A MILITANT threat that was once depressingly frequent but seemed to have been dying down is picking up once again. Two government girls` schools were blown up last week, one in Mardan, the other in Swabi district. These followed an explosion the week before at another government girls` school in Mardan. The implication of these attacks is clear: the Taliban insurgency is far from being defeated. The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan have reportedly been showing signs of renewed strength, as in the launching of an increased number of attacks against security forces in South Waziristan. Another manifestation of this has been their appointment of new amirs in some areas. Mardan is one of these, and the attacks there could well be a result of its new militant leader wanting to demonstrate his strength.
Targeting girls` schools is, unsurprisingly, one of the ways in which the TTP intends to do this. Thankfully, the attacks have so far followed the earlier pattern of targeting schools at night, and therefore have not caused loss of life. But the signal the TTP is trying to send through these bombings is clear: despite facing considerable resistance it continues to oppose the Pakistani state and to stick to the same regressive values, in this case its opposition to girls` education, and is willing to cause destruction to communicate these messages. The attacks carried out in recent days should be a clear signal to the state that it needs to step up security at these institutions and work even harder to dismantle the Taliban threat. The immediate cost will be the resources needed to restore the damaged schools, but the heftier price of ignoring these attacks could be a growing reluctance among many Pakistani families to continue to educate their daughters.