February 2004 News

In light of school bombings, activists demand govt do more

25 February 2004
The Daily Times

LAHORE: Condemning the recent attacks on all-girl schools in the Northern Areas, human right activists are urging the government to do more against terrorism.Human Rights Commission of Pakistan's Secretary General Hina Jilani said the attacks threaten to end the already limited opportunities available to women in the Frontier, where the female literacy rate is less than three percent. She said work must be done to ensure children in rural communities are incorporated into the mainstream.'The random rounding up of a few activists or the deployment of police guards outside schools can do little to check violence in the longer term,' said Ms Jilani. 'Instead of more policing, it is vital that measures be adopted to curb the expansion of extremism, which has already badly disrupted life and has increased the air of intimidation.'Director of the Youth Commission for Human Rights Shazia Khan said the reason the attacks took place might have to do with the impression that social welfare organisations, which have stepped up work in the area, are working for foreign states.'Some local officials blame (the attacks on) people opposed to the education of girls. Others believe the latest incident shows a more general targeting of international aid agencies by people who regard these NGOs as un-Islamic,' said Ms Khan.She said the Punjab NGOs Coordination Council met recently and decided to visit the sites of the attacks. The fact-finding mission will present its report to the Minister for Northern Areas Affairs Aftab Ahmed Sherpao.A spokesperson for the ASR Resource Center in Lahore said the attacks were meant to discourage girls in rural areas from getting an education. 'Some elements had tried a few weeks ago to provoke sectarian violence in the Northern Areas by attempting to pit Shias against Sunnis,' said the spokesperson.Seven all-girl schools in Darel and Tangir were bombed two weeks ago. Another school in Chilas was bombed last week and militants attempted to burn down a school in Diamer last Saturday. Northern Areas police have arrested at least 19 suspects in the bombing of the seven community primary schools in Darel and Tangir.


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