All private schools and English-language centres in Panjgur district of Balochistan have been closed for an indefinite period following an ultimatum by a militant outfit opposed to co-education and Western-style learning.
Threatening with dire consequences, the armed group, Tanzeem-ul-Islam-ul-Furqan (TIF), had warned all private schools imparting co-education and Western education to immediately shut down. The schools were closed on May 13 for an indefinite period.
The little-known TIF has become a source of terror for the people of Panjgur. On May 13, the outfit made a blatant show of power as four of its armed men intercepted the van of Major Hussain Ali, the head of a private school in Panjgur.
“They forced the female students to get off the van and set it on fire. They said: ‘You are spreading obscenity by promoting the culture of co-education’,” Major Hussain told The Express Tribune.
“Earlier, we had taken their threats lightly. However, after seeing the confidence of these armed men roaming the road with impunity, I realised they can do anything and even kill me or my daughters,” he said.
In Panjgur, there are around 23 private institutions, including schools and English language centres, which had been receiving threats since April 25. In the letters, the outfit cited the names of some of the leading educationists of the area.
After frequent attacks on private schools by masked men armed with Kalashnikovs and pistols, the private schools and English-language centres were first closed on April 30.
After remaining closed for three days, the schools were reopened on May 3. However, following the incident of May 13, the heads of all educational institutions decided to shut down for an indefinite period.
The heads of private schools also held a meeting with the district police officer, deputy commissioner and local clerics. “The clerics said they never opposed co-education or learning of English language,” said Major Hussain, who attended the meeting.
The Panjgur police have lodged an FIR against unknown armed men under the Anti-Terrorism Act after the noisy protest held by teachers, political parties and students in front of the DC Panjgur office. They gave the cell-phone number to the police from which the threatening messages were sent.
According to the Panjgur police, the culprits involved in threatening the teachers will soon be behind bars. “We have reached very close to the group and will soon arrest them,” said Muhammad Murad, SHO Panjgur police station.
“The government and law enforcing agencies are doing nothing to arrest the culprits, who stayed an hour on the main intersection and threatened schoolteachers,” Hussain said.
The Baloch Students Organisation (BSO) also condemned the attacks and said it is an attempt to radicalise the society.
The Balochistan government has also taken notice of the issue and directed the authority concerned to submit a report. “The government is very serious about this issue and has asked senior officials to investigate the incident,” Balochistan government spokesperson Jan Buledi told The Express Tribune.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2014.