In less than a week, another private school in Orangi Town came under attack on Monday, allegedly for refusing to pay extortion.
Since alMehran School, located in Ghaziabad, was closed due to Abdullah Shah Ghazi’s urs, no casualties were reported. The school administration explained that they received demands to pay money to a group a while back but they admitted that they weren’t expecting an attack.
Earlier this week, another institution, Prince Grammar School, was attacked in the same area. No casualties were reported in the October 22 attack as well. An investigating officer believed that the attacks were meant to serve as warnings. District West and Central police chief Javed Odho pointed out that the same group is behind both the attacks. The law enforcers had been tipped off about this attack but the plainclothes personnel deployed at the school were unable to hinder the extortionists, said Odho.
Earlier this year, Rakshanda Public School, which has more than 800 students, was also attacked by extortionists in Orangi Town. The police managed to arrest a few suspects involved in this attack but those men denied having any links with the Taliban or any other organisation.
“Extortion is an easy way to earn money and schools are an easy target because those who operate the schools are honest people and are easily scared,” said one of the three arrested extortionist. This group threatened the school knowing that the administration will perceive it’s from the Taliban and will be easily scared into paying.
Even the police agree that established gangs are not behind the extortion threats faced by schools. “These areas are infamous for being Taliban-dominant areas so some individuals are taking advantage of this situation by using the names of Taliban’s splinter groups, such as Khan Baba and Bhalu,” Odho explained. “The reason behind targeting private schools is that they are visible establishments and extortionists are aware who the owners are, where they live and the places they visit.”
A large number of schools, especially in Orangi Town, have received extortion chits but only six cases have been registered by the police. Odho agreed that there is an unwillingness to complain to the police in such incidents. The police morale is, however, high as an increasing number of people are coming to register their complaints, he said, adding that this is indicative of the increased trust that people have on the police. “While it is not possible to provide all schools with security, patrolling and deployment have been increased where deemed necessary.”
Other attacks on schools
Apart from the recent attacks on schools, a high-profile incident occurred when the Taliban attacked The Nation School in Baldia Town on March 30. The militants attacked the school with hand grenades and indiscriminate firing, which killed the school principal and owner, Abdul Rasheed, while also injuring six others, including Rasheed’s daughter. Naunehal Academy’s principal Waheed Khattak was also killed in a separate incident on May 13 after he refused to pay extortion money in Islamia Colony.
The deaths of the two principals raised an outcry within the All Private School Management Association (APSMA) and the schools decided to take action to resolve this issue. “There is a need to counter this disease [extortion],” said APSMA chairperson Khalid Shah, while talking to The Express Tribune. “I did not want to but we are now compelled to counter this by keeping weapons either ourselves or by hiring trained security guards.”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 29th, 2013.