Nearly a year after the Taliban in Pakistan (aka TTP) attacked a school in the northwestern city of Peshawar, terrorists struck yet another educational institution, a university this time.
At least 19 people have died and 50 others were severely injured after a group of militants breached campus security in Bacha Khan University in the district of Charsadda, just outside Peshawar.
The cowards came amid thick fog around 9 a.m. and reportedly opened fire on students and teachers in classrooms and hostels. The dead, as per the latest reports, include two female students, four guards and a chemistry teacher, Lecturer Syed Hamid Husain, who was killed while tried to protect his students.
Prof Syed Hamid Husain had 7 research publications to his credit - killed in Bacha Khan University attack today pic.twitter.com/mgUmZfxQqk— omar r quraishi (@omar_quraishi) January 20, 2016
Shortly after the building was secured and security forces killed four attackers, the TTP initially claimed responsibility for the massacre, but later, according to some sources, denied any involvement. However, to the innocent civilians, names do not matter. A terrorist is a terrorist, no matter to which radical group he belongs.
Even though soulless mass murderers do not need a reason to attack humanity, it is being reported the attack was in response to a military operation against militant strongholds in the country.
But that, as it turns out, wasn’t the only message the terrorists wanted to convey via this particular act of terror.
For those who don’t know, the university is named after Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, aka Bacha Khan, who was an independence activist during the British Raj in the Indian subcontinent between 1858 and 1947.
Although almost all political movements at the time were generally violent, Khan opted for an entirely different path to liberty — he chose education. He opened his first school in his hometown Utmanzai in Charsadda.
Apart from education, Khan also sought peaceful ways to resist British colonialism. He continued his work after the Partition of India in 1947. In 1985, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Also, unlike several revolutionaries of Pakistan, before and after partition, Khan wasn’t a religious fanatic. He was a staunch advocate of secularism.
In an article for the Daily Times, an English-language Pakistani daily newspaper, Dr. Haider Shah, a professor of public policy in the United Kingdom, quoted a famous statement by Khan:
"You have heard of America and Europe. The people in those countries may not be very religious, but they have a sense of patriotism, love for their nation, and social consciousness. And look at the progress that has been made there. Then take a look at ourselves !"
So, in a way, when terrorists attacked Bacha Khan University, they weren’t only seeking revenge for the country’s counterterrorism offensive, they carried out a direct assault on a symbol of knowledge, interfaith solidarity and peace.
However, as it happens after every attack, the people of Pakistan will pick up the pieces and move on. 2014’s attack on Army Public School was a major blow to the nation’s collective spirit. Still, the country has proven to be resilient.
Terrorists can spill innocent blood but their bullets cannot take away the lessons and ideas planted by great leaders like Bacha Khan.