Sharif vows revenge one year after Taliban school massacre

Peshawar, December 16

Pakistan’s leader called today for vengeance under portraits of children killed by Taliban bullets as the country marked the first anniversary of a school massacre that left 151 people dead in its worst-ever extremist attack.

Families of the victims along with military and political leaders attended an emotional ceremony at the army-run school in the northwestern city of Peshawar to mark the assault, which mostly claimed the lives of schoolchildren and has been termed a “mini-9/11” for the country.

Relatives were accompanied by students bearing images of their loved ones as they spoke one by one of children with bright smiles who worried about their hair and handwriting but had dreams of being artists and engineers.

“My children, today I make this promise to you, that I will take revenge for every drop of your blood,” Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said, addressing the victims directly.

The ceremony, which a military official told AFP was attended by some 2,500 guests including celebrities and sports stars, was broadcast live on state television.

Powerful military chief Raheel Sharif and opposition leader Imran Khan were also in attendance.

Earlier, the parents of the 134 children killed in the hours-long siege visited their children’s graves in Peshawar.

“We think a lot about the students who lost their lives,” Abu Bakar, a teacher who was shot three times as he threw himself in front of fleeing children during the siege, told AFP, saying the loss was “something that cannot be described”.

“This should not have happened to them, they were innocent students,” he said. “They came here for studies, they were not at war with anyone.”

On social media, Pakistanis were changing their profile pictures to an image depicting an Army Public School uniform with a bloody bullet hole resembling a poppy, and a caption reading: “Some stains don’t wash out”.

Two survivors of the massacre attended a sombre ceremony on Tuesday in the British city of Birmingham organised by Nobel prize winner Malala Yousafzai. She survived a 2012 Taliban attack, retribution for advocating education for girls.