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Guards will be armed, watch for suspicious vehicles and bags
By Javed Aziz Khan
PESHAWAR – After the terrorist attack on the Government Girls Degree College in Lund Khwar March 1, the Swabi District administration in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) has directed the heads of all girls’ schools and colleges to beef up security. Officials in neighbouring districts have similarly warned their girls’ schools.
Principals and headmistresses of all Swabi girls’ colleges, high and higher secondary schools, and even middle schools received a circular from district co-ordination officers ordering them to arm their watchmen. The circular told the educators to purchase weapons with school funds if guards lacked arms.
“We have received (that) letter,” said Farzana Begum, headmistress of Dobian Girls High School in Swabi District. “On March 7, during our meeting with the executive district education officer (EDO), we were also directed to keep the security of the children the top-most priority.”
The EDO informed about 60 school chiefs in Swabi District of security threats and directed them to ask police to protect their schools.
“In schools where there are no police personnel deputed, the headmistresses were asked to arm their watchmen,” said a Swabi District headmistress who requested anonymity.
“Police visited our school the other day and met the headmistress,” said Saira Inam, a teacher at a government-run school in Mardan cantonment. “They asked the administration to notify local police if there is any kind of event planned at the school so (police) can arrange security.”
Various tactics proposed
Authorities have proposed various security tactics, such as deploying guards on the rooftops so that they can detect suspicious movement around buildings and stop attacks in time.
They also told educators not to let any suspicious vehicles or bags near a school.
“We have been directed by the headmistress not to allow any vehicle to park near our building. Also, we have been directed to keep eye on any suspicious movement, especially during off time, after the girls return home,” said Saleem Khan, a watchman for a girls’ primary school in Garhi Qamardin.
The measures come after a March 1 attack on a bus from the Girls Degree College in Lund Khwar after a farewell function for graduating students. The town borders troubled areas of Malakand Division.
At least 35 students were injured when six men hurled grenades and opened fire at the bus. Besides Swabi District, officials in Mardan, Charsadda, Nowshera, Peshawar and several other districts have strengthened security for girls’ schools and colleges after threats of more attacks.
“A police van with four to six cops on board is deployed outside our college during off time in the afternoon,” said Zarina, a Mardan College student.
Militants, who oppose female education, have targeted girls’ educational institutions for years. During a recent session of the KP assembly, lawmakers were told militants had destroyed or damaged more than 710 schools in the past two years, 640 of them in Malakand Division.
Most of those schools had no security guards; a survey by the NGO Free and Fair Election Network disclosed that 72% of 106 girls’ middle schools examined nationwide share that plight.
“We have directed all the concerned police stations to keep patrolling the girls’ schools, especially during their off time, so nothing untoward would happen,” said Waqar Ahmad, a Peshawar senior police officer.