Over 150 private schools in Orangi Town and SITE area will remain closed today (Wednesday) to protest the growing threats of extortion in the area.
The members of the All Private Schools’ Orangi Town and SITE association will hold a demonstration at 10am at Bab-e-Khyber in Metroville along with school owners and parents to pressure the government into providing security.
The problem of extortion is not new to the area and Wednesday will not be the first time that schools have been closed. In fact, Islamia Public School in Metroville’s Block 3 has been closed since May 3 when the school owners, Pervez Alavi, and his son Zahid were killed inside the school.
Munawwar, a close friend of Pervez, told The Express Tribune that his friend was receiving threats from extortionists, who were demanding Rs600,000. Pervez had paid them Rs400,000 in two instalments and they had come to collect the third instalment on that fateful day.
When Pervez failed to give them the money, they barged into his office and shot him and his son dead. The police reached while the accused was still inside. In the resulting encounter, the assailant Umer Manzur, a former student of Jamia Binoria and the son of a prayer leader in Metroville, was also killed. Since then, the Alavi family decided to move back to their hometown in Abbottabad, leaving the school closed until further notice.
Pervez and Zahid spent 10 years building and running the school, which had over 500 students before it shut down. “You may have put all your energies in building and running a successful school but the criminals close it in less than five minutes,” said Munawwar. He felt sorry for the Matric students at Islamia school who were unable to take their oral exam when the school was closed. They will need transfer certificates from the school to give the exam from another institution, he added.
A representative of SITE Association of Private Schools, who requested anonymity, told The Express Tribune that a majority of the schools in Metroville have received threats from extortionists. “Over a dozen schools, which I personally know, have paid extortion money but no one speaks about it,” he said, adding that street thugs use unregistered SIMs in this menace. “The extortion has turned to be one the high-earning businesses in the area.”
According to the official, a private school hardly makes Rs35,000 a month. “How can they pay the extortionists Rs1 million. Those who don’t pay are simply killed.” He added that most school owners are unwilling to talk about this issue as they fear for their lives.
Last year on May 13, Naunehal Academy’s owner, Abdul Waheed, was shot dead in Orangi Town’s Islamia Colony. The same year, The Nation School in Ittehad Town was attacked with a cracker and gunshots and its owner, Abdul Rasheed Swati, and a student were gunned down. Abdul Mateen,62, the principal of Crescent Public School in Aligarh Colony was shot dead in August. Apart from these, Al-Mehran School in Ghaziabad, Prince Grammar School and Rakshanda Public School in Orangi Town have also been targeted for their refusal to pay extortion.
All Private Schools Management Association’s Syed Khalid Shah was of the view that an across-the-board operation and conviction of the criminals are needed to deter the perpetrators. “Nothing is going to happen unless those involved are punished for their crimes,” he said, adding that people don’t complain about the extortion if they receive a threatening call or a message.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 21st, 2014.
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