By now, the world is aware of 16-year-old Malala Yousafzai’s struggle for education in Pakistan, in the face of the constant threats to schooling in the country from the Taliban and other Islamist groups (see entry on this blog for 31 October 2013). A tragic incident has now occurred to remind education’s defenders that Malala is not alone and that other schoolchildren are implicated in the fight for Pakistan’s soul.
On 6 January 2014, in Malala’s home province, a 15-year-old schoolboy named Aitzaz Hasan single-handedly thwarted a suicide bomber who was about to blow up his school, but died in hospital following a head-to-head struggle with his adversary outside the school gates.
The incident occurred in the village of Ibrahimzai (Hangu district, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province). The bomber was a Sunni militant aiming to blow up the Government High School in the mostly Shi’ite village: the attack has been claimed by the illegal (and Taliban-connected) organisation Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and appears to be part of the Sunni extremists’ ongoing campaign against fellow Muslims who happen to be Shi’ites.
Aitzaz, who was the son of an émigré worker based in the United Arab Emirates, has been declared a national hero. His school has been renamed after him, and the office of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said he will be posthumously awarded the country’s Star of Bravery decoration. Pakistan’s army has placed a wreath on his tomb.
Malala Yousafzai has praised the boy martyr and has offered a donation from her worldwide education fund to Aitzaz’s family. On 10 January, she said: “I feel saddened that violence took another child’s life in my country. I feel proud that I belong to a country where many brave and courageous people like Aitzaz Hasan are born”.
http://www.thenational.ae/world/south-asia/pakistan-to-name-school-and-stadium-after-hero-schoolboy-who-saved-hundreds-thwarting-suicide-bomber – The National (UAE), 13 Jan 2014 – ‘Pakistan to name school and stadium after hero schoolboy who saved hundreds thwarting suicide bomber’
http://www.dawn.com/news/1079410/father-hails-teenage-son-for-saving-hundreds-of-lives – Dawn (Pakistan), 10 Jan 2014 – ‘Father hails teenage son for saving hundreds of lives’
http://www.voanews.com/content/activist-malala-hails-pakistani-teen-hero/1827538.html – Voice of America, 10 Jan 2014 – ‘Activist Malala Hails Pakistani Teen Hero’