Call to Honor Pakistani Boy in Fatal Tackle of a Bomber

Discussion in 'Pakistan' started by Singh, Jan 10, 2014.

  1. Singh

    Singh Phat Cat Administrator

    Feb 23, 2009
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    ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Aitzaz Hasan, a 15-year-old ninth grader, was late for school and rushing with two friends to make the morning assembly when they were stopped by a stranger wearing the same uniform as theirs, who curiously asked for directions. Aitzaz grew suspicious, and tackled the stranger as he tried to flee. Then the stranger blew himself up, killing them both.

    The suicide bombing on Monday in northwestern Pakistan, where Islamist extremism and sectarian mayhem are daily facts of life, has struck a deep nerve in the country — not because of the bomber, believed to be a Taliban extremist, but because of the student who risked his life, and lost it, to stop him.


    Muhammad Aslam Khan, right, the police official widely known as Chaudhry Aslam, in May 2012. He was killed Thursday.Blast in Pakistan Kills Senior Police OfficialJAN. 9, 2014
    In a national outpouring of grief and angst that has grown more intense as the news of Aitzaz’s intervention has spread, many Pakistanis are calling him a hero, worthy of Pakistan’s highest award for valor. Some are calling him Pakistan’s male answer to Malala Yousafzai, 16, who was shot in the head and neck on a school bus in northwestern Pakistan in October 2012 by Taliban gunmen because she had defied their ban on school attendance by girls. Now a world celebrity, she survived after extensive surgery and rehabilitation.

    “What is unfortunate is that Aitzaz lost his life,” Zahidullah Bengash, a cousin, said on Thursday in a telephone interview from Ibrahimzai, a village in the Hangu district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, which has a history of sectarian violence. “What is fortunate is that he saved the lives of hundreds of other students.”

    Relatives and police officials said the suicide bomber had wanted to detonate his explosives at Government Boys High School in Ibrahimzai. At least 1,000 students study there.

    Mr. Bengash said Aitzaz and his friends had been rushing to avoid tardiness when they encountered the stranger.

    “It made my cousin suspicious, and he inquired about the person’s identity and why was he never seen in the school earlier,” Mr. Bengash said. “The person tried to escape, and Aitzaz tried to tackle him. In this struggle, the bomber blew himself up.”

    Some prominent Pakistani journalists, bloggers and Twitter users have urged the Pakistani government to honor Aitzaz in some extraordinary way. The government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has issued no official response.

    “We must honor him,” Nasim Zehra, a Pakistani journalist and talk show host, said in an interview. Earlier on Thursday, Ms. Zehra suggested on Twitter that the teenager should be given Nishan-e-Haider, the highest Pakistani military award, equivalent to the Medal of Honor.

    Police officials say Ibrahimzai’s population includes many Shiites, who have come under repeated attacks by Taliban militants and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a banned extremist Sunni militant group.

    Aitzaz’s family has sought to show stoicism, Mr. Bengash said, and has not talked of the possible sectarian aspect to his death. Mr. Bengash said that the suicide bombing was an attack against the country.

    “Aitzaz was very lively and friendly,” Mr. Bengash said. “He was very cute. He loved his country and his friends. He sacrificed his life for them.”

    The teenager’s father worked as a driver in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, and he had two sisters and a brother. None of them could be reached for comment on Thursday.

    “We must acknowledge the rare individual Hasan was,” said Ms. Zehra, the journalist. “This courageous teenager attempted to battle death. What gave him this confidence? Outrage? Parenting? Faith? From the bloodletting terrorism in Pakistan are emerging uniquely inspiring and iconic individuals like Malala and now Aitzaz Hasan.”

    Underneath the praise for the teenager, questions have surfaced about the stance of the provincial and federal governments, which have advocated peace talks with Taliban militants.

    After Aitzaz’s death, the criticism of the government’s strategy has intensified. Zarrar Khuhro, a journalist who works for Dawn, the country’s leading English-language daily newspaper, echoed the sentiments in an emotional blog post.

    “We live in a land where a young child,” Mr. Khuhro wrote, Aitzaz, “had to give his life fighting a scourge that our own leaders bend over backwards in an attempt to appease.”
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