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Bacha Khan Univ reopens after Taliban attack; teachers allowed guns

Bacha Khan University in northwest Pakistan where Taliban gunmen killed at least 20 people in January reopened for classes on Monday with only teachers allowed to carry weapons.

world Updated: Feb 15, 2016 19:03 IST
Bacha Khan University,Taliban gunmen,University under attack
Pakistani students walk past a banner bearing the images of victims of the Talibani attack on Bacha Khan University, after it was reopened on Monday. (AFP)

Bacha Khan University in northwest Pakistan where Taliban gunmen killed at least 20 people in January reopened for classes on Monday with only teachers allowed to carry weapons.

Pakistani Taliban militants have threatened more assaults on schools and universities since the January 20 attack on the university in Charsadda, fuelling a growing sense of insecurity in the country.

The attack had reminded Pakistanis of the horrors that took place a little over a year earlier, when militants massacred 134 pupils at an army school 31 km away, in Peshawar, the main city in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Before Monday’s reopening, the university took extra security measures including installing new CCTV cameras, hiring more armed guards, and raising the height of boundary walls, the vice chancellor Fazal Rahim Marwat told Reuters.

The university also decided that teachers could continue to carry their own licensed weapons as long as they do not display them in classrooms, Marwat said.

Pakistani sutdents walk through Bacha Khan university after it was reopened in the northwestern town of Charsadda on February 15, 2016. A Pakistani university attacked in January 2016 by the Taliban reopened on February 15, guarded by hundreds of police, highlighting a pervasive atmosphere of fear after the Islamist group vowed more strikes on schools. Gunmen stormed Bacha Khan university in the northwestern town of Charsadda on January 20, killing teachers and students in a rampage that left 21 dead. AFP PHOTO / A MAJEED (AFP)

A chemistry professor who was killed during last month’s assault had been lauded as a hero for firing back at the attackers. But Marwat said the school decided to reject a request from some teachers to issue them firearms.

“After taking whatever security measures were possible for protection of students and faculty members, we opened the university today for classes,” Marwat said.

Read | Pakistanis say time for tough questions instead of blaming India

Students who owned weapons had to submit them at the entrance of the campus, he said.

Firearms are easily available in northwest Pakistan, and gun ownership is ingrained in the culture of Pashtun tribes of the region.

Many of the returning students arrived at the campus with their parents and relatives, who waited while they went to classes. Several, however, were still too traumatised to attend school or were made to stay home by scared parents.

“I know the university has been opened today, but my parents didn’t allow me to go today,” said student Ihsanullah Khan. “I am not afraid and will definitely join my friends very soon.”

Vice chancellor Marwat said the university had arranged counselling sessions for students and for recreational trips elsewhere in the country.

Read | Attack on university was attack on Pakistan, says PM Nawaz Sharif

The Pakistani army said the attack on the university was masterminded by Umar Mansoor, a Pakistani Taliban militant based in Afghanistan, who was also blamed for the Peshawar school massacre.

The Pakistani Taliban are fighting to topple the government and install a strict interpretation of Islamic law.

On Monday, an IED blast in Pakistan’s volatile South Waziristan region on the border with Afghanistan left one paramilitary soldier dead and three injured.

First Published: Feb 15, 2016 19:02 IST