It was a restless night for Dr Akram Shah, he couldn’t sleep and he didn’t know why. The morning was no better; he still felt uneasy and couldn’t tear his eyes away from his beloved son as the teenager got ready for school.
“I kept looking at him while he said his prayers and sat down for breakfast,” says Shah, referring to 14-year-old Ali Abbas, a ninth-grader, who fell to the terrorists’ guns in Army Public School on December 16, 2014.
Abbas’s mother kept telling him to hurry up or he would be late for school; she didn’t know that he would not return home alive, says the father.
Shah was sitting in his office when he saw the news that APS had been attacked. Shah immediately began calling Abbas’s cell phone but got no response. He then called the school’s mobile number and was told to go to Combined Military Hospital.
Shah left for CMH and also phoned some friends to go look for Abbas at Lady Reading Hospital and the grounds around APS.
“Ambulances were constantly bringing more dead and injured students to the hospital and the CMH administration was not allowing us to go inside,” says Shah.
Finally, around 3:30pm families were permitted to identify their children among the injured admitted in various wards or search for them on the second floor where the dead had been kept.
When Shah couldn’t find his son in the wards after a frantic search, he made his way up the stairs with a heavy heart. “Oh God, the hall was full of bodies; scores of children of the same age, in the same uniform, lying there peacefully,” he recalls.
His whole world crashed around him when he saw his son lying on the ground awaiting his father. “I lifted his head in my lap, kissed his face and read the Fateha.”
A life unlived
According to Shah, Abbas was not a demanding child. “Four days before his death he told me about a class trip to Murree. I asked him if he needed something and he said no, I have enough clothes,” says Shah quoting Abbas.
Abbas was Shah’s eldest son and the most beloved child in the family. He was born in Dag Behsud village, on Cherat Road, Nowshera. His father and mother both worked so he was mostly raised by his grandparents.
He began his education from Afaq Model School in Dag Behsud, followed by Jamal English Education Academy in Pabbi, APS Mardan, APS Kohat and finally APS Peshawar.
According to Shah, Abbas was older to 12-year-old Sundas and eight-year-old Ali Anis whom he pampered. He used to bring chocolates for Anis and spend time with his mother and sister, says Shah.
Abbas was fond of travelling and photography and was an exceptional volleyball player.
“He was my travelling companion. He first travelled with me when he was only two years old. Since then, I travelled with him frequently across the province and he loved it,” says Shah. “Because of my official responsibilities, I would usually come home late, but he always stayed up and waited for me even if it was late at night.”
Abbas wanted to be a doctor just like his father but his dreams were silenced forever in cold blood. His family like many others are still struggling to understand why.