People in Pakistan are praising a teenage boy who residents and police say died this week while trying to stop a suicide bomber who was targeting his school in the country’s violence-prone northwest.
Local police official Raheem Khan said Thursday that 17-year-old Aitzaz Hasan died on Monday in a remote village in Hangu, a district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
A teacher at the school told investigators that he saw Hasan chasing the attacker and then saw the attacker detonate the bomb that killed the teen, Khan said.
Pakistani media reported that Hasan was late for school, which was why he was outside when the attacker approached the building.
The English-language Express Tribune newspaper reported that Hasan’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.
Ali told the newspaper that he had returned not to mourn his son but to celebrate his life.
“My son made his mother cry, but saved hundreds of mothers from crying for their children,” he told the newspaper.
Local resident Miqdar Khan said people in the district were hailing the teen as a hero, and hundreds of people 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.”
The area where Hasan lived is home to many members of the minority Shiite Muslim sect who have often been killed by militants who view them as heretics.
Suicide bombings and killings have become an everyday fact of life in many parts of Pakistan.
A study by the Islamabad-based Pak Institute for Peace Studies found that terrorist attacks last year 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 in the same period, the report found.
In the face of such unremitting violence the image of a teenager giving his life to save his classmates captured the imagination of many in Pakistan.
Hasan’s death led to an outpouring of emotion on television and on social media, where the hashtag #onemillionaitzazs quickly became a favourite among Twitter users. Some urged the teen be given a Nishan-e-Haider, the highest military decoration handed out in Pakistan.
— Bina Shah (@BinaShah) January 9, 2014 
KP govt as well as federal govt must recognise the sacrifice of young Aitzaz who embraced shahadat to save others.
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) January 9, 2014 
The world has lost one more Aitzaz...How many more will be lost before we wake up and start to protest against terrorism? #OneMillionAitzazs 
— Mariya Says... (@MariyaQadri) January 9, 2014 
Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States, Sherry Rehman, tweeted that Hasan should be given a medal: “Another young one with heart-stopping courage.”
Chaudhry Mohammed Sarwar, the governor of the eastern Punjab province, told Pakistan’s Dunya news channel that Hasan should be honoured.
“He is the hero of the whole nation as he has saved many lives by giving his own life,” Sarwar said.