Patheos.com: By Qasim Rashid
Today in Pakistan at least 132 sets of parents will remember this Jummah as their first Jummah without their precious child. This Jummah they will be forced to remember the crushing weight of small coffins.
I left Peshawar in the 1980s, not long after Dictator Zia implemented death for blasphemy, death for apostasy, and anti-Ahmadi laws. I left as a schoolboy, with wide eyes and an open heart. And when I returned to Pakistan in the mid to late 2000s, I saw a city that no longer exists, a nation that no longer remembers, and a culture I no longer recognize.
They say the smallest coffins are the heaviest. As I wept through pictures and comments, of some 150 dead schoolchildren and countless devastated parents, I realized the Peshawar I once loved no longer exists. As a child I recall a street vendor a few blocks from our apartment—a nice old Pashtun man with a wide smile and charred hands. He sold the best beef kebabs you’d ever tasted and we’d walk to him on our own for the tasty treat. I recall a massive tree with a trunk so large that ten of us children couldn’t wrap our arms around together. When I returned to Peshawar in 2006, the vendor had died, the tree was cut down, and our old apartment building had been demolished. The thought of children roaming unaccompanied in the street had become so dangerous it was laughable. No one cared about a place that no longer existed, but in my memories.