Panic and fear gripped a government college here after gunshots were heard outside the campus and a security guard sounded the alarm bell, eyewitnesses and the police said.
The police later termed the incident a ‘terror hoax’ and declared the Government Post Graduate Viqarun Nisa College for Women safe.
According to the initial investigation by the area police, a young man approached a private security guard outside the main gate of the college and said that an armed terrorist had entered the campus through an emergency exit gate. The security guard alerted the college administration and three police constables deputed outside the college.
College security then set off the campus evacuation sirens. Meanwhile, the three policemen started looking for suspicious persons inside the college.
The security alarm created panic among 3,000 students and staff in the college, and 400 students in the attached school. Some girls tried to scale the boundary wall of the college to escape and ended up with minor injuries.
Rescue 1122 officials said they evacuated all students and the staff from the college, adding that first aid was provided to five students with minor injuries, and three girls, two of whom were unconscious, were shifted to hospitals. The rescue personnel evacuated some girls from houses located near the college after they exited the campus through the emergency exit.
False reports of the presence of terrorists quickly spread, and parents rushed to the campus. Traffic was a mess outside the college and rush of people was also visible.
“We were buying samosas from the college canteen when we heard the security alarm and saw some girls running around,” said Aiza Sattar, a second year student.
She added that two security guards asked them to take shelter in a safer place. “We ran to the hockey ground, where workers were helping female students scale the wall,” she said, adding that some were letting the girls climb over their shoulders, while others made a makeshift ladder out of chairs.
Law enforcement agencies including Pakistan Army, Elite Force, Quick Respond Force, intelligence agencies, and the local police headed by Operations SSP Karamatullah Malik, Counterterrorism Department SP Haroon Rashid, Potohar Division SP Ateeq Tahir, and DSPs Mirza Zaman and Farhan Aslam arrived with their respective contingents and carried out a thorough search.
Rawal Division SP Malik Muhammad Iqbal also refuted an earlier claim that there was an exchange of fire between the police and suspected car thieves. Regional Police Officer Wisal Fakhar Sultan Raja ordered a detail inquiry into the incident.
Later in the day, the district administration closed all educational institutions in the city.
In a press release, Abrar Ahmed, president of All Pakistan Private Schools Management Association in Rawalpindi, condemned the fake terror alert. He said the hoax created panic and fear among parents and students in all schools.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 11th, 2016.