It was the day of my second last undergraduate exam. The clock was ticking fast and I was falling short on time. What I did not know at that very moment was that students between 8-16 years of age in an Army Public School located in Peshawar were faced with the toughest, the most barbaric and deadliest final of their lives- an assessment that ended with 141 deaths and left 124 injured.
I was heading home from the University of Karachi when my phone buzzed with a text message from a kin. '20 dead, APS in Peshawar under attack' was what it read.
Considering the desensitized attitude that has enveloped the society, the number 20 still sent shivers down my spine- for it was a school that was the target this time.
Pakistan's cultural hub, Lahore recently suffered 55 deaths and over 100 injured when a suicide bomber exploded himself during the evening ceremony that takes place on the Wagha border.
20 was a number still standing out.
A country where casualties resulting from terror attacks are only a matter of numbers which the multitude mourns for a few days or perhaps weeks and then forgets easily- very easily.
But December 16,2014 will be referred to as the blackest of all days in the history of the nation for the 20 reported casualties soon rose up to three-digits. This time the terrorists hadn't targetted a mosque or a church or an armed facility- Army Public School (APS) was the institute under attack.
School, a place where young minds feel immense pride in carrying their favourite character's backpack- a place where tolerance is inculcated- a place where juveniles are taught to become responsible, dutiful citizens to serve the state. It were those young minds that day who were under attack.
It is the duty of the state to provide security to its citizens. When this basic right is not provided to the multitudes living in a country, chaos and anarchy prevails. Pakistan is a place where lawlessness is at its peak and 12-16-14 was another reminder of the extremely grave state of affairs.
The rulers of each of the past governments when faced with such atrocious incidents feel their responsibility lies in simply condemning the regular terror bashes. The Peshawar attack resulted in a series of similar condemnation calls emanating from state department heads and party leaders followed by awarding a fixed sum of money to the victims' families- a common, popularly known response from the government every time a terror act takes place.
Money substituted for an irreplaceable, priceless loss? How on earth can a human loss be allotted with a price tag? Since when can money avenge the death for families of the deceased?
For the government of Pakistan it has become routine to condemn and criticize these frequent attacks and promises to address the issue is also mundane.
Pakistan being an ally of the United States in the war against terror has lost a lot of its armed forces along with a sizable number of civilians since this war began.
The following day newspapers around the world carried images of a blood-stained auditorium, administration office, corridors and those young warriors who braved the deadly encounter.
The global arena labels the day to be Pakistan's 9/11 however, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif calls it to be a 'national tragedy' for which he announced three days of mourning.
But is the condemnation or announcing days of mourning enough to deal with this menace? What about the fear that is instilled in those budding minds?
The attack on APS school also brings to surface a major security lapse. If the terrorists can reach and carry out their activities successfully in an army school then what about the other educational institutions?
The hangings of those involved in earlier planned terror attacks such as the mastermind behind the assault on ex- President Pervez Musharraf and GHQ have resulted in execution of six terrorists thus far. Retaliation from various terrorist factions will undoubtedly continue,thus leaving no place secure.
Vigils and prayers are being held all over the country and in places around the globe. Promises to clear the 'Land of the Pure' from all these living impurities are again reiterated by the armed forces as well as the government. Will this vicious cycle of terror ever end? Time will only decide.
I stand a graduate now, but what about those 141 souls? December 16 decided their fate and put an end to their dreams and aspirations.