Aakif Azeem lost 17 friends in the terrorist attack on Army Public School Peshawar on 16 December 2014. Despite being a witness to horrifying scenes and loosing so many dear friends he lives to fulfill their dreams. Today he has become the hope for many children and a motivational speaker.
Speaking to The Nation he shed light on his struggle after the attack. “I lost seventeen friends. It is like a big hole in my chest which will never be filled. They were not only my friends but they had dreams and a desire to live. It has been tough but I did not give up. It is often said that you find your true worth in the darkest hours, that’s what this incident did to me. I am more aware of myself and my goals. I have started giving motivational talks to youth so they can look forward to a bright future and make this country Jinnah’s Pakistan.”
Aakif says that the road to recovery was very difficult but then he realized life has to move on along with memories of his friends. During the journey he needed psychological help but then took it up as his subject in university. “When I joined the university I was a very shy person, but soon I started mingling with people. A number of times people came to me to know what happened that day.”
Parents of Aakif Azeem are still struggling to believe what had happened. They are still fearful of the past but their condition has improved, when they see their son they think that he has woken from the dead. They want Aakif to pursue those things that he wanted to do that is why they allowed him to leave Peshawar and move to Islamabad for studies.
Aakif has not only moved forward but is also giving therapy sessions to his friends and children who are suffering from the trauma. “Pakistan is being pulled into depression, but my aim is to keep spreading positivity. I realized that there is nothing more important than Humanity. No matter what race, religion or creed one belongs to, one has the right to live.”
He aims to make Pakistan what Muhammad Ali Jinnah had thought of. Aakif Azeem believes that ‘if we don’t do it then who will?’
The APS survivor has penned down his feelings and details of that fateful day in a book. It is complete and he is looking for a publisher and finances to have it printed.
About the concept of justice being served he said, “I don’t agree to the method of justice these people are giving. Why should an 18 years old child be defending others and his own life in the middle of bullets? I don’t agree with the concept of justice that is being given to the culprits of that incident, as it was not my job to protect those children. They have done damage that could have been prevented.”
The National Action Plan was prepared as a sequel to the APS incident. It was a well-articulated plan but unfortunately it has not been implemented in full, believes Aakif Azeem. “Intolerance and hatred is spreading like wildfire and it should be stopped otherwise it would result into another APS,” he warns.