Ali Zafar: World needs to help us out of extremist darkness

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Story highlights

  • Taliban gunmen attacked a school in Peshawar, Pakistan killing more than 140 people
  • Popular singer Ali Zafar says the massacre took violence in Pakistan to a new level and affected him deeply
  • Zafar says he has expressed himself through music and is trying to raise money for schools

Ali Zafar is a Pakistani singer, actor and painter. He dedicated his latest song, #Urainge, to the victims of last December's attack on a school in Peshawar. Follow him @AliZafarsays. The views expressed in this commentary are solely the author's.

(CNN)December 16, 2014 was a dark day, not just in our nation's history, but the world's.

Young innocent children were brutally massacred in a school in Peshawar along with their teachers.
It shook a nation that had already seen more than 55,000 of its innocent civilians die in the hands of terrorism in the last 10 years, to a whole new level. Naturally, I was in no less despair.
    Hailing from a humble background, where both my parents have served in the field of education their entire lives, the strong emphasis on education in our house was probably another reason why this incident had affected me so deeply.
    I canceled my tours and concerts and couldn't gather myself to do much in coming weeks.
    However, being an artist, I had to express myself; even more so because I have always believed that an artist should be more than a tool for his art to resonate through.
    He must also resonate the voice of his surroundings by being socially aware and strive to contribute to his environment for the better in whatever little or large manner that he decides for himself.
    I thought that each one of us needed to wake up to this call and help and inspire the other to do more for our future. So I picked up the phone and started calling all my colleagues from film, fashion, TV and music.

    Education the way forward

    I was pleasantly surprised that all of them agreed with my initiative and came on board without a second thought on such a short notice.
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    We all got together because we all want a progressive, peaceful, tolerant and positive Pakistan. And the response to the song and video further solidified my belief that every Pakistani wants the same. They just need someone to show them the way. And to me, education is the way forward. It's the the key to progress and peace.
    I also feel that there is a lot more to Pakistan than what the world gets to see. Pakistan is a beautiful land with beautiful people who -- like those in any other nation -- want to live in harmony with themselves and the world.
    A place where people sing, dance and play.
    Unfortunately because of an extremist minority, it is sometimes seen as an extremist country. But no society is void of extremism in one way or the other.
    This is something that we all need to work towards -- the international community and us. Pakistan needs your help. It has been fighting this battle for years and lost countless lives in the process. Its economy has also suffered.

    Partners toward progress

    The world needs to see Pakistan in a whole different light to help us out of this darkness. They need to partner with us towards progress.
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    They need to understand the complexities of this society and the fact that it's not easy to survive through all that this country has been through.
    Today the entire nation stands as one for this cause. And that is what I have tried to show the world in this video. A Pakistan that stands united to make sure that the lives of those innocent children did not go to waste.
    I also didn't want this to be just a song. I wanted to practically help towards a cause dear to me -- education.
    So, I collaborated with a leading Pakistani educational non-profit organization, The Citizens Foundation (TCF) and 141schools.org (141 SCHOOLS), a new citizen web movement. Together, they are building 141 schools across Pakistan.
    Each school will be dedicated to the children and teachers who lost their lives in attack on December 16, 2014. All proceeds from the downloads of the song will go towards building schools for the children of Pakistan and ensuring a bright future.
    I aspire to build at least one school which would cost around 20.7 million pkr ($202,900). If you want to help, click here.