— File photo
LANDI KOTAL, Nov 25: The Bara-based outlawed group Lashkar-i-Islam released on Monday all the abducted teachers of a private school after questioning them for four days regarding their involvement in polio vaccination.
Hira Public School principal Mohammad Qasim, who was among the seven abducted teachers, told Dawn by telephone that he along with his colleagues was set free by Lashkar-i-Islam. He said that they reached their homes.
Lashkar-i-Islam did not claim responsibility for abduction of the teachers but it was an open secret for all and sundry in Bara including the local political administration, sources said.
Mr Qasim also disputed the media reports about their abduction and insisted that they were only ‘called’ by the council of Lashkar-i-Islam to explain their role in polio vaccination campaign in Bara.
“Security forces and khasadars entered my school without permission and without any prior notice about administering polio vaccines to the children in the school,” he said about their role in the vaccination drive. He alleged that security forces herded the teaching staff to a corner of the school and ordered the health workers to administer polio drops to the children under the age of five.
Mr Qasim said that he along with the residents of Speen Qabar and adjoining localities in Bara was opposed to polio vaccination and had not allowed polio vaccination in the past.
“Parents send their children to my school for learning as it is a school and not a health centre or an army base,” he said and warned that he would permanently close down his school if security forces ever tried to force him to help them in the polio vaccination.
During his nearly two minutes of conversation, Mr Qasim repeatedly said that they were not kidnapped by anyone and but only ‘called’ to explain as to why his institution was used for polio vaccination. However, despite Mr Qasim’s repeated assertions that he along with his ‘missing’ colleagues was back home, the local political administration didn’t confirm their release.
Seven teachers of Hira Public School in Sipah area of Bara went missing on November 21 after a polio team just vaccinated children in the school.
The news about their missing was leaked to media on November 23 as the political administration was trying to conceal the incident. It was only after repeated queries by some reporters that a junior official said that a jirga had been assigned the task to secure the release of the missing teachers.
Mr Qasim, however, said that the so-called jirga had no role in their ‘safe return'.