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Government vows to keep schools open despite threats: Sherry

KARACHI (January 19 2009): The government will keep schools open in Swat valley despite a ban on girls issued by the local Taliban, Information Minister Sherry Rehman told reporters here on Sunday. It follows a threat last month by a local Taliban commander to kill any girls attending classes after January 15, and to blow up schools where they are enrolled.

Officials said last week that, as a result of the threat, about 400 private schools were unlikely to open their doors after the winter holidays, depriving tens of thousands of students of an education.

But the minister vowed to keep open all girls schools in Swat and North West Frontier Province (NWFP). “From March 1, all closed schools in Swat and NWFP will be reopened after the winter break,” she said. “The non-state actors are challenging the writ of the government in the name of Sharia, but Islam does not allow to close down women’s schools,” Rehman said, pledging to provide full security.

The scenic area of snow-capped mountains, once a popular tourist resort, has been rocked by a violent campaign for Islamic Sharia law being waged by radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah, who has links to Pakistan’s Taliban movement.

His followers have blown up 168 schools, including 104 for girls, since security forces launched an operation against militants in the region in 2007, an education ministry official told AFP last week. The valley has more than 600 state-run schools, in addition to the 400 private schools.
Source: Business Recorder
Date:1/19/2009

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