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‘Militants destroyed 125 girls’ schools in 10 months’

PESHAWAR: Students and owners of girls’ schools of the troubled Swat district have strongly criticised the NWFP and federal governments for not protecting them and their schools from militants’ attacks and occupation of security forces, saying 125 schools have been burnt and bombed by militants during the last ten months in the violence-hit district.

They were speaking at a seminar entitled “Securing Girls’ Right to Education in Conflicts” organised by Action Aid along with its partner organisations Society for Protection of Rights of Child (SPARC) and Khwendo Kor here on Wednesday.

Citizens from different fields belonging to Swat and Dir districts expressed their deep concern over the government’s lack of concern over attacking and bombing of girls’ schools by militants in the two districts of the province.

Elaborating the prevailing situation, female students from the troubled district Malalai Yousafzai and Sara Farid said that the Swat militants were pushing the girl students to Stone Age by burning and bombing their schools while the government has become a silent spectator.

The students demanded of the government to protect their schools and re-build the destroyed ones so that they could restart their education, which is their basic right.

Jehan Dastageer, owner of girls’ school “Educators” in Lower Dir, said on June 15, 2008 militants bombed his school, saying that there was co-education system in the school which was “un-Islamic” as it spread “vulgarity”. He said the attack not only caused a loss of Rs 7 million to him but also it forced 50 percent students to drop out of the school.

Hazir Gul, a resident of Swat, said that according to government’s report 125 girls’ schools were either burnt or bombed by militants in the district. He criticised the Awami National Party (ANP)-led provincial government for entering into peace agreement with Swat militants, saying the agreement provided an opportunity to the militants to re-organise and launch attacks on girls’ schools and security forces.

“Despite burning of 125 schools, the government has not been able to protect the remaining girls’ schools in the valley. Militants could burn the remaining schools whenever they want,” he went on to say.

Shaukat Saleem, a lawyer and representative of SPARC in the district, said no government officer was present in Swat to register public complaints as most of the government servants including nazims, MPAs, ministers and district administration have shifted to other parts of the province due to militants’ threats and military operation.

He presented data of 99 girls’ schools in the district, most of which were burnt and destroyed by militants. Out of these schools, he said, some were occupied by militants and some by security forces to take positions against each other.

Fakhar Hayat, Wari union council nazim, said the militants have completely destroyed the only girls’ high school of the district which deprived hundreds of students of education. He showed concern over, what he said, the provincial government’s lack of concern over burning and bombing of schools. He said that the government neither announced to re-build the schools nor issued condemnation statement against such attacks.

Ibrash Pasha, provincial coordinator of Pakistan Coalition for Education, said the government can not meet the Education for All target of the UN Millennium Development Goals due to militants’ attacks on girls’ schools in NWFP and FATA.

He said in Swat 50 percent girl students were not attending schools due to militants’ threats and rebel cleric Mulla Fazlullah’s radio campaign in the district and Malakand division. He further added that militants’ attacks on schools deprived more than 14,000 girls of education.

Masood Sulfi, a religious scholar, called militants’ attacks on girls’ schools as inhuman and un-Islamic act.

Said Alam Mehsud, provincial leader of Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, called the ongoing operations in Swat and Bajaur Agency as “drama”. He said if military could hang a great leader Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and kill Akbar Bugti then how it could be helpless against Mullah Fazlulah, Baitullah Mehsud and Maulvi Umar.
Source: Daily Times

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