Around 200 private schools in SITE and some areas of Orangi Town remained closed on Wednesday to protest the rising incidents of attacks on schools by extortionists.
For the first time in Karachi’s history, school owners, principals, faculty members and students of the schools located in SITE and Orangi Town took to the streets on Wednesday to demand security against extortionists. The protesters claimed they were fed up of feeding into the mouths of extortionists who regularly sent threatening letters to the schools, demanding extortion money.
The protesters set up a roadside camp at Bab-e-Khyber, Metroville, where they closed the road for traffic. The students and teachers waved banners and placards, raising slogans against the extortionist mafia who they claimed had killed the principals of two schools over refusal to pay extortion money.
Children dressed in their schools uniforms were shouting slogans of Bhatha Khori Bund Karo, Humain Tahafuz do (stop extortion and give us protection). “We want the government to ensure security for our schools,” said Javed, a student of class six, dressed in a smart blue-coloured school uniform. “Every second school is receiving threats and calls from extortionists who demand millions of rupees.”
The protest demonstration was organised under the aegis of SITE Association of Private Schools and School Development Organisation – the two unions of school owners which jointly comprise over 150 members. Some of the mainstream political and religious parties’ leaders also joined the protest which stretched from Baba-e-Khyber to Mehfil-e-Shireen Chowk in Metroville. Some of the placards demanded justice for the slain principal of Islamia Public School, Pervez Alavi, and his son, Zahid Alavi, who were targeted inside the school premises on May 3.
“We have been forced to take to the streets,” said Ghazi Anwar Ali Sultan, president of the SITE Association of schools. “These children holding the placards should not be out on the roads but we have no other option.” Sultan claimed that the extortion menace had rapidly increased in the past two years in parts of SITE and Orangi Town.
Pervez Bacha, a representative of the association stressed on the need for unity among the schools’ owners. “We need the government to take the issue seriously.”
All Private Schools Management Association’s Syed Khalid Shah said that four people had been killed inside their schools over refusal to pay extortion. He lauded the efforts of the SITE and Orangi Town schools’ owners and teachers for raising their voices against the extortionists in the face of threats to their lives.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 22nd, 2014.