LAHORE: Dismayed at the forced and continued closure of schools by militants in the Panjgur town of Balochistan, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) sees this as the latest sign of extremism gnawing at the vitals of the country.
A statement issued by HRCP on Monday said a previously unheard of militant group, Tanzeemul Islamal Furqan, had distributed flyers in Panjgur at private schools against what it called western-style education on April 25. Masked assailants then ransacked three schools, set a school van on fire and manhandled teachers and other staff to stop girls’ education, which they said was ‘haram (prohibited) in Islam’. These events intimidated most private schools -- at least 35 private schools and 30 English language centres – and forced them to close their doors to about 25,000 students.
The HRCP said: “The rise of extremism in Balochistan province is very alarming. That the militants pose a very serious and growing threat to the girl students, their teachers and common people of Panjgur is evident from distribution of threatening flyers followed by the attacks. The events in Panjgur are not a one-off case. Now extremists are able to dictate their terms in Panjgur. The threat appears set to spread elsewhere also.
“The drive for stopping girls from going to school is not new in Pakistan – the attack on Malala Yousafzai is just the most infamous example – but it now seems to be spreading to parts of the country that had previously been spared. “According to Unesco, over five million primary-school age children are not in school in Pakistan, and more than 60 per cent of them are girls. The Panjgur move is the latest attempt to deprive girls of education.
“Despite assurances from Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch last month that his government would take action against elements threatening private schools in Panjgur, locals said tension and fear gripped Panjgur and schools remain closed. “The HRCP calls upon the government to confront the threat to schools in a manner that shows its resolve to provide security to both male and female students at all schools and firmly deal with the elements responsible for the schools’ closure.”
Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2014