A gory video game set inside the Pakistani school where more than 130 children were massacred by Taliban gunmen has been withdrawn, weeks after it was released as part of an army-backed campaign to promote peace and tolerance in the country.
Players of Pakistan Army Retribution take the role of a soldier attempting to “protect precious lives from terrorists” who attacked the Army Public School (APS) in Peshawar in December 2014.
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There are various levels in the game, which features a rousing rendition of the national anthem, depicts events from the day of the attack and is branded with the logos of the Pakistan Army and the Punjab Information Technology Board.
The organisations jointly commissioned the game as part of a campaign to mark the one-year anniversary of the school killings.
Although it had been available to users of Android mobile devices for some time, it only attracted public attention on Monday when Dawn newspaper ran a review on its website that declared the game “failed on every front”.
Online readers were as unimpressed as the reviewer, with many lambasting it as disrespectful of the dead. “Making a game out of the nation’s most gruesome tragedy is adding salt to the injuries of not only the families of the martyred children but the entire nation,” one commentator wrote.
The attack by seven Pakistani Taliban gunmen on schoolchildren, supposedly to avenge army operations against militant sanctuaries, profoundly shocked a country where terrorism had become almost routine. The incident has been credited with pushing Pakistan into a long-delayed confrontation with domestic militant groups.
Umar Saif, who chairs the Punjab Information Technology Board, said the game was immediately pulled from the Google Play store after he became aware of it on Monday.
“It wasn’t very well done and it was in poor taste,” he said. “In hindsight, it was not a good thing to do.”
Saif said Pakistan Army Retribution was just one of dozens of videos, jingles and social media items commissioned as part of a Peaceful Pakistan campaign intended to build on national revulsion over the APS attack.
“APS was a watershed for Pakistan so we had the idea of using it as a theme to promote peace, tolerance and harmony,” he said.
“The plan was to show children that the best weapons are the pen and the book.”
The game was produced by an independent company that had “misunderstood the brief”, Saif said.
“We tried to use the campaign to galvanise support for Peaceful Pakistan but I guess we messed up with this particular game.” – © Guardian News & Media 2016