On 16th December 2014, the Army Public School in Peshawar, Pakistan, was attacked by the Taliban. Over a hundred and thirty students were murdered one by one. The principal of the school and members of the faculty were killed. A teacher was set on fire.
As Pakistan lifted itself, reeling, from the wreckage and prepared to fight back, we asked you to write. In a situation where no money was needed, where no compensation was possible, we asked for your words. This is what you sent in.
You Ask Me Why I Am Quiet
by Mubeshra J. Pracha (Lahore)
You ask me why I am quiet.
You question my silence,
And think of me to be indifferent.
People are crying all around me.
You nudge me to express it too.
I stare back at you.
It’s a cold crude night.
I shiver and take on the cloak,
The cloak of mourning.
But I stand aside,
Apart from the crowd.
Distance myself from the tears.
Walk away from the vigils.
Close my eyes to the blood.
Muffle my ears to the sighs and cries,
For I have been dead a long time.
My heart once skipped a beat,
Then another and another,
One after the other they left,
With each mosque they blasted,
With each church they destroyed,
With each bullet they fired,
With each suicide bombing,
With all the breaths that escaped,
From souls young and old,
Lives that bled out,
When terror first strike,
When it was but an infant,
That is when my heart skipped a beat,
Then another and another.
I ask you,
Why should the cry be loudest now,
When the monster is beyond our reach.
When we can offer nothing but our own grief,
To the ones whose grief we cannot equal.
Let them at least cry in peace.
For living in peace is beyond our reach.
Let us not burden their sorrow,
With our own.
For we did not cry the loudest,
When the beast was but an infant.
That children killed by savage men or children simply dead
Angels are bound to guide their souls from Earth, the scholar claimed,
To Abraham, The Prophet grand, in some garden un-named
The sketch of this divine congregation in my crude imagination
Was: a circle around the Prophet enjoying stories in His narration
But, what if it were the children sharing why they came so soon
The reason of their shortened stay, the cause that spelled their doom
Children black and children white, there are a million faces
As if hand-picked by God Himself from all times and all places
Children killed by pharaohs cruel, in suspicion of Moses
Daughters newborn of Arabs who took pride in trampling roses
Then there are those of the Prophet’s house, denied one drop to drink
Then those of Jews from gas chambers, stifled in a blink
Then standing scared and shy are those whose pain is still fresh
Whose drops of blood are still not stale and warm is still their flesh
And when they would narrate their tales, how much would Heaven quiver?
Will the angels weep for them, how some of them would shiver
For they know what anguish is like, the meaning of torment
For Abraham God intervened, for them no lambs were sent.
by Myrah Edwin (Peshawar)
Entangled in a whirlpool
Of senseless lances
I am a mass
Of blood-dripping wounds
Hush! Not a single whimper.
A pile of silent woods
Ready to be blazed
In an inferno of my own making
Like an unsung dirge
Like a bird who dies before a song
Like a city drowning in darkness vainly waiting for dawn.
Like that unshed tear on the tip of your eyelash,
Like that unspoken word on the brim of your mouth,
Like that inexperienced emotion, that unbloomed flower, that unborn child
All that was, all that is and all that’ll never be,
All a part of me
And I, a part of a bigger Being, that celestial light
Which will burn through eternity
Consuming me along the way
by Saroosh Shabbir
Every few days I have to brave the difficult task of clipping my baby’s nails. They grow razor sharp and a slightly painful element is added to every soft cuddle. So I regretfully find her nail cutter and hold her little plump finger in mine. She tugs and wrenches. I try to predict her random sways. Another chubby paw lands on my hand, tracing red, jagged paths. Amid the pain an overwhelming truth glimmers for a second in the corner of my mind; I made this tiny finger from scratch! It did not exist a few months ago and now I hold it in my hand. I brush away the thought and carefully place the clipper against her nail, trying not to take too much of it. But every now and then there’s a cut too deep. And I worry. I worry whether I’ve nicked the skin, whether it hurts her, whether I’ve made the pinks of her nails too small?
This, then, is how it is to raise a child. One learns the geography of love. Each adored millimeter is inspected and memorized. Every scrape of the skin, every wound and every pain registered. Each tiny wail and whimper accounted for, and every ache tried to kiss away.
I bring the tiny finger closer to my eyes. There’s a barely visible cut next to a skewed mini nail. A slightly bitter wave of regret surges inside me, but a second great realization washes over with relief; she will grow up and her nails will be fine. She will be fine.
