PESHAWAR: The unabated destruction of public sector schools in terrorist attacks has added to the woes of official development planners as they complain of anxiety and lack of focus because of the security crisis.
“You rebuild a school one day and the next week you find that the workload has not diminished because they (terrorists) would have destroyed or partially damaged another school building somewhere in a far-off area of the province,” said an official involved in the rebuilding process.
It eats away precious financial resources out of whatever little money the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government spends on the education sector under its Annual Development Programme, according to the official.
Besides, the persistence with which the militants destroy school buildings adds to the development planners’ workload, divides their focus between new school projects and an always growing number of school buildings needing reconstruction and unsettles the government’s development agenda, according to sources in the planning and development department.
According to the education department authorities, the provincial government reconstructed more than 550 buildings of schools that Taliban destroyed in different parts of the province since 2010 and work on some 190 schools was going on in various districts.
“The problem is that there does not seem to be an end to this situation. While we are busy in reconstructing the schools they (terrorists) are carrying out their destruction agenda with impunity,” said a senior official of the planning department.
According to Conflict Monitoring Centre’s data, militants destroyed 81 schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata in 2012. They destroyed 52 schools in the province, including 13 in Swabi district, 10 in Charsadda, five each in Nowshera and Mardan, four each in Kohat and Laki Marwat, two each in Hangu and Dera Ismail Khan and one each in Swat and Tank districts.
The province has not begun the new calendar year with confidence. On January 19 this year, saboteurs blew up a primary school for girls in Peshawar’s suburbs at Badhber.
The state’s inability to nab the culprits responsible for destroying the schools ever since the problem started has given them criminal courage. Private schools are also being targeted and in a recent incident a school was attacked in close proximity to Peshawar Cantonment.
An improvised explosive device was detonated outside the main gate of a private school at Hassan Garhi on January 4, last. Situated in a densely populated semi-urban Hasan Garhi, the school caters to the educational needs of a small community.
Similarly, on January 22, 2013, two buses were damaged in IED blasts outside Quaid-i-Azam International Public School, a private institution, at Chota Lahor in Swabi. Its owner, Mazhar Khan, told Dawn that the school’s different branches had been attacked four times during the past few months.
The perpetrators of the crimes remain at large as according to an investigation officer at Chota Lahor police station no headway could be made without solid evidence and eyewitness account.
“At the time of the January 22 last explosions there were 18 persons, including six drivers and 12 cleaners, who were present at the crime scene, but none of them came forward to record evidence,” said Hazrat Nabi Khan, an investigation inspector looking into the case.
The police investigator said witnesses from among the general public did not come forward to record evidence in terrorism related cases because of personal security considerations.
A senior police officer, when contacted, said that investigators usually found themselves stuck up between a rock and a hard place, leaving them with piles of unresolved cases.
In a couple of cases of attacks on schools, the police, said the official, managed to get solid evidence, but further progress could not be made because witnesses did not want their identity to be disclosed and the local court ordered the witnesses to come in person to record their statements.
“I created problems for myself as I collected witnesses’ accounts in a couple of cases, but got myself at a difficult spot after the court ordered the witnesses to record their statements in person while the witnesses backed off,” said an investigator.