THE BLOG

Going Back to Peshawar's Army Public School

22/12/2015 21:12 GMT | Updated 22/12/2016 10:12 GMT

It's very difficult to describe what it's like being back at the site of a massacre -let alone a massacre that took place in a school.

The minute I walked through the gate of the Army Public School in Peshawar, reminders of the scenes of devastation came back.

Being on the steps, which led to what used to be the school auditorium, I remembered what they looked like a year ago - spots of blood on almost every step.

Nothing could have prepared anyone for what was inside that auditorium.

There were pools of blood everywhere, a pile of children's shoes gathered at one of the doors where some students tried to escape.

School books and a broken bloodied pair of glasses on another side of the auditorium floor.

And the smell... No one tells you about the smell of blood when it takes over a space.

This is where Taliban gunmen came in and shot children at close range.

This is when a normal school day turned into carnage.

More than 150 people were murdered in that massacre. 132 of them were children.

A year on, children are back in the corridors and the playground. Some are playing basketball.

But despite that show of normality, there are reminders everywhere of what happened here.

There are cards of condolences and support on the walls leading to classrooms and a memorial built to honour those who died.

There's also very heavy security in and around the school. The high walls, the barbed wire, the close military oversight of everything to do with the school.

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But all of that hasn't shielded those who lived through the massacre from the trauma they have endured this year.

16-year-old Baqir Naqi lost his mother in the attack.

She was a teacher at the school and, when she heard the shooting, she ran to the hall where Baqir was. She was then shot by a Taliban militant.

Baqir was injured in the massacre and told me the one thing he remembers clearly about that day was the face of the man who shot him.

"It was a horrible face." he said.

"He had a long beard, a rag on his head and bullets around his neck." Baqir added.

I asked Baqir what this year has been like. There's a long pause.

"I keep thinking about my mother. I miss her. " He told me and fell silent again.

"It's too painful to talk about it." He said.

The authorities maintain that survivors and families of those who died have received adequate support, both psychological and financial.

But many including seventeen-year-old Hassan Javid, who was in the hall during the attack, feel abandoned.

He showed me a picture with his three best friends and told me that two of them were killed.

They were all in the auditorium that day.

"When I was hiding under a seat, all I could think of was that 'this is a dream' but when I got up and saw the children's blood... I realised it wasn't..." He said.

I ask him about the death of his friends and whether it gets any easier with time.

"A whole year has passed and I still can't believe they are not with us. How can they leave us?" He told me.

He said he received no support from the government.

I ask how he's managed this past year. "By ourselves." He said.

The attack shocked the nation but it gave the military the popular backing to intensify its operations against the Pakistani Taliban in the Northwest of the country - and while the infrastructure of the militant group was hit hard, the possibility of future attacks is still there.

Rahimullah Yousufzai is a senior journalist and an expert on militancy. He said that the militants' manpower is still intact.

"They still have people willing to die for their cause.' He said of the Pakistani Taliban (TTP).

"The tactics have changed but they have an incentive to launch more attacks to prove that they are still here." He continued.

There's still fear of a similar attack among families in Peshawar and elsewhere in the country.

Most schools in the city have intensified their security measures.

The Army Public School is now possibly the most fortified campus in the country.

I leave the school with the memories of last year weighing heavily on me and think what it must be like for the children who've come here every day since the school reopened after the attack - knowing that the place where you come to study is the same place your teachers and your friends were killed.