Fifteen year-old Aitizaz Hasan was late to school last week. As punishment, he, his brother Mujtaba and another student were sent to stand outside for a time. As they waited a man in his early 20s approached and attempted to strike up a conversation with the boys.
When they spotted the detonator on the suicide vest, Mujtaba and the other boy fled into the school, but not Aitizaz. As he grappled with the man preventing him from entering the school, the bomber detonated his bomb killing himself and the heroic young man.
The Government High School Ibrahimzai in Hangu is the only school in Ibahimzai. At the time of the attack, there were approximately 2,000 students inside and Aitizaz’s actions saved hundreds of lives by preventing the bomber from gaining entry to the building.
Aitizaz is being hailed throughout the country as a national hero with many Pakistanis taking to social media to demand that the government posthumously award him the Nishan-e-Haider, which translates to “Emblem of Haider,” which is the highest military award given by Pakistan. It is equivalent to the Medal of Honor in the U.S. or the Victoria Cross in the U.K.
Nasim Zehra, a journalist and senior anchor at Capital TV issued a call to the government to award the honor to the boy and was quickly joined by other Pakistanis who are calling him a martyr and a hero.
His father and brother gave an emotional interview to the Express Tribune. “My son made his mother cry, but saved hundreds of mothers from crying for their children,” his father said.
“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.”
“I had never thought that my brother would die such a great death. He sacrificed his life to save humanity,” brother Mujtaba said.
Hangu, where the attack took place is a district of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province which is has a large Shia community, a sect which many Sunni extremists consider to be heretics who must either convert or be killed. There has been strife in the area between the two groups for some time and bombings are not unusual, however authorities say that this is the first time that a school has been targeted.
“We live in a land where a young child had to give his life fighting a scourge that our own leaders bend over backwards in an attempt to appease,” wrote Zarrar Khuhro, a journalist for Dawn Pakistan’s oldest and most widely read newspaper.
The Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies released a study earlier in the week that shows suicide bombings are becoming more prevalent in the nation, up by 39% in 2013 with a total of 46 attacks. Just days after Aitizaz died, a police officer in Karachi was killed by a Taliban suicide bomber who rammed his car with a vehicle loaded with explosives.