Schools under attack as Taliban vows to kill Pakistan’s future leaders ‘in their nurseries’

7103572-3x2-700x467

An eerie cold mist now shrouds Bacha Khan University in Pakistan’s north-west.

Key points:

Pakistan suffers more terrorist attacks on schools than any other country
Hundreds of schools have been blown up
Teachers given pistols to fight terrorist attackers
Literacy rate in tribal areas at 17 per cent for men, 10 per cent for women
After last week’s murderous terrorist attack it is swarming with security personnel and closed.

Its reopening date is unknown — another victory for the Taliban, and their war on education.

One of the 21 people killed was Haider Ali, who had been studying for his final exams in the university’s hostel.

He telephoned his father to say he would leave for home after completing his English literature exam.

Shortly after, 26-year-old Ali was shot in the head and died almost immediately.

One professor and three security guards were among those killed in the assault on the facility at Charsadda, 20 kilometres from Peshawar.

Another 21 people were injured, mostly students.

Four militants were killed, others have been arrested.

Haider Ali left behind a widow and his two-month-old baby boy, Abu Bakar.

“Haider went to university only to die,” his distraught father, Muntazir Shah, a local farmer, said.

“The message is clear for his baby son Abu Bakar; don’t go to school if you want to live long.”

Muntazir Shah, father of Haider Ali who was killed at the Bacha Khan University.

‘Why not kill them in their nurseries': Tempo of terror quickens

Those sentiments would have been welcomed by the Taliban group, led by Khalifa Omar Mansur, which claimed responsibility for the attack.

They are the same militants who were responsible for the assault on the Army Public School in Peshawar a little over a year ago, an attack which left 147 dead and more than 100 injured.

Many educational institutions are regarded as bastions of government authority and have been accused by the militants of promoting Western decadence.

“This should not be taken as an attack on the university,” former Bacha Khan Education Trust managing director Professor Dr Khadim Hussain said.

“This is an attack on knowledge, intellect and critical thinking.”

Security and education authorities now fear the tempo of terror will quicken.

Khalifa Omar Mansur declared in a six-minute video tape: “We will attack every educational institution that produces lawyers and judges who then run a parallel legal system — a system repugnant to the existing Law of God [Sharia].”

“We will also attack the institutions that produce soldiers — captains, majors and generals — who then fight against us.

“Why not kill them in their nurseries?”

The Bacha Khan University, where 21 people, mostly students died in a Taliban attack.
PHOTO: The gates of the university, with teaching staff in the region encouraged to arm themselves. (Supplied: Ashraf Ali)
550 schools blown up since 2004

According to the Global Terrorism Database, Pakistan has suffered the most attacks on educational institutions in recent decades, followed by Nigeria.

The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) Secretariat said more than 550 schools were blown up by terrorists in the FATA alone since 2004.

The FATA borders Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, where last week’s university attack took place.

KP Education Minister Atif Ur Rahman put the number of schools destroyed in his province at 750 over recent years.

A large number of schools also remain closed in the troubled FATA, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan provinces due to Taliban threats and intimidation.

“The militants deliberately attack educational institutions, as they view the future’s educated [people] as a potential threat to their interests,” Fazle Haq College Professor Ijaz Ahmad said.

Dr Sajjad Akhtar, who heads a government college in Peshawar, said ignorance was the friend of the Taliban.

“This is a deliberate attempt by the militants to maintain the already existing low literacy rate and find them space while banking on the enhanced ignorance,” he said.

A security guard, guarding the university.
PHOTO: Security is evident at Bacha Khan university after a militant attack killed at least 21 people. (Supplied: Ashraf Ali)
Teachers given pistols to fight terrorists

The overall literacy rate in the FATA is 17 per cent, and about 10 per cent for females.

The national average is 56 per cent.

Unsurprisingly, the militant attacks have triggered panic among parents, given the vulnerability of education institutions.

“In this case, the offensive capability of the attackers always frustrates the defensive mechanism of the state … because the threat can never be accurately measured,” Brigadier Said Nazir, a retired army officer and security analyst based in Islamabad, said.

Meanwhile, the Kyber Pakhtunkhwa Government has encouraged teaching staff to arm themselves against terrorists, drawing criticism from parents and teachers alike.

“This may turn the educational institutions into a laboratory of weapons,” said Nooran Shah, the father of a student wounded in last week’s university attack.

And armed teachers are rarely a match for militants.

Professor Hamid Hussain died at Bacha Khan university while defending his students with his pistol.

He joined the department of chemistry at the university only last year.

A bullet-riddled wall of the university’s hostel.

SWABI: 

The Swabi Democratic Alliance has demanded the federal government award the Tamgha-e-Jurat or medal of courage to the late Professor Hamid Hussain who lost his life in the Bacha Khan University attack on January 20.

The demand was made at a meeting of SDA members and the district nazim in Swabi on Wednesday. Participants paid rich tributes to Hussain and lauded services rendered by him in the field of education.

Later, participants placed a floral wreath on the grave of Hussain.

Meanwhile, unions of government and autonomous bodies at a joint meeting demanded the government provide permanent employment to widow of the victim.

Hussain joined Bacha Khan University as an assistant professor in 2014 after he completed his PhD in Chemistry from University of Bristol, UK in 2012.

Only 35, he was the first University of Peshawar student who completed his PhD in chemistry from UK. He obtained his MPhil in organic chemistry from University of Peshawar in 2006.

Hussain was married in 2012 and leaves behind a wife and two children.

#terrorism, #unrest-conflict-and-war, #education, #access-to-education, #pakistan