On entering the village, my driver points to the right. There, he says, is Aitzaz Hasan’s school. He then points to its gate. And there is where the 15-year-old died, after heroically intercepting a suicide bomber from storming his school.
Ibrahimzai, with its 10,000-strong population, has a history of sectarian violence. Otherwise, it is like any other rural settlement in Pakistan, undeveloped and deprived of basic necessities. Most of the men in the village work as labourers in the Middle East.
Our car now stops outside a small graveyard. I make my way in and then I see it. Buried ahead of me is Pakistan’s bravest son. There is no marble tombstone, no monument. It a simple mud burial mound, covered in artificial flowers.
I raise my hands, read Fatiha, and wait for Mujahid Ali Bangash, Hasan’s father. The 58-year-old is employed as a driver in the UAE. On January 6, 2014, Bangash was told of his son’s martyrdom over the phone.
Fate has been cruel to him. The father wasn’t here when Hasan was born and he couldn’t return in time for his funeral. He now sits beside the grave, talking about his teenage son, sometimes with grief and at other times with pride.