But in the land of my birth some mothers do not have the comfort of this thought. Their babies will not grow any more. Someone decided their wounds should be permanent. 132 children were murdered inside a school. Hundreds of beloved fingers suffered unimaginable wounds that could not be kissed good. No loving ear witnessed their last wails. And who is to blame?
We all are. We are all culpable and complicit. We’ve buried our heads in the sand about certain iniquities in our society in the name of culture and religion for so long that-and there’s no sophisticated way to put it-they’ve come to bite us in the ass. In this country a 9 month old can be booked for murder  but no concrete laws exist for prosecuting an adult for child sexual abuse . If that is not a hallmark of a failed society I don’t know what is. And then there are other trivial and mundane facts; hordes of children slaving away in middle class homes while we praise ourselves for giving them an opportunity for a better life. That is our standard of justice. Is it a surprise then that the marginalized and the violated are so easy to radicalise?
I hope when all the analysis is over, when the fingers tire of pointing here and there, when the uproar of the conspiracy theories about who is the sponsor and mastermind of these incidents lulls down, we gain some ability for introspection. I hope our people realize that certain ills cannot be prayed away. I hope our leaders realize that one doesn’t eliminate terrorism by bombing people wholesale, but by not letting it breed in the first place. It is done by guarding the weak and the most vulnerable. It is done by safeguarding the future of the society; by protecting and honouring our children.
But perhaps it is much, much too late. Perhaps we are already lost.
Tujh ko kitnon ka lahu chaheeye aye Arz-e-Watan
Jo tere aaraz-e-berang ko gulnaar karay
Kitni aahon se kaleja tera thanda hoga
Kitne ansoo tere sehraon ko gulzaar karay
 “According to charities which work to protect street children in Pakistan, up to 90 per cent are sexually abused on the first night that they sleep rough and 60 per cent accuse police of sexually abusing them.”
“A draft bill for child protection has been pending with the interior ministry for two years.” – http://www.dawn.com/news/654690/children-sexually-abused-on-pakistans-streets
by Aaleen Shafaat
The white metal bird that dominates my skies is not my bird
I am told it sees and hears all.
They call it a drone.
I think anything without a conscience mustn’t have a name.
Me? I have a name but who I am is more important than my name;
I am not self-sufficient enough to be an atheist
I am not confident enough to reclaim my home
I am not a disbeliever; I am only a harmless sinner
I am forced to fight a war that is not my war.
I hope to find my freedom in the revolution square
And my revolution in the freedom square
I run back and forth between the two
I am shot one day and buried in an unmarked grave
I have a name, it just wasn’t important
by Zainab K. Agha (London, UK)
by Yash Raj Goswami (Delhi, India)
Gunning, into a school through a graveyard you marched
Could your hearts have been any less parched?
How ruthless that heart must have been,
Steeped in volumes of venom and spleen,
That harboured hatred so grave
As to deem killing young ones, brave?
The devil today is put to shame;
To his title you’ve laid your claim!
The saplings which could have borne fruits sweet,
You have mercilessly crushed under your cruel feet.
How many more lives will have to be sacrificed before this insanity ends?
How many more mothers ought to wail so that you may reap heavenly dividends?
What good will be your imagined paradise,
Built out of bleeding hearts and crying eyes?
With those bloody hands how will you knock that heavenly door?
No God is God enough to condone such gore!
No God, no dogma, no doctrine, no revered book,
Can ever withstand the weight of the innocent lives you took.
When will you understand, O savage beast!
That no piety should ever supersede humanity.
For the day after tomorrow
by Syeda Samira Sadeque (Dhaka, Bangladesh)
Children of war.
I promise – one day
You will be remembered
As a story.
By the descendants of your torturer.
“The last thing people are generally very good at is taking responsibility for what’s going on in the world,”
I promise – one day,
You will be overcompensated for
With adjectives and words.
By a tour guide.
“This is proof of how history works – or doesn’t work,”
I promise – one day,
You will become a glaring-staring number
To explain “extent of atrocities!”
By a historian or lawyer.
“This must never, ever be repeated,”
I promise – one day,
All the whispers you shared in this room under its desks,
Will be walked upon
By children eager to learn.
“Can’t believe humans could be such animals,”
Of the naivete of animals and brutality of humans in reality.
Born on this side of the rain
On the safer side of history.
Some day in history
Of day after tomorrow.