Salute the bravery of Pakistani children but . . . . .

By: Syeda Sultana Rizvi, London

Pakistani children have set an example of bravery and resilience in the war on terror. As we saw the images of children of Army Public School being received by the Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif on returning to the school on 12th January 2015- first time after the horrific incident a month ago- in high spirits it was a clear evidence that children of this country are unbeatable and that their bravery is recognized at least at some level. Month of January also marked the first anniversary of Shahadat of Aitazaz Hasan a 13 year old hero and role model for children of entire world who sacrificed his life to protect 2000 children of his school from a terrorist attack in January 2014.

These two incidents clearly reflect that each and every child of Pakistan is on the frontline in the war on terror and plays its role with utmost bravery while growing up in the line of fire. Though these two incidents are the height of what Pakistani children have been going through their sufferings and sacrifices which often remain undocumented and unrecognized are of enormous scale spanning over past three decades since the beginning of Afghan war and obviously much more since the new phase and face of the conflict in this region with ensuing of the war on terror in 2001.

It’s not only that thousands of children have lost their lives in direct attacks from terrorists and as collateral damage from attacks on terrorists, their sufferings are multifaceted in the form psychological trauma on loss of parents, siblings and friends killed in terrorists attacks; disabilities caused by terrorists attacks and also not being able to receive immunization against polio as one of the consequences of political conflict in the region in addition to this dislocation from their homes as IDPs.

Besides facing these consequences they have been affected by constraints on resource allocation to development in health and education sectors, as far more resources have been diverted to war on terror. Despite all this scenario our children did not fail us, their resilience remains unmatchable and unprecedented. Now it is the duty of leaders and nation as a whole not to fail our children in terms their security, well being, health and education. The issue of rights of Pakistani children needs to be tackled at all levels nationally and highlighted internationally.

Although the incident of Army Public School has shaken the nation from slumber, the efforts need to continue on the war footings continuously and consistently. Putting effective measures to counter terrorism in place remains one of the goals on top priority but educating children for self-defence and recognizing and celebrating their bravery are other important aspects to be covered.

Making children aware of measures for self- defence through nationwide awareness campaign and training them in schools and colleges to deal with life threatening situations is need of the hour. One of the survivors of Army Public School revealed in his interview that he could save his life because an army personnel taking part in rescue operation communicated to him to lie down and crawl zig zag to avoid shootings. Many more children could have been saved if they knew few simple tactics to avoid shootings.

Every child needs to know about survival skills in any life threatening situation: be it a terrorist attack, an attempt of kidnap; earthquake or flood. Children need to be trained in through media to take best possible actions to save themselves and others. Besides this they also need to be sensitized to report to appropriate quarters any perceived threats or dubious activities and objects in their surroundings.

Back in times when I was a college student First Aid and National Cadet Corp (NCC) were optional for students which to some reason best known to policy makers offered no more in schools and colleges, whereas these are needed as compulsory trainings in our schools and colleges. Awareness through media and trainings at school must be part and parcel of our counter terrorism strategies.

Pakistani children with all their resilience and miraculously high abilities would be more than happy to acquire lifesaving skills, but they deserve to be recognized for their sacrifices and bravery as well and it won’t be out of place to start a quarterly award (not annual because we tend to forget things for whole year then)A may be as Army Public School Award for Brave Children to be conferred on children not only in Pakistan but globally for promoting lifesaving skills to save lives of children in the situations of conflict and threat which are affecting the young children – the future of humanity_ more than ever before.