Pakistan policeman killed during hunt for school attackers

In wake of attacks on 14 schools, watchdog urges Pakistan to join 80 countries club that has endorsed Oslo ‘Safe Schools Declaration’

Islamabad: After the deadliest attacks on schools on Friday and Saturday in Diamer district of Gilgit-Baltistan, Human Rights Watch has asked the Pakistan government to take stringent measures for the safety of schools, particularly of girls, and bring to justice all those responsible for attacks against students, teachers and schools.

Over two days of attacks by militants, 14 schools — the majority of them institutions for girls — were ransacked, torched and destroyed.

Meanwhile a constable died, while a suspected militant was killed in exchanges of fire,

during a late night raid on a house, Saturday, in the Tanger Tehsil area of Diamer district.

Two other suspects were arrested, as security personnel searched for the culprits.

In a statement, Human Rights Watch has asked Pakistan government to join the 80 countries club that has endorsed the ‘Safe Schools Declaration’, a non-binding political agreement reached in Oslo, Norway, in May 2015.

Countries that endorse the ‘Safe Schools Declaration’ pledge to restore access to education when schools are attacked and undertake measures to make it less likely that students, teachers and schools will be attacked.

The member countries have also agreed to deter such attacks by promising to investigate and try criminals involved in attack on schools.

Pakistan faces significant education challenges with an estimated 25 million out-of-school children.

Incidents of terrorism and militancy have disrupted education of hundreds of thousands of children, particularly girls.

There is a constant threat from Islamist groups, including the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and their affiliates, which attack schools and universities to particularly drive girls out of school.

In its statement, Human Rights Watch said militants have previously targeted girls’ schools in Diamer district. In February 2004, attackers destroyed nine schools, eight of them for girls. Explosives hit two girls’ schools in December 2011.

An NGO working for in education sector “Alif Ailaan” has also reported that Diamer was the lowest-ranked district in terms of quality of education in Gilgit-Baltistan, and was among the 10 lowest ranked in the country.

According to the report, only 3,479 girls are among the 16,800 students enrolled in government schools in the district which has 88 government schools for girls and 156 for boys.

Moreover, the government says it does not collect specific data on attacks on schools and universities, or on deaths and injuries from such attacks.

The government’s failure to keep consistent and transparent national data about such attacks has also raised serious concerns about its ability to track repairs of damaged schools, identify trends that could help create measures to protect schools, or investigate and prosecute those responsible, said the Human Rights Watch.

The watchdog has urged the Pakistan government to develop a comprehensive policy for protecting students, especially girls, as well as teachers, schools and universities from attacks.

Unicef Pakistan has also condemned the ransacking and torching of schools, most of which were girls’ schools in Diamer district. It said education was a fundamental right of every girl and boy and attacks on schools rob children of their basic right to education and have a devastating impact on their lives.


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