Pakistani Children Anxiously Return To School A Month After Massacre

Pakistani parents leave the Army Public School with their children after it was reopened following an attack there by Taliban
Pakistani parents leave the Army Public School with their children after it was reopened following an attack there by Taliban militants in Peshawar on January 12, 2015. Child survivors of Pakistan's worst ever terrorist attack returned to the school where Taliban militants massacred their classmates January 12, with both the students and their parents expressing a mixture of defiance and apprehension. The December 16, 2014 attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar by a group of gunmen and suicide bombers claimed the lives of 150 people, mostly children, and prompted a bout of national soul-searching even in a country used to high levels of militancy. AFP PHOTO / A MAJEED (Photo credit should read A Majeed/AFP/Getty Images)

By Jibran Ahmad

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Children streamed back to school across Pakistan on Monday in an anxious start to a new term following last month's massacre of 134 students at an army-run school in the volatile northwestern city of Peshawar.

Most schools across the country of 180 million had been shut until Monday for an extended winter break in the aftermath of the Dec. 16 attack when Taliban militants broke into Army Public School and methodically killed the children.

Pakistan has long been used to almost daily militant attacks but a cold-blooded massacre of so many children has deeply scarred the nation, prompting criticism that the government was not doing enough to curb the insurgency.

In Peshawar, a chaotic, often violent city on the edge of Pakistan's lawless tribal areas, survivors of the attack returned to their studies amid tight security, some students still wearing bandages.

In an emotionally charged and nervous atmosphere, parents, some crying, met army chief Gen Raheel Sharif who had traveled to Peshawar to address them in a private meeting.

"The army chief didn't make a speech but individually met the parents and assured them they would eliminate the terrorists from the country," a security official told Reuters.

Another official said eight-feet high walls were being built around public schools in Peshawar as part of enhanced security, with hundreds of residents volunteering to protect schools.

But some parents, especially those grieving their children, stayed away from the meeting with the army chief, saying it was too painful for them to go back to the school.

"Yes I was invited to the function and meeting with the army chief. I couldn't dare to go to the school where my sweet son was ruthlessly killed," said one father. "And what would I get from meeting the army chief when they couldn't even save my young son and children of many other parents?

"It feels like my son died once again today. When I saw other children going to schools it reminded me of my son. I went to his room and helplessly sat in front of his school bags and school dress." (Writing by Maria Golovnina; additional reporting by Mehreen Zahra-Malik and Syed Raza Hassan)



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