Is traffic the biggest security hazard?

Express April 26, 2010

ISLAMABAD: Given the current political climate in Pakistan, security happens to be one of the most pressing issues that need to be addressed, say observers.

With some 400 schools located in residential areas, the government needs to take action to ensure safety both inside and outside schools, they add. Schools located in residential areas, especially those near embassies, pose the greatest security hazard. One of the branches of Headstart, a leading private school in Islamabad, is located in the street next to the Indian High Commission. As that area is a high-alert zone, so is the school. Though schools have taken extensive security measures to ensure the safety of children, what remains to be taken care of are traffic jams outside schools.

Frobel’s, another popular private school, is located in a narrow street in Sector F-7, right next to the Italian embassy, again presenting a high risk. Militants blew up schools multiple times, in retaliation to the military offensive in Swat, and brought education to a standstill in the region. After this the government took action and made a list of security measures that had to be enforced by all private and government schools. Schools like Beaconhouse and Islamabad College of Arts and Sciences (ICAS), remained closed for two weeks until all the necessary security arrangements were made. What was overlooked, however, was the management of traffic flow outside these schools.

The Capital Development Authority (CDA), when contacted, said the presence of schools in residential areas was not completely legal in the first place. “We have issued notices to several schools. What happens is that the case goes to court, the schools get a stay order and the matter is put on the back burner,” an official from CDA told The Express Tribune. The government is meant to allocate land to all private schools in non-residential areas.

Schools are then given a specified time during which they are meant to build an all-purpose campus. “We had campuses all over the city. A government officer visited our F-8 branch in 2007 and told us we needed to move, shortly after we had acquired land in G-11. In September 2009, we moved to our campus,” Zeba Raza, principal of ICAS, told The Express Tribune. “The congestion of traffic outside schools is a major concern,” Mehrene Shah, a parent told The Express Tribune, “ Why would an attacker need to go inside the school when all he needs to do is stand in the middle of this traffic jam and detonate?” Some of the steps that schools took to ensure safety of schools included increasing the heights of walls, installing CCTV cameras, scanners and a barbed wire wall.

“We have decided to assign different shifts for different classes to make sure that there are not too many cars outside the school at one time,” the Principal of Lahore Grammar School said.


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