KARACHI: Expressing displeasure over failure of the provincial authorities to apprise court about measures taken to secure public and private educational institutions across the province, the Sindh High Court on Wednesday warned that the education and home secretaries would have to appear in the court on next hearing in case official replies were not submitted.

A division bench, headed by Chief Justice Maqbool Baqar, directed the respondents to file their respective detailed reports regarding steps taken for the protection of educational institutions within a week and put off the hearing to Jan 28.

The bench was hearing a petition filed by non-governmental organisations including Pakistan Institute of Labour Education & Research and Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum.

The petitioners impleading the chief secretary, education secretary and home secretary as respondents asked the court to direct the provincial authorities to ensure comprehensive and effective protection of the all educational institutions.

The bench recalled that the respondents had been directed earlier to submit comments and also disclose that what standard operation procedure had been adopted. They were also ordered to place on record details of deployment at educational institutions. The court became irked when the state counsel sought further time for filing comments on behalf of the respondents.

The counsel for the petitioners said the matter was of grave importance and required instant attention.

The bench granted one more week to the respondents to file their comments and warned that in case the court’s directions were not still complied with, the education and home secretaries should be in attendance on the next date of hearing.

According to the petitioners, the emerging situation in the aftermath of an attack on an army-run school in Peshawar warranted special measures for the security of schools. Therefore, they said, the provincial government issued security guidelines for schools directing their management to resume classes, where foolproof security arrangements were made, on Jan 12 after the winter vacation.

The petitioners said it was reported that the governments of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces had formulated SOPs and directed schools management to follow them strictly. The measures include fortifying boundary walls, putting up concertina wire on the boundary walls, installation of CCTV cameras and deployment of security guards for the schools. However, they said, there appeared to have been done very little in Sindh to promulgate SOPs and ensure implementation of the same.

The petitioners asked the court to declare that government action to provide additional protection to VVIPs without any reasonable classification and basis was unconstitutional and illegal. They also requested the bench to direct the government that special measures were taken for comprehensive and effective protection of educational institutions.

Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2015

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