Aitzaz Hassan’s family still living under ‘Taliban threat’

Tributes poured in from across the world for a Pakistani teenager who was killed on January 6, 2014, when he tackled a suicide bomber targeting his school in Hangu, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P).

At 15, Aitzaz Hassan Bangash became a hero for a nation longing to defeat the Taliban. Social media made him a star for wrestling down the bomber at the gate of Government High Secondary School Ibrahimzai before he was martyred.

Aitzaz’s family was overjoyed when the government of Pakistan awarded him a Sitara-e-Shujaat, a prestigious national civilian award for his exemplary act of bravery. He remained a source of pride and joy for elder brother Mujtaba Hassan.

When local and international media contacted Mujtaba for interviews, he proudly narrated how his brother foiled a terrorist attack. And while the province may not be as overwhelmed by terrorists as it once was, problems remain.

Over three years after his death, Aitzaz’s family is still struggling to under a ‘Taliban threat’.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), on April 1, wrote an open letter to Aitzaz’s family saying that “Aitzaz Hassan Bangash is neither a martyred nor a hero. Media should abandon promoting him.”

“Unidentified people handed over a threating letter to a shopkeeper in our village and told him to send it to Aitzaz’s home,” Mujtaba said.

The letter, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune, adds that, “Aitzaz Hassan’s brother Mujtaba Hassan should stop meeting media [local and international channels and newspapers] and government institutions, or else, he will be responsible for the damages.”

When the single–page letter surfaced, it was anticipating that the PTI-led K-P government would immediately do something for the security of the teenager’s family.

“This letter is not only a threat to Aitzaz’s family but also a threat to the entire nation,” said Aitzaz’s father Mujahid Ali Bangash.

Aitzaz’s father, who now lives in Pakistan, was frustrated by how the K-P government disappointed him and his family by not keeping the pledges it made after his son’s death.

When Aitzaz died, Mujahid was in Dubai and was not able to get back to his village in time for his son’s burial.

“When I was told on the phone that my son sacrificed his life to save several children at his school, I raised my hands and prayed with pride…because of my son, I am now the father of a martyr,” Mujahid said.

But he was less heartened by the “The K-P government made several pledges [after Aitzaz’s death] but, the provincial government could not fulfill any of those.”

We were told, Mujahid added, that at least two degree colleges would be built in the area – one for girls and one for boys – but unfortunately they have not even allocated land for this.”

The provincial government had also announced that a road from Hangu to Kohat would be named after Aitzaz, but this was not followed up on.

“PTI Chairman Imran Khan had promised special monthly funds for our family that have never been given to us,” he continued.

“A senator and a provincial K-P minister once said Aitzaz’s story will become a part of the syllabus being taught at academic institutions of the country,’ said Aitzaz’s father.

“We were told that there will be a sports stadium in Ibrahimzai, but our village is still deprived of all the facilities it deserves.”

But despite his grievances, Mujahid most wanted the K-P government to improve the state of education and promote sports in the province to stop terrorist recruitment.