Targeted: School principal shot dead in his office in Saeedabad

Police believe the attack could be a result of refusal to pay extortion.

Our Correspondent August 04, 2014


The principal of a higher secondary school located in Saeedabad, Baldia Town, was shot dead on Monday.

Sixty-five year-old Malik Ishaq, son of Haji Zafar, was in the principal's office at his school, the Crescent Public School, when an unidentified assailant entered the room and shot him once in the chest.

He was rushed to Civil Hospital, Karachi, where doctors pronounced him dead on arrival.

A woman was also sitting in the principal's office when the incident occurred. "A young man, clad in shalwar kameez and a helmet, entered the room and shot him once before fleeing," said the frightened woman S*, the only eyewitness in the case. On hearing the gunshot and the cries from the woman, the teachers and other staff of the school rushed to the principal's room and took him to the hospital but he had succumbed to his injuries on the way.

Malik Ishaq used to run at least six schools in District West. He had called the teachers and staff to the school on Monday to discuss the curriculum for the education year before classes resumed on Tuesday.

Following the incident, a large contingent of law enforcers reached the site and searched for evidence. The police have found the empty shell from the pistol used in the killing which will be sent to the laboratory for forensic examination.

This was not the first attack on a school in the city. District West alone has seen a number of attacks on its schools in the last one year, which have claimed the lives of several educationists and citizens.

The assailants, in the previous cases, have targeted schools by firing in some cases, while at other times they have even attacked facilities with bombs, killing owners, principals and administrators.

*A number of educationists have also been targeted outside school premises during the last one year

Investigating officers of the previous cases of school-related violence in District West told The Express Tribune that the majority of such cases had occurred due to the owners' refusal to pay extortion. "In most cases, we found the involvement of the militants associated with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)," claimed an investigation officer.

Other times, the police found ordinary individuals using the name of the TTP to extort money out of the school owners. Police claim that a number of groups of extortionists are operating in the area, which receive extortion from various school owners and attack those who show the slightest reluctance to pay.

In the latest incident, the law enforcers suspect that the principal was attacked over refusal to pay extortion. They have not, however, found any concrete evidence to this effect.

Police officials also claimed that the deceased was also said to be associated with a religious party. No party, however, has claimed his affiliation. "If no reason is ascertained in our investigations, we will assume extortion to be the motive," District West and Central police chief DIG Captain (retd) Tahir Naveed told The Express Tribune. "We had not received any complaints regarding extortion threats," he added. Police have also detained the watchmen of the school as they did not try to stop the assailant from entering the school. No case was registered till the filing of this report.

Attack on education?

For Syed Khalid Shah, the chairperson of the All Private Schools Management Association, the persistent attacks on schools in Orangi and Baldia Town, where imparting education is a relatively difficult task compared to the posh areas, would compel the educationists to shut down the institutions. "These criminals have been exterminating educationists who harboured a simple dream to impart education to children in their underprivileged neighbourhoods," Shah told The Express Tribune.

After each incident, government officials show eagerness to comply with the school association's demand to increase security and police patrols, but this does not last more for than a week.

"We are frustrated with the government as well as its intelligence and security agencies," said Shah. "The low-cost private schools will now have to take up security measures on their own - a prospect that only a few can achieve; the rest can only pray to God."

Published in The Express Tribune, August 5th, 2014.