Education emergency: In a first, private school comes under attack in Turbat

The Express Tribune, September 3, 2014

QUETTA: Armed men torched a private school in the Dasht area of Turbat, a western district of Balochistan, late Monday night. The men also set an estimated 150 textbooks on fire before escaping. This is the first-ever attack on a private school in Turbat. Earlier, schools had been targeted in Panjgur.

A group calling itself ‘Al Jihad’ claimed responsibility for the attack. The group distributed pamphlets with warnings that private schools should “stop imparting Western education, particularly in English” to children in the school after the attack. The group claimed the attack was part of a ‘holy war’ against Western-style education.

“The armed men barged into Gurbam private school after 10pm on Monday. They set fire to the principal’s office and burnt textbooks, five computers, three chairs and school records,” a senior official at Turbat Levies station said. Gurbam is a co-educational school and offers classes taught in English during the evening to more than 400 students.

“There should only be religious education in this school and no one should dare to impart education in English,” the pamphlet states.

Turbat Levies said a case has not been registered yet but Levies personnel are investigating the incident. “There have been no such attacks in hundreds of years here,” said a Levies official.

Many students have migrated from Panjgur and Turbat to Quetta or Karachi after an increasing number of attacks on schools and colleges here. Many suspect the attacks are carried out by groups from outside the area. Schools in Panjgur opened last month after remaining closed for three months due to attacks.

According to local residents, religious wall chalking in Turbat had increased over the past few weeks and the armed group was specifically targeting private schools and English language centres in the area.

By Shezad Baloch