January 20th is a red-letter day for the students and teachers of Bacha Khan University, situated not far from the town of Charsadda, in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. The students, personnel, and indeed much of the Charsadda district, had planned an observance of the 28th Death Day of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, also known as Bacha Khan, after whom the University had been named.
Much like his close friend Mahatma Gandhi, Bacha Khan was a pacifist whose political activism for independence from British rule was non-violent. He was a Pashtun, a leader of his people, and a devout Muslim. Throughout his life, he worked to establish schools, which put him in opposition to village mullahs, who understood that an educated person is difficult to control.
Indeed, violent extremists in the region have made it a point to destroy education. They have burned down schools, gunned down students in classrooms, forbade girls from attaining even basic education, and thrown acid in the faces of those that defied them.
This January 20th, armed militants crept through the morning fog and climbed over the walls enclosing Bacha Khan University campus. Screaming “Allahu akbar!”, they ran through the school, shooting students and staff alike. By noon, more than 20 innocents as well as 4 murderers lay dead in the halls of the university that had been established to reflect Bacha Khan’s message of peace and universal brotherhood.
The United States condemns this appalling attack. “The blatant disregard for human life displayed by these attackers is intolerable,” said U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale.
“[It] stands in stark opposition to the desires of the Pakistani people to create a secure, stable, and prosperous country, based on respect for all. We offer our deepest condolences to the victims and their families during this time of grief.”
Those who would attempt to justify such murderous actions, should remember the words of Bacha Khan: “Hatred and bitterness can never cure the disease of fear; only love can do that. Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illumines it.”