The Sindh High Court (SHC) came down hard on the provincial chief secretary on Monday for ignoring the court’s order to identify those schools exposed to risks of terror attacks and adopt security measures there. A division bench, headed by Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi, ordered the officer to implement these directives by August 7 and personally submit a compliance report.
These directives came on an application, seeking contempt proceedings against the chief secretary for not complying with the court’s directives issued on a petition seeking enhanced security for educational institutions in Sindh after the killing of 130 children and others in the terrorist attack on the Peshawar Army Pubic School last December.
Advocate Faisal Siddiqui, who moved the contempt application on behalf of a group of NGOs, recalled that the chief secretary, the education secretary and the police inspector-general were directed by the court on May 26 to identify those schools prone to terrorist attacks and to adopt security measures there.
He alleged that the authorities had failed to implement the court’s directives, as no steps had been taken so far. This can risk the lives of the students, the teachers and others, he informed the court.
Therefore, the court was pleaded to initiate contempt proceedings against the chief secretary and others for not complying with the court’s orders and thus willfully committing contempt of the court.
Taking notice of the situation, the two judges ordered the chief secretary to implement the court’s May 26 directives. The officer was further told to personally appear on August 7 to submit a compliance report.
The group had approached the court following the Army Public School massacre, claiming that, as per intelligence reports, the community-run welfare schools in Karachi are also facing the high risk of an attack, while some private institutions and schools also complained of receiving threats.
They said the other provinces had formulated standard operating procedures (SOPs) and have directed school administrations to raise boundary walls, put in razor wires atop the walls and install CCTV cameras.
However, nothing had been done to promulgate such SOPs in Sindh, where authorities had placed the responsibility of protection on either the educational institutions themselves or on the parents, the petitioners alleged.
At a previous hearing the court had directed the chief secretary and the home and education secretaries to submit a detailed report regarding the measures taken – including but not limited to the SOPs proposed by them – besides the details of security deployment at such institutions. However, the group claimed, that repeated orders directing the government to arrange necessary security measures were not complied with by the authorities.
“The provincial government spends Rs220 million monthly for the security of 600 VIPs, including ministers and foreign diplomats, but no concrete efforts are being made for the provision of security to schools and colleges in the province,” the group had disclosed. They submitted that over 1,675 police personnel were deployed in VIP zones, whereas only one security personnel was available for 6,000 citizens in the city whose estimated population was beyond 18 million.
The court was asked to direct the government to provide foolproof security to educational institutions and declare VIP security to politicians and ministers without reasonable classification, as discriminatory and unlawful.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 28th, 2015.