Soft target? Universities close shop early due to ‘security risks’

Published: December 21, 2014
A school without a boundary wall in Sector F-6/2. PHOTO: WASEEM NAZEER/EXPRESS

A school without a boundary wall in Sector F-6/2. PHOTO: WASEEM NAZEER/EXPRESS

RAWALPINDI / ISLAMABAD: A Number of universities in the capital have announced that they will be to remain closed for the next week. While they did not officially cite security threats, a top police official, who asked not to be named, told The Express Tribune that universities were a soft target and there was a legitimate threat of terrorist attacks at universities. He, however, clarified that police did not ask the universities to close, adding that the decisions were taken by the respective universities’ managements.

According to a notification issued by Quaid-e-Azam University (QAU) on Saturday, the varsity will remain closed with immediate effect till further announcement. However, the admission process will continue as per the schedule. The revised semester schedule will be notified on reopening.

International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI) also announced on Saturday that the varsity and all of its constituent units will remain shut for the week starting from December 22.

An official at the National University of Modern Languages (NUML) confirmed that it will remain closed from December 22 to 26 due to security reasons. National University of Science and Technology (NUST) and the Bahria University have also announced closures.

A QAU student said that they were feeling insecure at the university after the Peshawar school attack. “If they can target a school in a cantonment, public universities are more vulnerable to attacks,” she said.

Maha Usman, a final year student at Bahria University, said that she was relieved that the educational institutions had taken the security precaution. “We feel that the authorities have taken an important step to ensure the security and the safety of the students and teachers.”

Teachers, staff refuse work

Meanwhile, teachers and non-teaching staffers at government schools in Rawalpindi have decided not to show up for duties during winter vacations in defiance of an official order, citing security concerns.

The executive district officer (EDO) education has ordered the teachers and the clerical staff to go to work during winter vacations while office-bearers of the Punjab Teachers’ Union district chapter claimed that the notification issued by the provincial education department has not mentioned that teachers should attend to duties during winter vacations.

EDO Qazi Zahoorul Haq did not respond to multiple calls and text messages requesting comment.

“Terrorists are carrying out barbaric acts across the country with impunity and schools are an easy target for them,” said PTU Rawalpindi President Hamid Ali Shah. “It is due to security threats, the government announced winter vacations early,” he said adding, “How duties could be performed in such a situation without risks.”

He said that private schools have also closed their schools as security threats to educational institutes were all time high.  Shah said that a teacher’s job was to teach the students and when the students were on vacation what they would do in schools.

“The EDO office should remain in touch with head teachers if they need any help, asking teachers to show up for duty is illogical,” said PTU former general secretary Raja Shahid Mubarak.

Teachers are frequently called to show up for duties during vacations, making them to perform different drives including polio and dengue drives.

“If asked, a few of us, mostly female teachers, show up for duty,” Mubarak said.

As per rule, head teachers and non-teaching staffers are bound to appear on duty even during vacations.

“The Peshawar tragedy has created a sense of insecurity among all of us. Though the students are the prime target, terrorists don’t spare the teachers either,” commented a non-teaching staff, demanding duty exemption for the non-teaching staff during vacations. The teachers also complained that no concrete steps have been taken for the security of schools across the district.

“Though news regarding security steps for schools has regularly been appearing in newspapers since the Peshawar incident, no teams have visited any of the schools in the district so far,” said a teacher of the Government Islamia High School Rawalpindi.

City Police Officer Humayun Bashir Tarar could not be reached for comment on any additional security provided to educational institutes.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 21st, 2014.

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