‘My Peshawar has now become a city of terror,’ says Pakistani resident at Dubai candlelight vigil

Residents hold vigil to remember the 148 who were murdered by the Taliban while attending a high school in Pakistan.
More than 1,000 people gathered for a candlelight vigil in Dubai to remember the 148 people killed, 132 of them children, in Tuesday’s attack by Taliban militants on a Pakistan army high school in Peshawar.  Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
More than 1,000 people gathered for a candlelight vigil in Dubai to remember the 148 people killed, 132 of them children, in Tuesday’s attack by Taliban militants on a Pakistan army high school in Peshawar. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

DUBAI // More than 1,000 people gathered for a candlelight vigil in Dubai on Wednesday night in honour of 148 people killed – 132 of them children – in an attack on a Pakistan army high school in Peshawar on Tuesday.

People of all nationalities met at the Pakistan consulate in the city to pay their respects.

The terror attack by Taliban militants had not only affected the Pakistani community, said Javed Jalil Khattak, the consul general.

“I am thankful to the community members who have come here to pay their tributes. It is the saddest moment not just for us, but for the whole world.”Mr Khattak said.

The vigil, he said, showed that Pakistanis, regardless of where they come from, are united in their fight against terrorism.

“Pakistan is the worst victim of terrorism and we are paying the price in the form of the blood of our children,” he told the crowd.

For one couple, the attack has ruined their home, Peshawar.

“I don’t want to go back,” said Mrs Khan, who cried as she lit a candle. “My Peshawar, once famous as city of flowers, has now become the city of terror.”

“We came to Dubai two days ago to have fun but everything has been destroyed. We have been crying since yesterday,” said her husband.

A Pakistani member of parliament, who attended the vigil, said she prayed no other nation would ever have to face such tragedy.

“I hope we as a nation have learned a lesson. Pakistanis have to tackle this issue by themselves,” Alizeh Iqbal Haider said.

“It is an ugly reminder and all of us have to wake up.”

Others questioned the needlessness of the attack, saying it should act as a wake-up call.

“I don’t understand why we wait for such tragedies to happen and then we react,” resident Omer Alvi said. “We have to realise that something has terribly gone wrong within our society and we have to fix it as early as possible.”

Mr Alvi, who lit a candle, said his colleague’s nephews were killed in the attack.

Asra Lashari, from Pakistan, said she believed those involved should be executed.

“I am a mother of two children and when I saw those innocent faces, I couldn’t believe that someone could kill them brutally. I want all these culprits hanged publicly.”

Ms Lashari is trying to collect one million signatures which will then be sent to the school in a show of solidarity for the victims, their families, and the greater community.

Pakistanis and their government have to work together to stop extremism and hate speeches, said Tanya Daud, who attended the vigil with her sisters.

“We cannot afford to have extremist mindsets in our society. We are already blended a lot and now we have to make sure to grab any person or group who is promoting hate in the name of faith,” she said.

“Our faith does not teach all this.”

Although most mourners came to pay their respects after the sun went down, others came to the consulate in the morning.

“May God bless their souls,” said a message left by a group of children from a local school. “We are with Pakistani children at these difficult times.”

The Pakistan embassy and consulate declared there would be three days of mourning in light of the attack, with the country’s flag flying at half mast. All scheduled festive events have been postponed.

Books of condolences are available at each venue for those who wish to leave a message, and a funeral prayer has been held at the consulate.

People who wish to pay their respects in Abu Dhabi can do so at a meeting being held at the embassy on Thursday morning.

akhaishgi@thenational.ae

Published: December 17, 2014 04:00 AM

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