Workers install barbed wire on the wall of a school in Islamabad. —Online
Workers install barbed wire on the wall of a school in Islamabad. —Online

ISLAMABAD: More than 230 educational institutions in Rawalpindi division, including 138 government-run schools and colleges, were sealed – not because of freezing temperatures, but due to inadequate security – police and security officials said on Thursday.

In addition, as many as 53 educational institutions in the Rawalpindi division, including Rawalpindi Medical College, on Thursday received final notices to improve security arrangements by Sunday, or the head of the institution would be booked.

In Jhelum, 15 educational institutions, including 10 government and five private schools were sealed, Chakwal saw four schools sealed and three others were given warnings by the administration, while in Wah Cantt, police said, the principal of a private educational institution was threatened.

In Attock, police and intelligence agencies completed a fresh survey of security arrangements at educational institutions and found 205 schools and colleges, including 127 government and 78 private institutions, lacked adequate security.

Interior minister takes issue with Punjab govt’s decision to close schools

After the Punjab government ordered educational institutions across the province to shut down for five days, their administrations have been directed to make sure these buildings are safe and are complying with standard operating procedures.

The Punjab home department has already ordered divisional police chiefs across the province to increase security around educational institutions in the light of intelligence reports that terrorist groups may be planning to target them.

An earlier deadline, given to educational institutions to improve security arrangements, expired on Thursday, but the administration gave them three more days to put all measures in place.

Acting Commissioner Sajid Zafar Dall told Dawn that Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, in a video link meeting, had ordered that the head of the institution that failed to take adequate security measures should be booked.

“At least 22 educational institutions in Rawalpindi, 15 in Jhelum, 10 in Attock and six in Chakwal have been sent final notices,” he said.

He said Rescue 1122 and the Civil Defence department had started training teaching staff in Rawalpindi, Gujar Khan and Taxila to deal with any untoward situation.

They would attend training sessions in their schools and colleges, adding that similar training would be imparted to students after their winter vacations.

Director Colleges Humayun Iqbal on Thursday called a meeting of the private colleges’ representatives in his office. Representatives of 50 of the 80-odd private colleges in the garrison city attended the meeting. Mr Iqbal told Dawn that private colleges had been conveyed the government’s directions and asked to implement them by Sunday.

Interior minister

In a press conference held on Thursday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan took issue with the policy of the PML-N led Punjab government when he said he was opposed to the recent closure of schools.

“I have serious differences [with the Punjab government] over the policy of closing schools because of some threats. We have to give the enemy a message of unity, to fight and defeat the evil of terrorism. We cannot confine ourselves to our homes out of fear,” he remarked.

He praised the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), saying they were setting a good example by not closing schools in the province, adding that he would ask Punjab and other provinces not to shut educational institutions.

Published in Dawn, January 29th, 2016