Quetta, Sept. 9, 2014 (TSR) – Unknown armed men in Balochistan Province opened fire on a Zikri sect worship place and killed six people while setting ablaze a private school Gwarbaam in the same locality, locals of the area said.
Locals said unidentified men, armed with guns and petrol bombs stormed the school in broad daylight and attacked the shrine at night with automatic weapons killing six as a result of that.
The two attacks took place in a remote district in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan’s province two months after 35 private schools and 30 language centers providing coeducation were shut down in Panjgoor town nearing Iranian border.
“It was around 10:00 am when the gunmen came and destroyed the school. The most painful part is that a large number of children were present inside the school when it was burnt into ashes,” District police officer (DPO) Basheer Ahmed Brohi told the media.
Over the past two months, scores of private school buildings have been burnt up in Panjgoor and Turbat, restive parts of southwestern Pakistan, by the ISIS and Boko Haram affiliate extremists who are seeking to impose a radical Islamic law and challenge the authority of the government.
The latest incident of burning school occurred when at Ballnigwar area of District Kech providing western style education to children as a result of which all furniture; record and other equipment of the school were burnt to ashes.
Most of the schools in Mekran division were set ablaze after distributing pamphlets attributed to little known organizations like ‘Aljihad’ and Tanzeemul Furqan Islam warning of possible attacks to all those schools providing western and American style education.
According to the Education Department more than 3500 male and female students are being affected due to the current wave of violence against coeducation system in Balochistan’s Mekran division that include Turbat, Gwadar and Panjgoor.
Hotbed of Insurgency
Mekran is among the poorest division of Balochistan extremely backward in economic, social, health and education indicators. Considered to be a secular and the intellectual part of Balochistan, Mekran is beleaguered by nationalist insurgency and violent attacks by militants since 2006. Kech also known as Turbat is considered to be one of the most militancy hit district of Mekran division.
Most of the leaders waging a war against State of Pakistan are from Mekran, one of most insurgency hit division of Balochistan province. Panjgoor is among the second largest districts of Mekran with respect to population after Turbat where every day, people wake up to find dead bodies, who have been allegedly killed by Pakistani state instruments like the frontier corps (FC) for their alleged involvement in a insurgency against the State. There is no significant presence of tribal social organizations or sardari [leadership] in Mekran – the districts of Kech, Panjgoor and Gwadar. These districts are relatively developed, and people are well-connected to Karachi and Gulf cities.
Despite remaining centre for militancy of the Baloch nationalist insurgency and battleground for military offensives, girls’ education institutions, Zekri pilgrims and associated facilitates have never been assaulted in the past in Mekran division. Sadly, it seems, all of that has changed now.
A conspiracy to damage education in the region
Panjgoor and Turbat districts of Balochistan are considered to be the intellectual hub of Mekran division as a huge number of male and female students are enrolled at different universities and colleges of Pakistan’s Capital Islamabad and Lahore.
Haji Islam Baloch, elected member of Balochistan’s provincial assembly from Panjgoor town sees this threat a conspiracy against the education system, he believes under a folded plan plot the children of Mekran disvison are being pushed to the walls. Mr. Baloch thinks some hidden force want to destroy the future of young generation who are becoming educated.
While Baloch nationalists believe this is a conspiracy for orchestrating the insurgency with fundamentalists, in a bid to crush Baloch nationalism. Education is being destroyed in Mekran Division, forcing the teachers to take to streets and observe strikes,” Mr. Islam, a legislator of provincial assembly believes it is a huge cruelty with Balochistan where education sector is already in a pathetic condition.
Poor State of Education
Balochistan, the mineral rich province with a little population of only 9 million lags behind the other three provinces of Pakistan in the field of quality education with a lowest rank in terms of the male and the female literacy rates, as well as in the Gender Parity Index.
Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) for year 2013 showed that 71pc schools in the province are without the facility of drinking water, 75pc schools have no boundary plus walls while 83pc schools of the province lack toilet facility.
The report further says that only 7pc schools in the militancy ridden province are equipped with the facility of computer labs, 23pc had libraries and 18pc playgrounds. It further said the majority of schools did not receive grants in 2013.
Secretary education Baluchistan Gulam Ali Baloch tells out of 3.6 million children in the province only 1.3 go to schools however ASER reports shows that 81pc of the children of three to five years were currently not enrolled in any early childhood schooling in the province.
Educationalists in the province believe Poverty, rotten law and order situation, financial and social barriers with the apathetic attitude of federal and provincial governments are major reasons contributing to the poor state of education system in the province.
Mushroom growth of Islamic seminaries in the province
A large number of parents in remote and undeveloped areas choose to send their children to seminaries (madrassahs) due to the lack of proper secular schools in the region.
Saleem Ullah, 42, a laborer in profession from Dasht area nearing Iranian border has admitted his two children in a Islamic seminary providing radical education to the children. Mr. Saleem argues he has opted to send his children in a seminary because they provide food, accommodation and other facilities, something which schools cannot.
Getting secular or modern education is considered to be a great achievement in some parts of Balochistan province as most rural areas lack proper educational institutions. A huge number of children in poor- settlements of Balochistan spend their lives in working on daily wages to feed their impoverished families or go to madrassah’s to get religious education. Sources in education department of Balochistan tell there were more than 10,000 unregistered Islamic seminaries in the province among the 10,000, 3000 were constructed during the era of military dictator and former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf’s regime.
Mr. Saleem whose two son study in a seminary in Mand Tehsil of district Kech, which borders with neighboring Iran tells this scribe that schools run by government lack proper facilities of accommodations, books and food to poor students but all religious seminaries provide each and every facilities to the students.