Showing support. Students of Pakistan’s Army Public School (APS) wearing T-shirts and caps of their home team Peshawar Zalmi with coach Mohammad Akram, left, and centre, franchise owner Javed Afridi Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Students of a Pakistan school where one of the worst acts of human savagery was perpetrated are coming to the UAE on a rare trip.

As many as 134 students of Peshawar’s Army Public School (APS) will fly to Dubai next Thursday to cheer their home team Peshawar Zalmi during the inaugural Pakistan Super League (PSL) T20 cricket tournament being held in Dubai and Sharjah from February 4 to 24.

Nearly 150 children and teachers lost their lives in the terrorist attack on the school on December 16, 2014.

More than a year later, APS students are still struggling to come to grips with the tragedy.

Many lost their classmates.

Peshawar Zalmi franchise owner and APS alumni Javed Afridi hopes the UAE trip will ease the pain.

“Peshawar Zalmi means ‘Youth of Peshawar’ and what better way could there be to honour these youngsters than giving them the opportunity to watch their favourite cricketers in action,” said Afridi.

Students speak out

Atif Salman, 15, who was struck by a bullet in the back on that fateful morning said he wants to put the past behind him. “I have heard so much about Dubai and can’t wait to be there,” the grade 10 student told XPRESS over the phone from Pakistan.

I have heard so much about Dubai and can’t wait to be there.
Atif Salman, 15


 

Another survivor, grade 10 student Mohammad Uzair who suffered a bullet wound to the knee said his physical scars have healed but the emotional ones remain.

“The memories still haunt me. The Dubai trip will be a welcome change. It will be my first time there and I am excited more so because we’ll not just get to see the iconic landmarks of Dubai but also our cricket heroes. There hasn’t been any cricket in Pakistan for years, so it would be special.”


The physical scars have healed, emotional ones remain.
Mohammad Uzair, 15


 

Afridi urged UAE residents to turn up at the match in huge numbers and give the children a hug. “The children of my city have gone through a lot of trauma and this small gesture will make them feel special.”

Afridi said the team’s winning will be dedicated to the martyrs of APS. “This is the least we could do for them. Usually we see flowers on funerals, but that day [December 16, 2014] I saw the funeral of flowers,” he said.

Last month, Peshawar Zalmi unveiled their team logo on the premises of APS.

In the shape of a turban worn by Pashtuns (warrior tribe) in Pakistan, the logo has three shades – blue, yellow and white.

One of the five teams taking part in the PSL, Pakistan Zalmi is led by Pakistan’s T20 captain and the game’s biggest crowd-puller Shahid Afridi.

APS principal Naghma Habib, who will accompany the students along with colonel Mohammad Nadeem Anwar of the Pakistan Armed Forces said she has never seen the children so happy.

“We are indebted to those who made this trip possible and gave the kids something to cheer about,” she said.

 

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