It could have been total carnage. Newtown all over again. The bloodshed beyond belief. More innocent lives lost.
The perpetrators didn’t factor in Aitizaz Hasan, however. In making their evil plan, no-one had counted on such courage.
In remembering Aitizaz in recent days, his friends have described him, with obvious affection, as having been ‘a little plump’. Some people used to call him Pehlwan, which means wrestler. Such things served him (and innumerable others) well last week. In the end, though, it was the size of Aitizaz’s heart that mattered the most.
The 15-year-old – in some respects, a typical teenager – had been late for school. His punishment? To miss the morning assembly, Aitizaz instead ordered to stand outside with two other miscreants who had also missed the bell. These two – quite understandably, in our opinion – fled upon realizing that the suspicious stranger trying to enter the school had an explosive device strapped to his chest. Not Aitizaz.
Instead, the Pehlwan choose to wrestle the terrorist, demonstrating remarkable courage in the process. His actions cost him his life because the bomb detonated, killing Aitizaz and his opponent. But such selflessness saved countless others, with more than 1,000 children inside the High School in Hangu in North-West Pakistan.
‘He has made his mother cry, but he has saved hundreds more from crying for their children,’ said his father, Mujahid, who insists that Aitizaz should be celebrated and not mourned. ‘I never thought he’d die such a great death,’ added Mujtaba, Aitizaz’s older brother. ‘He sacrificed his life to save humanity.’
It is no surprise that Aitizaz is being hailed a national hero in Pakistan, with inevitable comparisons being drawn to Malala Yousafzai, who in 2012, also in Pakistan, was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman. Like Aitizaz, Malala (punished for standing up for the rights of girls to be educated) was 15 at the time. Unlike Aitizaz, she survived.
Malala, whose courage has marked her out as a figurehead for those craving more enlightened times in Pakistan, has been among those to have lauded Aitizaz’s actions which, in addition to saving the lives of his schoolmates, have once again steeled resolve and made those campaigning for change more determined to succeed.
In a blog for the Huffington Post, the former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Aitizaz had ‘redefined courage’. He added, ‘He wasn’t a soldier going into battle or a visionary leader prepared to die for his convictions, but a 15-year-old schoolboy. This act of courage is a wake-up call for us in the West, who have come to assume the right to education to be uncontroversial [and] even mundane. We forget that there are terrorist groups dedicated to preventing the enlightenment and end to ignorance that education entails’.
In giving his own life to save others, Aitizaz struck a significant blow against such groups. He gave everything for enlightenment and to put an end to ignorance. He paid the highest price, but his courage makes him an inspiration to us all.
In 2014, which is the OM Year of Courage, it’s our hope that we can all start to be a little braver. Courage comes in all shapes and sizes and one doesn’t have to take on a terrorist in order to do something heroic. Think small, do the basics and YOU can make the most profound difference in life. Don’t run, stand tall, meet challenges head on and always – ALWAYS – think about Aitizaz.
He didn’t think twice about putting himself out for others. His might be an extreme example, but in all our lives there are things that can be done to encourage enlightenment and help put an end to ignorance once and for all. Give it a go, you’ll be amazed at the difference it can make.