Hundreds of schools closed in Pakistani Punjab over security concerns

  • Imtiaz Ahmad, Hindustan Times, Islamabad
  • Updated: Feb 01, 2016 19:10 IST
A police officer stands guard as children make their way to school in Lahore. (AP)

Hundreds of primary and secondary schools in Pakistan’s Punjab province remained closed while those in other provinces reopened on Monday as school associations battled with authorities over demands for stricter security.

The All Pakistan Private Schools Federation (APPSF) announced that private schools would reopen across Punjab only if chief minister Shahbaz Sharif withdraws cases registered against schools for not having proper security arrangements.

APPSF president Kashif Mirza told the media, “We are responsible for education. The government is responsible for security.”

The new security measures were introduced after Taliban fighters stormed Bacha Khan University in the country’s northwest on January 20, killing 21 people. The attack came a little more than a year after 141 people, most of them children, were massacred at a school in Peshawar.

While the federal interior ministry has asked all schools to reopen, many have been charged with not having adequate security procedures and closed by local police. Police officials inspected a number of schools and insisted that perimeter walls be raised, metal detectors be installed and snipers be placed on roofs.

Mirza said this means additional money which the government expects the schools to provide. “They have even offered to place policemen on rooftops but only if we give them extra money,” he said.

Parents of many schools have in turn blamed school authorities for raising fees and charges on grounds of security. Parents complained that an additional surcharge was imposed on school fees in February on the grounds that the institutions were introducing new security measures.

In all this, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told a meeting in Islamabad that the national resolve to fight terrorism and extremism is unflinching and “those threatening our children from going to schools will be defeated”. He said this during a meeting with army chief Gen Raheel Sharif.

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