Saturday October 01, 2022

Victory at Oxford

By Editorial Board
June 29, 2022

They say the human spirit is tremendously resilient. One embodiment of this is a young man who survived the deadly terrorist attack in 2014 on the Army Pubic School (APS) in Peshawar – an attack that killed 132 students. This young APS survivor is now president of the Oxford Union Debating Society. Nobody granted him this position; he contested the election for it and won. Ahmad Nawaz has done Pakistan proud by becoming the second Pakistani – after the late Benazir Bhutto – to hold this prestigious position. He was just 13 years old when that gruesome attack unfolded in his school after TTP terrorists descended upon the building by breaching all security cordons. Ahmad Nawaz is now 21. He still has a long way to go in his academic and personal life, but if his current potential is any guide, he is likely to achieve his goals.

Looking forward to having world leaders debate today’s pressing issues at the Oxford Union, Ahmad wants to see young people empowered through the Union platform. He also plans to uphold freedom of speech and nurture adversity of ideas during the period he presides over the society. While we hail this achievement by a young man who did not give up, we are reminded also of the lost opportunities young men and women in our country face. Merely paying tribute is not enough. The inspiring journeys of young people such as Malala Yousafzai and Ahmad Nawaz must get ample coverage in our media. The kind of treatment many Pakistanis have meted out to Malala must never get any reiteration. Our young have endured atrocities and experienced tragedies – and then been gaslighted into bearing both the burden of sacrifice and the burden of conspiracy theories. These role models can fuel a new determination in the younger generation of Pakistan to stand tall against all adversities. Most of these families who went through the APS horror have displayed strength by picking up the pieces and rebuilding lives after the tragedy they went through. Ahmad lost his brother Harris in the heinous massacre, and the agony his family must have gone through is unimaginable.

It is also essential to reflect on Pakistan’s policies towards those who have wreaked such havoc with this country’s youth for so long. In a country where the young are perpetually lost amidst violence, regressive thought, financial anxieties and class disparities, a story of perseverance and the will to survive needs to be highlighted not only for the people but for a state whose social contract with its youth especially is fragile if not broken.