A large number of schools across Pakistan were shut on Thursday as government agencies warned of a possible attack on educational institutions a week after Taliban fighters killed 21 people at the Bacha Khan University.
“There is a scare across the country and school authorities are not taking any chances,” said Mirza Kashif of the All Pakistan Private School Federation.
Schools run by the army have been closed for more than a week, with authorities putting in place elaborate security measures in response to the threat. The number of students affected by the threat runs into hundreds of thousands.
The chairman of the Defence Authority in Karachi, Brig Zubair Ahmed, said no stone will be left unturned to ensure the safety of children. “We are introducing metal detectors and guards at the gate as well as snipers on the roofs of the schools,” he said.
The schools that remained open reported thin attendance, and authorities said social media played a major role in causing a scare and panic among parents.
Norbert Almedia, a security analyst, commented no one in Pakistan felt safe any more. “We have guards in homes, offices, mosques and now schools,” he said. “What else is there left to guard?”
But parents described the idea of introducing guards and snipers at schools as absurd. Adeeb Javedani of the Karachi-based Private School Parents Association said the answer to the threat would be to “secure the country, not just the schools”.
“People have to realise Pakistan is in a state of war and the enemy can target all vulnerable targets,” he said.
Authorities have said they cannot set a date for the reopening of schools. “It is a matter for schools to decide. Our job is to ensure that the measures we have asked for are introduced in schools,” said police official Javed Odho.
“It can be any school and anywhere,” said Odho, who confirmed threats had been received against some schools in Lahore and Islamabad.
A faction of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan that claimed the January 20 strike on the Bacha Khan University has threatened to carry out more attacks across the country.
The leader of the group, Umar Mansoor, said in a video released on social media that last week’s assault was just the start and promised that his followers would hit the “evil democratic system” at its base by targeting educational institutions.