PESHAWAR: Parents spent a restless Saturday as rumours of possible terrorist attacks on schools circulated in the provincial capital’s rural and urban areas and thus, forcing most headmasters to close educational institutions much early.
The panicked parents rushed to the schools to pick their children recalling the Dec 2014 Army Public School militant attack, which killed 144 students and staff members.
Sources said the district administration had directed the headmasters of some government and private schools located in the cantonment area, Nothia and Gulberg to close their campuses for one day (Saturday) insisting there were reports of possible terrorist attack on them.
They said the directives were not meant for the entire district.
“Under a coordinated plan, the decision of school closure was taken by district administration, police and security agencies,” an officer privy to the development told Dawn.
He said the threats were schools specific.
In light of the district administration’s directives circulated on Friday night, the officers of the elementary and secondary education department rushed to the schools in their respective areas on Saturday morning and asked headmasters to close campuses.
DC says only Cantt, Nothia and Gulberg educational institutions were told to close
After the closure of schools, private television channels flashed the news and thus, causing panic among the people, especially parents of schoolchildren.
The people also apprised each other of the school attack threats by SMS and phone calls.
By 11am, many schools in Peshawar, mostly privately-owned, were closed.
Despite knowing the reality of the attack rumours, many schools was forced by parents to close.
A large number of parents gathered outside the Peshawar Model School located on Ring Road and demanded that the administration allow their children to go with them.
The police and school administration tried to convince them that there was no reality in the news of militant attack on schools, but to no avail.
At last, the administration allowed students to go with parents worried about the safety of their children.
By SMS, the administration later asked other parents to come and collect their children.
“Respected parents, as half day is announced today (Saturday), the children are sent via school buses. While own transporters should come and collect their children, read a message sent by the PMS principal to the parents on their cellphones.
When contacted, deputy commissioner Riaz Khan Mehsud said he had ordered the closure of schools in cantonment, Nothia and Gulberg areas only and that too for one day.
Asked about the reason for the schools’ closure, he said the educational institutions in question didn’t follow the standard operating procedure made after the 2014 APS attack.
“The schools will reopen on Monday,” he said.
Meanwhile, district nazim Mohammad Asim Khan expressed annoyance at the closure of schools and said the move had wasted the precious time of students.
He directed the district education officers (male) and (female) to submit a joint report on the matter, said a statement issued here.
Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2016