The family of a brave teen who tackled a suicide bomber who was trying to enter his school is imploring the Pakistani government for protection as terrorists have warned them they are targets.
The kin of Pakistani teenager Aitzaz Hassan called the 15-year-old “pehlwan” — or wrestler — because of his heavy-set frame. On Jan. 6, 2014, Aitzaz, who had talked about becoming a soldier one day, used his might to keep a suicide bomber from blowing up his classmates.
Aitzaz was standing outside his government school in the northwestern district of Hangu when the terrorist, claimed by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a group with ties to al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban (TTP), tried to enter the gates and reach the morning assembly.
The teen quickly tackled the bomber, preventing him from entering the school and reaching some 1,000 students inside. Aitzaz died later at a hospital from injuries suffered in the bomb blast.
Aitzaz’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.
The teen was posthumously awarded the country’s Sitara-e-Shujaat, or Star of Bravery. The family has been lobbying to make Jan. 6 Aitzaz Day in Pakistan, so all will remember his ultimate sacrifice to stop terrorism.
This April, the family received a threat from Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan: “Aitzaz Hasan is not a hero nor a martyr,” the letter said. “If Aitzaz’s brother Mujtaba does not stop meeting media and officials of government institutions, he will be responsible for any loss.”
The TTP shot Malala Yousafzai, a teen advocate for girls’ education, in the head in an Oct. 9, 2012, assassination attempt. She survived and went on to become the youngest Nobel Peace Prize recipient in history.
Aitzaz’s brother Mujtaba went to local authorities shortly after receiving the threat to ask for government protection for the Hasan family. According to Pakistan’s The Nation, authorities are still mulling over the request.
“Despite my plea to the relevant security institutions informing them of the threat, I have not yet received a reply from any of them,” Mujtaba said. “Right now my family only has one guard for protection, provided by the district administration. It is a request to the authorities to give us the required security. My family is going through trauma and need their support.”
Mujtaba said the provincial government “has not been in contact with my family” about security and is not keeping promises to honor the teen who stopped what would have been a disastrous attack.
“They are yet to keep their word of building two colleges and a sports stadium in Aitzaz’s name,” he noted. “The federal government has not contacted us at all.”