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Students return to schools occupied by policemen

January 18, 2013

ISLAMABAD, Jan 17: Though the use of educational institutions for residential purposes by law enforcement agencies is common in the tribal areas, it was strange to see policemen occupying schools in Islamabad during the long march.

Hundreds of policemen summoned from Punjab, AJK and other areas have been staying in a number of schools for the last one week.

While the educational institutions under the Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) opened after a closure of three days, the policemen are still staying in the schools.

The students and teachers were not informed about the handing over of their institutions to the policemen and it was only after they arrived for classes on Thursday morning that they saw their classrooms taken over by the security personnel.

According to sources, four schools - two for girls and two for boys - had been vacated for the police officials who arrived in the city on January 11.

This correspondent visited Islamabad Model School for Girls, G-6/1-4, at about 10pm on Thursday and saw a big rush of policemen changing shift. As many as 14 buses of Punjab police and some public transport vehicles were parked outside.

The policemen were staying in the classrooms on the ground and first floors and had also occupied the school’s hall.

Thermoplastic boxes were seen scattered all over the lawn. The dresses of the occupants were hung from the windows. The school building was littered with mud dropped from the boots of the security men.

Amir Ali, an official of the AJK police, said he belonged to Rawlakot and was staying in the school along with his colleagues since January 11.

Ajaz Ahmed of the Punjab police, who was sitting in the control room established in a classroom adjacent to the principal office, said they had no choice but to implement orders.

“We got instruction to stay here so we moved in; now we have been informed that we will be leaving in a couple of days. It is a nice place and we don’t have any problem here,” he said.

An officer of the Ministry of Capital Administration and Development (CAD) requesting not to be identified said the two girls’ schools at G-6/1-3 and G-6/1-4 and the two boys schools at G-6/4 had been vacated for the police officials.

“So many times in the past the government asked for the school buildings and our buses were used by the ministry of religious affairs and other departments,” he said.

A teacher of one of the schools said it was awkward to see policemen residing in educational institutions. “They can be dangerous for both the teachers and students because they always have interaction with criminals.”

She added: “I cannot understand why the government allowed the police officials to stay in these institutions. Even though the schools reopened on Thursday, the police officials have not vacated the institutions,” she said.

Abid Khan, the father of a student, said it was unfortunate that educational institutions were being used by law enforcement agencies. It shows that allegations of illegal use of educational institutions by security forces in the tribal areas are also correct, he said.

Salma Hussain, the area education officer of the FDE, confirmed that the four schools had been handed over to the police officials. “I don’t know the exact number of the policemen who have been residing in the schools but they are in hundreds,” she said.

When contacted, Rafique Tahir, the joint secretary of CAD, said they (policemen) had come for the security of the residents and it was their right to stay in the institutions.

“As many as 5,000 officials were staying in the police lines and the others had to be accommodated somewhere else so it was decided that the schools should be provided to them. The issue of long march is now resolved and I am sure that the policemen will leave within a couple of days and classes will resume from Monday,” he said.

Pervez Hoodbhoy, a renowned educationist, said it was unfortunate that educational institutions were being used for the residence of police officials.

“Unfortunately, education has never been the priority of our rulers. The officials must have disturbed everything in the schools,” he said.

Thin attendance

There was very thin attendance on Thursday, especially in junior classes, because most of the parents did not send their

children to schools after Interior Minister Rehman Malik said a targeted operation would be launched against the participants of the long march.

Maqbool Ahmed said his daughter and son studied in schools at sector I-8 and G-10. “On Wednesday, I came to know that the schools would open on Thursday so we decided to send our children. However, in the evening when I learnt that the interior minister wanted to start an operation, I decided to keep my children indoor,” he said.Sanam Channar, a teacher of a school located near Saudi-Pak Tower, said participants of the march were just a few hundreds yards away from her school so she did not go to work.

“I have come to know that there was thin attendance of teachers and students due to which students of different sections were asked to sit in one classroom. Regular classes will resume from Monday as most of the students will not come to school even on Friday,” she said.

Naeem Ahmed, a resident of E-11, said his nephew Hasan Raza had gone to school on Thursday. “He informed me that there was thin presence of students so I will not send him to school on Friday,” he said.