The family of Pakistani teenager Aitzaz Hassan called him “pehlwan” — or wrestler — because of his heavy-set frame. On Monday, Hassan, who wanted to become a doctor, used his might to keep a suicide bomber from blowing up his classmates.
Hassan was the only student standing outside his government school in the northwestern district of Hangu when the suicide bomber, claimed by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, tried to enter the gates. Everyone else was inside at the morning assembly. Since Hassan was late, he was punished by having to stand outside during the gathering.
He saw the detonator, and quickly tackled the bomber who was trying to target the 1,000 students inside. Hassan died later at a hospital from injuries suffered in the bomb blast.
Hassan’s father, Mujahid Ali Bangash, was working in the United Arab Emirates at the time. He told Agence France-Presse he was “happy that my son has become a martyr by sacrificing his life for a noble cause.”
“Aitzaz has made us proud by valiantly intercepting the bomber and saving the lives of hundreds of his fellow students,” he said.
Zarrar Khuhro, an executive producer at Dawn News TV, questioned in a stirring op-ed in the Dawn print version whether the nation is worthy of such a boy.
“We live in a land where a young child, Aitzaz Hussain, had to give his life fighting a scourge that our own leaders bend over backwards in an attempt to appease. There is sorrow and rage because a nation that can produce such lions does not deserve to be led by such lambs,” Khuhro wrote. “…He saw a split second chance and saved countless lives with a courage few of us can match. Had he not been there, had he not done what he did, dozens, maybe hundreds of children would have lost their lives in a flash of fire, their bodies torn apart by cruel, blind shrapnel.”
“From what the family says, they stand tall. In this moment of darkness, they hold onto the belief that their child did not die in vain, that he made the greatest sacrifice possible, that his blood bought life by stopping a beast who walked with and worshipped nothing but death. But for how long? The world will move on, the focus – what little there is of it – will shift and they will be left alone in empty rooms, waiting for a voice that will never be heard again,” Khuhro continued.
“We don’t need more Aitzazs’. Not one or one million. What we need is to be worthy of the one we lost. What we need is for those who claim to lead us to show the courage that this boy did. Perhaps, that is too much to ask from those who roll out apologies and obfuscations with such unerring regularity, but stammer and shake when it comes to naming those responsible for mass murder.”