PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- Pakistan's prime minister has recommend that a top civilian honor be awarded to a teenage boy who died when he interfered with a suicide bomber who tried to attack his school.
Nawaz Sharif said on January 10 that Aitzaz Hassan should receive the Sitara-e Shujaat (Order of Bravery). He said Hassan's action saved the lives of hundreds of students and was "a sterling example of gallantry and patriotism."
Aitzaz Hassan reportedly intervened to stop the would-be bomber on January 6 as he tried to attack Hassan's school in the country's troubled northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.
Hassan died in hospital from his injuries after the bomber blew himself up at the gates of the Ibrahimzai boys school in the Hangu district. No one else was killed or injured.
A Sunni Muslim extremist group, Lashkar-e Jhangvi, has claimed responsibility for the attack, which targeted a predominantly Shi'ite Muslim area.
Lashkar-e Jhangvi condemns Pakistan's minority Shi'a as Islamic heretics who should be killed.
A statement from Nasir Khan Durrani, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief of police, said Hassan "saved the lives of hundreds of innocent students with his extreme valor and bravery."
Pakistani media reported that Hassan was in a position to intervene against the bomber because he had come late to the campus and was still outside the school building when the attacker approached.
Hundreds of students were reported to have been at the school at the time of the explosion.
Pakistani reports said it was believed to be the first suicide-bomb attack that specifically targeted a school in the country, where thousands of people have died in the past decade from attacks blamed on Islamist militants.
Hassan's father, Mujahid Ali Bangash, was quoted in media reports as saying he felt pride, not sadness, at his son's death, because he sacrificed his life for his country.
Bangash was working and living in the United Arab Emirates at the time of the attack, but returned to Pakistan upon hearing of his son's death. Reports say he did not make it back in time for Aitzaz's funeral, however.
Aitzaz's older brother, Mujtaba Hassan, told RFE/RL that his brother's death had made his mother cry but had "saved other mothers from crying," as others could have died had the suicide attack been carried out inside the school.
"We are happy with what our brother did," he said. "There is mourning inside our house. But whenever we go out of our house, people are congratulating us [for my brother's brave deed]. We are thankful to the locals [for their support]."
Mujtaba added that Aitzaz was known to have spoken previously about wanting to take action to halt a suicide attacker.
"He was 18 years old," he said. "He used to discuss with his friends how he could grab a suicide bomber. His wish came true. The suicide bomber came [to attack the school], but he stopped him. And he sacrificed his life for the sake of his people and Pakistan."
Habib Ali, one of Aitzaz's teachers, told RFE/RL that, had the bomber succeeded in entering the school, there might have been scores of casualties.
"The suicide bomber had wrapped 9 to 10 kilograms of explosives around his body," he said. "Had he managed to enter the school, we believe he might have killed and injured around 100 boys. And [the bomber] had planned the time to enter the school when the morning assembly was in progress."
Pakistani teenage activist Malala Yousafzai received a Pakistani civilian award after a Taliban militant shot her in the head in October 2012, severely wounding her, in retribution for her work promoting girls' education.
With reporting by AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters, and Tribune.com.pk