more responsibility to get out, walk our people through these toughest of the times.
Our children will most likely develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; we have to talk them through this, motivate them, and give them a reason to believe. We have to give our people the hope they need to cling onto.
Help us, those who are at the front and build the nation.
This won’t be easy let me tell you but we will do it.
I will not mourn, I will not express my anger. I want to remember this incident as it is when I fight our enemies. I want to remember every face of every child as I destroy all the terrorists and turn their bodies to ashes. I will not sit back. I have written off my life in my oath to my nation, I am indebted to her a 141 times more now.
We shall avenge every last breath, every last drop of blood.
Every bomb that we target these hell bound terrorists with, will convey a message from the children of Pakistan, that they will not bend, and that they will stand up again. We shall rise.
May the Lord give me the strength to uphold the promise I made to my mothers.
LAHORE: Ikramul Haq, an activist of the banned Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) was hanged at Kot Lakhpat Central Jail, Lahore, on Saturday morning for the 2001 killing of a man at an imambargah in Jhang.
Haq;s execution was scheduled earlier on January 8, 2014 but was delayed at the eleventh hour after an agreement between the plaintiff and the defendant was produced before the magistrate.
Later the condemned prisoner and the plaintiff parties were asked to approach the anti-terrorism court for confirmation of the agreement pardoning Haq.
Out of eight family members of the deceased Abbas, only his two brothers and a sister appeared before the judge, hence the court refused to accept the agreement and upheld its decision of death sentence to the convict.
Earlier in 2004 an anti-terrorism court in Faisalabad had awarded the death sentence to Ikramul Haq in connection with killing a man Nayyar Abbas, who was a guard of Altaf Shah of the banned Sipah-i-Muhammad at an imambargah in Shorkot, Jhang in 2001.
The ATC had issued his (Haq's) death warrants on January 6, 2014. President of Pakistan Mamnoon Hussain had also turned down his mercy appeal.
The Faisalabad anti-terrorism court had also reissued black warrant for Haq's execution. Council for the convict had challenged the warrants before the Lahore High Court but the petition was dismissed by a bench of the LHC.
Strict security measures were in place in and around Kot Lakhpat Central Jail. Heavy contingent of police, besides army and rangers personnel were deployed in and outside the jail premises.
Family members of Ikramul Haq held last meeting with him on Wednesday. After carrying out the execution, authorities handed over Haq's body to his brother.
So far 20 convicts have been hanged since the lifting of a moratorium on death penalty by the government after the Peshawar school carnage.
On Dec 17, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had lifted the moratorium on death penalty after the attack on Peshawar's Army Public School that killed more than 140 people — including 134 school children.
The moratorium was enforced during the tenure of the Pakistan Peoples Party government in 2008.
“Ladies and gentlemen"
Thank you very much for being here this morning.
Let me begin by welcoming Secretary Kerry and his team to Islamabad for this Ministerial Review of the Strategic Dialogue.
We had a very useful and productive exchange of views on a wide range of bilateral issues. Relations with the US are a vital component of our foreign policy. The Strategic Dialogue provides us with a forum to discuss all aspects of our bilateral relationship. In our discussion today we took stock of the progress made in the six Working Groups within the Strategic Dialogue process since the last review in January 2014 and to identify areas for future collaboration and cooperation.
The Working Groups cover a wide range of issues including cooperation in economy, energy, defence cooperation, nuclear issue, counter-terrorism and law enforcement and the recently-established Working Group that focuses on education and science & technology.
We also discussed the regional situation. Pakistan wants peaceful relations with all its neighbours, both on our eastern and western borders. With India, we want a constructive, sustained and result-oriented dialogue on all issues of mutual concern. The cancellation of Foreign Secretary level talks by India, followed by the recent incidents of unprovoked and indiscriminate firing on the LoC and Working boundary are a source of serious concern to us. We hope that the US, as an influential member of the international community, can prevail upon India to work with Pakistan towards regional peace and economic prosperity
I also briefed Secretary Kerry about several positive developments in the past 3 months that have helped to improve Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan and emphasized the importance of larger assistance from the global community for reconstruction and development in Afghanistan. We agreed that peace and stability in Afghanistan was an essential pre-requisite for stability in Pakistan and the Region.
Secretary Kerry welcomed the resolute steps initiated by Pakistan to counter the menace of terrorism through the National Action Plan and related measures.
We agreed on the importance of expanding trade between the two countries. I urged Secretary Kerry to consider various proposals to provide greater market access to Pakistan and said Pakistan is eagerly awaiting the joint US-Pakistan Business Opportunities Conference in Islamabad in March 2015.
With these brief remarks I invite Secretary Kerry for his comments.”
ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan and television journalist Reham Khan's nikkah ceremony took place on Thursday at the politician's residence in Bani Gala.
The nikkah, which was a low-key affair, was conducted by Mufi Saeed and was followed by a photo session of the newly-weds. During the ceremony, the Haq Mehr was set at one lakh rupees.
"We are praying for Imran Khan's success," said Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) chief Sirajul Haq, adding that the country was facing a very tense situation and therefore the happy news was welcomed.
