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September 11, 2020

Oxford-bound APS survivor laments lack of support from Pakistan govt

The News/via Author

LONDON/BIRMINGHAM: A heroic survivor of the 2014 APS terrorist attack has been admitted to study at the prestigious University of Oxford.

Ahmad Nawaz, who was shot in the arm during the horrendous 2014 massacre at Peshawar's Army Public School (APS), will study Philosophy and Theology at Lady Margaret Hall, the same alma mater of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and rights activist Malala Yousafzai.

In an exclusive conversation with The News, Nawaz said the atrocious attack on December 16, 2014 — that claimed more than 140 innocent lives, including his younger brother — had scarred him for life.

"I will never be able to forget the trauma — even now I get flashbacks and nightmares — but the support from people from Pakistan has helped me move on," Ahmed said.

"[I now have] a newer perspective on life. Before the incident, I was an ordinary kid but now I realise my responsibility."

The young student had initially arrived in the UK for treatment of his arm after doctors in Pakistan recommended treatment from a foreign hospital. He did not speak English well enough and struggled hard to adjust to the educational system in the UK.

However, the love and support he received not only from his family but also the people of Pakistan and Britain motivated him to work hard.

Nawaz has received a £14,000-per-annum scholarship to study at the renowned King Edwards school where he was able to 6 A*s and 2 As. He went on to study International Baccalaureate (IB) and scored well enough to secure an interview with the University of Oxford.

According to Nawaz, he was determined to study at Oxford because the loss of his brother and friends widened his perspective and showed him the importance of education.

"I'm incredibly proud of moving on from such a heinous atrocity. It took me five years to reach this milestone but this is a milestone for all the victims of terrorism.

"I want to send a message to those terrorists that even if they attack us, they cannot stop us from getting an education," Nawaz told The News.

He has been interviewed by the BBC, the Daily Mail, the Times, The Guardian, The Independent, and various other international platforms regarding his journey and has also been the keynote speaker at hundreds of events in educational institutions across the UK.

Speaking of the pressure of living in the limelight, Nawaz said he did not let it get to him because he had a greater goal of helping his community in mind.

The News/via Author

"The Pakistani youth is brimming with talent but there aren't many opportunities there. I urge the government to focus on the development of the youth because the future of Pakistan is in their hands," Nawaz said.

He explained how the government of Pakistan initially ignored doctors' advice to send him abroad for treatment but, after pressure from the people of Pakistan who stood by him, he was able to come to the UK.

"I will always be grateful to the people of Pakistan but I am disappointed with the government," the young student said.

Speaking to The News, Ahmed's father, Mohammad Nawaz, underlined that even though his son tagged Prime Minister Imran Khan in his tweet breaking the news of his admission to Oxford, the government of Pakistan showed no support or reaction.

"I don't have any money or fame, just a martyred son and Ahmed who miraculously survived. We are poor people and don't have many resources. Imran Khan should help us," Mohammad Nawaz said.

Nawaz said his role models included philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi and Tahira Qazi — the martyred principal of APS who laid down her life to protect her students.

In a message to the government and people of Pakistan, Nawaz said, "The government should work hard to ensure to provide maximum opportunities for the youth.

"The youth should also realise that they have to succeed not just for themselves but for their country. We owe it to Pakistan to be the best version of ourselves.”