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Pakistanis denounce killing of 7 Swabi aid workers
Militants killed 5 teachers and 2 healthcare workers in once-peaceful district on January 1.
By Javed Aziz Khan
SWABI – Pakistani police were conducting raids January 2, seeking the killers of five teachers and two healthcare workers in previously peaceful Swabi District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). The slayings are arousing condemnation throughout Pakistan.
"Five female teachers, a lady health worker and a male medical technician were killed while their driver was wounded when two motorcyclists opened fire on (their van) in Sher Afzal Banda of Chhuta Lahore, near the Peshawar-Islamabad Motorway, on January 1," Swabi Superintendent of Police for Investigation Nisar Ahmad told Central Asia Online.
"We have no knowledge so far about any group claiming responsibility for the attack," Nisar said.
The attackers parked their shared motorcycle before opening fire, Dawn.com reported, quoting the wounded van driver.
Authorities identified the five slain teachers as Shohrat Bibi of Marghuz and Rahila Gul, Zahida Bibi, Asmat Bibi and Gul Naz of Manki.
The woman health worker was Lubna Mahmoud from Zaida.
One woman was in her mid-30s, while the others were in their 20s.
Police identified the dead male medical technician as Amjad Ali and the wounded driver as Abdul Majid. Majid is recovering at Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar.
The victims were working with a non-governmental organisation, Support with Working Solution (SWWS), that runs a girls' school and a dispensary in Sher Afzal Banda, Nisar said.
It was the first attack on an NGO in Swabi in recent years.
SWWS has 160 staff members, mostly female, Javed Ahktar, head of the attacked NGO, said.
"We have been working in Swabi for the last two years but never faced any threat," said Akhtar. The NGO has worked on health and education in Pakistan since 1992.
The organisation will continue its work in the area, Nisar said.
Denunciation from leaders
"It is an act of terrorism because why would someone kill such innocent women?" Swabi District Co-ordination Officer Mohammad Shah asked. The incident is not part of recent attacks on anti-polio teams, Swabi District Police Officer Abdur Rashid said.
Officials condemned the attack.
"The terrorists want to defame and destabilise the country with such attacks," KP Chief Minister Amir Haider Hoti said. "However, the government will eliminate them."
KP Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain voiced a similarly hard line. "Whatever they (militants) do, we will be countering them," he said. "We have promised (to protect) the public, and we will honour this promise."
"The only crime of the slain women was that they were supporting their families with their meager salaries by providing education and health facilities to the poor populace of the remote areas of Swabi," said an Islamabad-based social worker, Maria Ali.
"This is highly condemnable and shameful," she said. "Like the anti-polio vaccination workers, now teachers and lady health workers are being attacked only for contributing to society."
History of attacks on aid workers
Fear among Pakistani social workers increased after terrorists gunned down anti-polio teams in Karachi and Peshawar December 18, killing seven members, including six females. The seventh victim that day was a man in Peshawar.
One day later, terrorists killed a woman and man in Peshawar and Charsadda.
Those killings forced Pakistani authorities to suspend their anti-polio campaign. They are moving to resume the campaign with police protection.
However, the terrorists haven't let up, bombing the house of an anti-polio worker, Ashfaq, in Jamrud Sub-division, Khyber Agency, January 1.
In some tribal areas, authorities plan to send only men to carry out the vaccinations.
"As many as 622 teams have been constituted to vaccinate 222,480 children against polio," Bajaur Agency Assistant Surgeon Dr. Ikramullah Khan said. "The teams will be provided adequate security."