It is a struggle to get an education in Panjgur district of Balochistan. There are 23 private English-medium schools and coaching centres and early this year they began to receive threats from a group calling itself Tanzeem-ul-Islam-al-Furqan. This group wanted the schools to stop teaching English and end co-education. Eventually after bus and taxi drivers and students and school principals and teachers had all been harassed and threatened, the schools closed for three months. In a remarkable push-back against the group that forced their closure the schools opened again on August 7, many with much-reduced number of students as families had migrated to Quetta and Karachi in search of a better education for their children. The threats against the schools continued after they re-opened and have been acted upon, with one school being the target of an arson attack.
Two men entered the school, doused it with petrol and set the principal’s office on fire and also destroyed computers and other classroom equipment. The police have lodged a complaint against ‘unknown assailants’ — but it may well be that they are not as ‘unknown’ as the police would lead us to believe. The group making the threats is well known to local people, who also know where they are based. If local people know, then it is a reasonable assumption that the police, or their informants, know as well. It is also reported that the arson attack was in retaliation for the arrest of ‘close aides’ of those making the threats — which considerably increases the likelihood that the police know exactly who is carrying out the harassment and attacks. Teachers at the schools are displaying considerably more backbone than the police. The teachers are saying that they ‘will not close the schools for a single day’ and they remain open, an act of considerable defiance. Once again there is an instance of the police failing to come up to the mark in terms of protecting the public. They are slow to act for reasons that can only be speculated upon — and none of them are likely to be innocent.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 28th, 2014.