Aitizaz Hassan, a 15-year-old boy who sacrificed his own life to save 2,000 fellow students has been hailed a hero in Pakistan. He tackled a suicide bomber on January 6 outside his school and prevented him from detonating his bomb inside that would almost certainly have killed most of the students present there. He has been awarded Sitara-e Shujjat, Pakistan's highest civilian award, posthumously.
Saturday January 11, 2014, 23:02 EST
Aitizaz Hassan, a 15-year-old student who was ordered to stand outside as punishment for being late to school last Monday (January 6) ended up sacrificing his life to save hundreds of classmates’ lives in Hangu, in the troubled Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.
His spirit of self-sacrifice has been hailed as an act of heroism and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced on Friday the highest civilian award for bravery for the youth. Aitizaz was recommended for Sitara-e Shujjat.
The 15-year-old Aitizaz stood outside the school with two other boys when a suicide bomber tried to enter the school in Ibrahimzai, a predominantly Shia populated town five miles east of the city of Hangu. Upon noticing the suicide bomber, the other boys fled the scene but Aitizaz decided to tackle him.
While he was unable to prevent the suicide bomber from detonating his bomb, Aitizaz stopped him from entering the school building where more than 2,000 students were present.
He was badly injured in the explosion and later died of wounds in hospital.
“My son made his mother cry, but saved hundreds of mothers from crying for their children,” his father Mujahid Ali Bangash, told a Pakistani newspaper. “There are a handful of people in the world who are martyrs; I am now one of those proud fathers whose son is among them.”
There has been widespread praise for Aitizaz's valiant efforts from all segments of society. He has been proclaimed a national hero on social media sites and even won praise from Pakistan’s new military chief, General Raheel Sharif. Brigadier Nadeem Zaki Manj, the local commander in Hangu, placed a wreath at Aitizaz’s grave on behalf of the army chief.
Suicide bombings are quite common in Pakistan. The area between Peshawar, Kohat and Hangu all the way west to Parachinar on the Afghan border has been the scene of some of the worst suicide bomb attacks.
The Pakistani Taliban are also well established in these areas especially in Orakzai tribal agency that borders Hangu. Extremist local mullahs spew anti-Shia hatred and there have been many attacks against the Shia population.
Thousands of people have died in such attacks. A report by the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies released earlier in the week said suicide attacks had increased by 39% in 2013 to a total of 46 throughout Pakistan. The KPK province is especially hard hit.
According to media reports, Pakistani President Mamoon Hussain will sign the award for Aitizaz Hassan and present it to his father on March 23 that is celebrated as Pakistan Day each year.