In the last year alone, there have been nine attacks on educational facilities in Karachi’s District West, and running a school has become a high-risk operation. On Monday, August 4, the principal of a higher secondary school in Saeedabad, Baldia Town, was shot dead in his office by a man who entered wearing a helmet, fired a single shot and ran away. The incident was witnessed by a woman, who was present in the office at the time. Malik Ishaq was a lifetime educationist who ran at least six schools in District West.
What is behind the attack is as yet unclear, but there are several possibilities behind all of the attacks on schools, and it is the refusal of their principals to pay extortion or protection money that is the most likely reason for such gruesome happenings. Usually, the attacks are staged with guns, but bombs have also been used to deadly effect, leading to the deaths of administrators and teachers, as well as school owners. Investigation of previous attacks has revealed that the extortionists are often the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) or people operating under the guise of the TTP. The police are said to be aware that there are several extortionist groups operating in the area, which begs the question as to why they have not been arresting them rather than arriving late after yet another murder. The series of attacks on schools and their owner-operators points not just to extortion rackets, but to a war on education itself, a war close to the heart of the TTP and other extremist organisations that would have Pakistan driven back to the Dark Ages. The groups carrying out these attacks do so apparently in a culture of impunity as there does not appear to be a record of prosecution or any individual being charged with any of the attacks in the last year. This, in turn, points either to serial incompetence on the part of the police or their sympathy for those carrying out the attacks. We can only hope against hope that there would be an early arrest in this latest case although history sadly suggests otherwise.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 6th, 2014.
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