The party’s central information secretary had earlier said on Thursday that the wedding will be a low-key affair.
Dismissing reports that the wedding would be a fundraising event for Imran’s Shaukat Khanum Cancer Memorial Hospital, Shireen Mazari told Dawn: “As far as I know, it is an extremely private affair. There are no such ticketed cards and no grand function.”
“Imran is in no mood to celebrate after the Peshawar tragedy,” Mazari added. “This is not a time to celebrate.”
Mazari hinted that a nikah ceremony was likely to take place “today or this week” and that a purported marriage document doing the rounds on Twitter was “absolutely fake”.
She added that Imran has been cautious about the announcement as he wanted to inform his children first. “He was not going to do anything until he spoke to his sons first.”
Another Lahore-based senior party leader on condition of anonymity said he was not aware of any grand event for the wedding and has not been invited for a ceremony. "I am told there will be some distribution of food to the needy," the party member said.
Days after the British press broke the news of Imran's alleged marriage to broadcast journalist Reham Khan, the former cricketer on Tuesday hinted that an official announcement was in the offing.
"Marriage is not a crime,” Imran had said at a press conference in Islamabad after his return from London.
“When you have children from your first marriage, they are the first priority,” he had said, explaining that it was important for him to inform his sons first.
Senior PTI leader and a close confidante of the PTI chairman, Jehangir Tareen told Dawn on Thursday that no party leaders have been invited to Imran's wedding.
"It is completely private. I have not been invited, neither has anyone else. The party understands that this is Khan's private decision and not for us or anyone to be involved in."
Tareen added that there will be no valima ceremony for Imran and Reham's wedding. "There will be no valima ceremony. Instead, food will be given to madrassahs."
When asked if Tareen has been introduced to Reham by his party leader, he said, "I have never been introduced to her. No one has... Khan has kept it totally private."
The cricketer-turned-politician was previously married to English journalist and activist Jemima Goldsmith for nine years. The marriage ended amicably in 2004 with Goldsmith stating that she was unable to adapt to life in Pakistan.
Know more: Wedding speculation: 'Imran focused on politics'
She has campaigned against drone strikes in Pakistan, as well as against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The marriage was described as ‘tough’, ending in a divorce after nine years in June 2004 as Jemima was allegedly unable to adapt to Pakistani culture.
Jemima on Tuesday congratulated via Twitter the PTI leader on "this new phase of his life," alluding to his reported marriage to broadcast journalist Reham Khan.
Read more: Ex-wife Jemima wishes Imran best in 'new phase of life'
Speculations about Imran's alleged marriage to Reham have been widely reported in recent days.
Reham Khan is a British Pakistani journalist who started her career in the BBC as a weather forecaster. Later she worked for the network as a broadcast journalist. She joined Pakistani news channel News One in 2013 and is currently working as an anchor at DawnNews.
اسلام آباد(مانیٹرنگ ڈیسک) پشاور میں سکول پر حملہ کرنیوالے دہشتگردوں کی شناخت ہوگئی ہے اور اس سلسلے میں آرمی چیف نے وزیراعظم کو آگاہ کردیاہے جبکہ خود جنرل راحیل شریف نہایت اہم دورے پر پڑوسی ملک افغانستان پہنچ گئے ہیں ۔
باوثوق ذرائع کے مطابق وزیراعظم کو دہشتگردوں اوراُن کے سہولت کاروں سے متعلق نہایت اہم رپورٹ پیش کردی گئی ہے ،فہرستیں بھی تیار ہیں جس کے بعدقومی مجرموں کے خلاف جلد کارروائی کا امکان ہے جبکہ وسیع پیمانے پرملک بھر سے بالخصوص خیبرپختونخواہ اور سوات سے اہم گرفتاریاں متوقع ہیں ۔
آرمی چیف خود کابل پہنچ گئے جہاں وہ افغان قیادت اور ایساف کمانڈر سے اہم ملاقات کریں گے تاہم آرمی چیف کے ممکنہ ایجنڈے کی تفصیلات معلوم نہیں ہوسکیں ۔
سینئر تجزیہ نگار ہارون الرشید کاکہناتھاکہ اب قبائلی نظام زیادہ دیرنہیں چل سکتا، قانون سازی کرکے اُسے کسی بھی طرح قانونی دھارے میں لاناہوگا، سوات اور دیگر قبائلی علاقوں میں ہرایک دوسرے کو جانتاہے لیکن دہشتگردوں کی موجودگی سوالیہ نشان ہے ۔
MULTAN: Pakistan police foiled a major terror attack yesterday in central Punjab province killing at least four suspected Taleban militants, officials said. Heavy weapons and explosives- including four suicide jackets, 12 rockets, 40 hand grenades, 328 kilograms (723 pounds) of gun-powder- were recovered from the militants after a gun battle in the southern Muzaffargarh district, some 350 kilometers (217 miles) from provincial capital Lahore. “We received information from intelligence officials about the movement of militants in the area. The gunfight started when police signaled a car to stop for checks and militants fired at the cops,” Rai Zamir-ul-Haq, police chief in the district said. “In the exchange of fire, we killed four militants.
