Aitzaz Hasan has been voted in as Herald’s Person of the Year. For many, the Peshawar tragedy served as a poignant reminder of Aitzaz Hasan’s great sacrifice, a 16 years old student from Bannu who saved his friends and teachers by averting a suicide attack in January last year. Aitzaz was standing outside his school with friends when he noticed a suspicious man attempting to enter school premises. He was looking at a suicide bomber. The choice Aitzaz made, in that very brief moment, would distinguish him from the rest of us, and he would emerge as a brave son, a hero, of this troubled land. To truly comprehend just how extraordinary this 16-year-old was, one may attempt to honestly answer a couple of questions and see if they reach the same answer as Aitzaz did that morning.

How many of us would actually run towards a suicide bomber instead of running away from one? How many of us are really willing to die for our fellow human beings? If there is one thing we all value, it is our own lives. Rarely do we find individuals who are willing to abruptly end theirs so others can live. Aitzaz did just that. No one would have blamed him for anything had he just run away to save himself. He didn’t embrace the suicide bomber, forcing him to detonate before reaching his target, because he had been entrusted with that responsibility. It was a burden he took upon himself, voluntarily, saving hundreds of lives, leaving us, as a people, forever in his debt.

It is indeed unfortunate that Aitzaz was put in such a position. No 16-year-old should have to confront a brainwashed man wearing a suicide vest. But it did happen. And if there is anything we must ensure, it is that it never happens again. This country’s children should not have to pay so heavily for the mistakes of its adults. They should not be made to compensate for our confusion and cowardice with their remarkable bravery. Aitzaz’s courage must make us proud and inspire us, but more importantly, it must prompt introspection. We are aware of the forces behind the attack on Aitzaz’s school, the Army Public School in Peshawar and other schools, markets, shrines and public places across the country. Let Aitzaz not have died for nothing. He fought back. We must too. He overcame fear and reasonable selfishness. We must too. We can honour his legacy best by resolving to eradicate the people and the ideology that took him away so very early.