A TEENAGE boy who sacrificed his life to stop a suicide bomber attacking his school is to be honoured with Pakistan’s highest civil bravery award.
Aitzaz Hasan, 17, died on Monday in a remote village in Hangu, a district in north-west Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Pakistanis have hailed him as a hero since his teacher told police he saw Aitzaz chasing the bomber, who detonated his explosives, killing the teenager.
Relatives and police said the bomber had planned to detonate his explosives at Government Boys High School in Ibrahimzai, which has at least 1,000 students.
Zahidullah Bengash, a cousin, said Aitzaz and his friends had been rushing to avoid being late for school when they encountered the stranger.
“It made my cousin suspicious, and he inquired about the person’s identity and why was he never seen in the school earlier,” he said. “The person tried to escape, and Aitzaz tried to tackle him. In this struggle, the bomber blew himself up.”
Local resident Miqdar Khan said people in the district were hailing the teenager as a hero, and hundreds attended his funeral to pay their respects. He said the teenager was known for openly criticising militants.
“Aitzaz Hasan used to tell all that one day he would capture some suicide bomber, and his class fellows used to laugh,” he said. “But this boy proved what he said, and I am sad that he left us too early.”
Some are now calling Aitzaz Pakistan’s male answer to Malala Yousafzai, 16, who was shot in the head and neck on a school bus in north-western Pakistan in October 2012 by Taleban gunmen because she had defied their ban on school attendance by girls.
Prime minister Nawaz Sharif praised the boy, saying his “brave act saved the lives of hundreds of students and established a sterling example of gallantry and patriotism”.
Mr Sharif advised president Mamnoon Hussain to approve the conferment of Pakistan’s Star of Bravery to Aitzaz. The award is given by the president on the advice of the prime minister.
Aitzaz’s teacher, Azmat Ali, said the boy “played a significant role while stopping the suicide bomber. Our school is really proud of him”.
He remembered the teenager as a brave, sincere and obedient student.
Classmate Naseeb Ali also praised Aitzaz, saying he was a very bold and kind boy.
“We felt sorry after losing him but we are proud of being his friends,” he said.
The area where Aitzaz lived is home to many members of a minority Shiite Muslim sect who have often been killed by militants who view them as heretics.
The English-language Express Tribune newspaper reported that Aitzaz’s father, Mujahid Ali, was living and working in the United Arab Emirates when the attack occurred. Many men in the impoverished region are forced to move abroad, especially to the Gulf, to provide for their families.
Pakistan has witnessed scores of suicide bombings in recent years.
A recent report by the Islamabad-based Pak Institute for Peace Studies found that terrorist attacks in 2013 had increased by 9 per cent over the previous year, while the number of people killed in such incidents jumped by 19 per cent. The number of suicide attacks climbed by 39 per cent over the same period, the report found.