Condolences pour in to Pakistani High Commission after massacre of schoolchildren
They came one by one in the freezing rain: Members of the international diplomatic community determined to show their support in the wake of a massacre that has shocked the world.
The flag hung heavy at half-mast Wednesday at the Pakistani High Commission in Ottawa, as diplomats and citizens came to sign a book of condolences and share their grief at the loss of young lives.
“Acts of terrorism are not supported by the international community. We need to band together and support each other,” said Venessa Ramhit-Ramroop, the first secretary of the Trinidad and Tobago High Commission.
The Pakistan government has declared three days of mourning after Taliban militants gunned down children and teachers at a military school in Peshawar on Monday. The attack left 141 victims dead, 132 of them children.
Diplomats from Ghana, Guatemala, Mexico, Turkey and Nepal came to meet with Abrar Hashmi, the acting high commissioner of Pakistan to Canada.
Hashmi’s friend in Peshawar lost his wife and two daughters in the attack. The friend’s wife taught at the school; their daughters were only eight and 10 years old.
“My friend is devastated and alone,” he said. “I belong to that region. We know people who’ve been directly affected. It’s heartbreaking.”
Wahid Sheerzuy from the Afghanistan embassy was also among those who came to express his solidarity with Pakistan.
“We are neighbours,” Sheerzuy said as he shook hands with Hashmi.
Peshawar is a city near the Afghan border and has experienced violent attacks before due to the presence of Taliban in the area. But the deliberate targeting of children made this attack much worse, said several people who came to visit the high commission.
Nasir Islam came to Canada from Pakistan more than 40 years ago. He had been back to Pakistan in November visiting relatives. But after the attack, he said, he feels like he should be there.
While Islam and Hashmi sat together, he tried to learn more from the high commissioner about those affected in the area. Hashmi showed him photographs on his phone sent to him by a friend in Peshawar who saw the aftermath of the school. One photo showed blood-stained floors and backpacks in an auditorium where many of the children were slain.
“Their only crime was going to school that morning,” Islam said. “Killing of little children so brutally. It’s just mind boggling.”
A public candlelight vigil for the victims of the tragedy will be held at Ottawa City Hall on Thursday at 6 p.m.
This story was originally published on Dec. 17/2014 in the Ottawa Citizen