Two police officials were also injured by two grenades hurled at them by the militants,” he said. Police said they also found chemicals for potential use in a attack stored in the militants’ vehicle, which were also confiscated for further investigation. “By seizing such large quantity of weapons and explosives and killing these militants, we have foiled a major attempt of terror in the region.
There were confirmed intelligence reports that the militants were planning major terrorist attacks in Multan and Muzaffargarh cities,” Haq said. The authorities suspect that the militants are linked to the Punjabi Taleban faction of the Tehreek-i- Taleban Pakistan (TTP), a militant outfit which has waged a long-term Islamic insurgency in the country and has killed thousands of people in suicide, bomb and gun attacks. “The killed militants belonged to banned Punjabi Taleban’s Abu-Ubaida group and we had received confirmed intelligence reports about their planned activities,” Haq said.
Nabila Ghazanfar, a police spokeswoman in Lahore, confirmed the killings and said that the cops had cordoned off the area to search for any other militants. Another senior police official in the territory, Rehmatullah Niazi said that the bodies of the militants were being identified.
Meanwhile in south west Baluchistan province, a policeman was killed and another wounded when unknown militants hurled a grenade at their post in Khuzdar district. Pakistan has been battling Islamist groups in its semiautonomous tribal belt since 2004 after its army entered the region to search for Al-Qaeda fighters who had fled across the border following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan.
In June the army began an offensive against militant hideouts in the North Waziristan tribal agency after a bloody raid on Karachi Airport ended faltering peace talks between the government and the Taleban. The main battleground against Al-Qaeda and Afghan and Pakistani Taleban militants is in the northwestern tribal belt of the country but many analysts and officials believe that some militant fighters also come from the southern Punjab. — AFP
ISLAMABAD: While admitting its failure to complete Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline Project on time, Pakistan on Monday reaffirmed its commitment to the visiting Iranian minister to complete the project in two phases.
“Pakistan has been unable to complete the projects on its side due to international sanctions on Iran,” said Federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Shahid Khaqan Abbasi here at the sidelines of the 19th session of the Pakistan-Iran Joint Economic Commission (JEC).
Mr Abbasi informed the visiting Iranian Minister for Economic Affairs and Finance, Dr. Ali Taieb Nia that despite Pakistan’s best efforts banks, international contractors and equipment suppliers were not ready to be involved in this project.
The minister was accompanied, among others, by the governor general of Sistan and the Ambassador of Iran to Pakistan.
“We are now planning to complete this project in two steps. First, we are installing LNG terminal at Gawadar Port and secondly, a 42-inch pipeline of 700km length will be laid from Gawadar to Nawabshah for onward transmission of gas to the northern parts of the country,” Mr Abbasi said.
The minister informed the visiting delegation that Pakistan is in talks with Chinese companies for construction of this pipeline and the 70km portion of the pipeline from Gawadar to Iran border will be completed by Pakistani companies.
He hoped that this project will start in the near future. There is hardly any trade in oil between Pakistan and Iran, the minister said, adding Pakistan wanted to increase trade substantially after the sanction issue was closed.
Dr Ali Taieb Nia has said that Iran has already completed its part of the gas project and hoped Pakistan will fulfill its commitment to complete its part of the project.
He expressed his desire the Iranian gas should flow into Pakistan soon so that Pakistan may be able to overcome its energy shortfall.
Dr Ali informed that Iran’s negotiations with the international community on nuclear issue have been successful and hoped that the applicable sanctions will be removed very soon.
He further expressed his hope that with the removal of international sanctions, Iran’s trade volume and economic relations with its neighbors will further improve.
JOINT ECONOMIC COMMISSION: On the first day of the meeting, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said top leadership of both the countries was serious in taking the relationship to a new level.
“We have endeavored to materialize what our leadership feels. We will not only try to expand the existing trade, economic and bilateral ties in other areas, but also make efforts to stabilise them,” Dar said while co-chairing the meeting with his Iranian counterpart.
Regarding sanctions against Iran, Dar said Pakistan supports Iran on the international fora and argued with the world community to open trade with Iran on humanitarian goods.
Iranian Minister for Finance Dr Ali Taieb Ni reciprocated the feelings and said that he was pleased to be in Pakistan to lead his side at the JEC.
He also expressed resolve to cooperate with Pakistan in the areas of energy import, transport and communications, mining, agriculture, health and banking sector development, through a comprehensive framework agreement.
The JEC will discuss issues of banking problems with Iran due to sanctions imposed by the US and UN; Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project to expedite its implementation, up-gradation of Quetta-Taftan railway track and improvement of Noshki-Dalbandin section of N-40 Highway.
On the import of energy from Iran, both sides will also discuss the import of 74MW power from Iran for Mekran Division, Balochistan; 100MW from Iran to Gwadar and 1000MW from Iran for Balochistan and the national grid.
Published in Dawn December 9th , 2014