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Survivors Still Waiting For Aid, Justice A Year After Pakistan Massacre


A rally in Lahore marks the anniversary of the attack on the military school in Peshawar on December 15.

A year after Taliban gunmen massacred 134 students at a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, the families of children killed or wounded are accusing the government of failing to keep its promises of medical treatment and justice.

Following the December 15, 2014, attack – which was the worst military attack the country has seen – the government promised it would help cover medical expenses of victims, but only 22 of the approximately 60 families who applied have received any money, said Akbar Khan, who represents 124 families.

"There are many children who were disfigured or crippled who need continuous, long-term treatment. And above all, they need psychological rehabilitation," said Khan, whose 17-year-old son, Umar, was shot in his left arm during the attack.

Khan is among those who have also asked that their children be treated abroad, as the government had said it would facilitate, but have not heard back. He says that, so far, just two children have received government assistance for treatment abroad.

Muhammad Ibrahim, a provincial health official in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa of which Peshawar is the capital, disputed the figure, saying at least six people had been sent overseas with government funding. He added that not all funds had been disbursed due to delays in submissions of receipts for the money families spent.

The government had promised it would help with medical expenses above an initial Rs400,000 ($3,800) grant, but the provincial health department is now demanding the unspent portion people received be returned, some families of the wounded say.

"These parents say their children are not recovered. They cannot sleep, they cannot move properly, and some of them even have bullets still lodged in them," Khan said.

Ibrahim confirmed that some families had been asked to return funds they had not used.

Azhar Mehmood, 15, was shot four times and now has difficulty walking. He still attends the Army Public School where the massacre occurred but says months of surgery have adversely affected his education. Mehmood was among several students who complained that the government broke a promise to delay exams for those wounded in the attack. As a result, they say, they have lost a year of study.

"I was shot in both my hands, and I wasn't able to write (the exam). I was in hospital at that time. When the exams started, my hands were both in plaster," said Obaid Sajid, 16, who has to repeat the ninth grade.

For the families of the 134 pupils and 16 staff members who were killed, the primary concern is that justice is carried out.

On Dec. 2, Pakistan hanged four men tried in secret military courts for their involvement in the massacre. All four were said to have confessed to facilitating the attack, the military said in a statement.

Shahana Ajoon, whose 15-year-old son was killed, said she had no faith in the investigation, because it took place behind closed doors and no evidence was made public.

"We do not know who those people were. We should have been taken into confidence. We should have been shown why these people were the culprits," Ajoon said. She and her husband run an organization providing support for parents of the victims.

Aurangzeb Khan, whose 16-year-old son, Hassan, was killed during the attack, is among them. He holds a medal in his hands as he speaks, a tribute to his son from the government earlier this year, blackened over time. The medal, he says, is a symbol of the authorities' attitude.

"They use my taxes to clean their Jeeps, wearing nice uniforms, eating good food. Look at their houses. (The army) are making merry in their bases, and look at us," he said.

With reporting by Asad Hashim for Reuters

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