Amid terror shadow, Pakistan shuts educational institutions


Islamabad : All government and private schools, colleges and universities throughout Pakistan have been closed after fears of terror attacks sparked by the twin suicide bombings at a university campus here, officials said.

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The News Wednesday quoted the officials as saying that all educational institutions will remain closed till the security situation improves in the country.

All schools run by the armed forces have been shut since Sunday in the wake of the military offensive against the Taliban in South Waziristan that began Saturday.

The government’s latest move comes after at least six people, including two women students and two suicide bombers, were killed and several others injured in synchronised suicide bombings at the International Islamic University here Tuesday afternoon when thousands of students were in the sprawling campus.

The Punjab government has decided that all educational institutions in the province would remain closed till further orders.

The decision was taken during a meeting presided over by Zulfiqar Khosa, the senior advisor to the Punjab chief minister.

The Punjab government has also directed the security agencies and concerned departments to take steps on a war-footing to ensure security arrangements in the educational institutions.

“The decision to reopen educational institutions will be taken only after ensuring a satisfactory security situation,” Ayyaz Sadiq, a member of the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, told The News.

The Punjab government would meet daily and seek inputs from the police and the home, education, health and other related departments on the security situation in educational institutions, he added.

In Sindh, Education Secretary Rizwan Memon said all schools and colleges have shut until Sunday. “The decision has been taken to avoid any untoward incident in (the) wake of (the) current security situation in the country particularly after the attack in Islamabad.”

Many private schools in Islamabad and adjacent Rawalpindi informed parents by telephone they were shutting down temporarily for security reasons.

In the North West Frontier Province, the provincial government spokesperson said all private and state-run schools and colleges had been closed for five days.

The Balochistan education minister also said educational institutions would remain closed till Sunday.

The twin bombings at the Islamabad university took place amid heightened security following the Pakistani military launching a major offensive against the Taliban, which has vowed retaliation over US drone attacks. Pakistan has been subjected to a wave of terror attacks in the last fortnight.

DPA adds: Intelligence officials said Wednesday that troops were engaged in fierce fighting at Kotkai, the birth place of Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud and also the home town of Taliban commander Qari Hussain, known as the “mentor of suicide bombers”.

“There are reports of fresh casualties but we don’t have the numbers,” said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Major General Athar Abbas, the military’s chief spokesman, said the security forces positioned on high land were engaged in “an envelopment manoeuvre” around Kotkai, which is on the route to another rebel stronghold – Sararogha.

The army says it has killed up to 90 militants and suffered 13 casualties since the start of the offensive, but the Taliban rejects the claims. Independent verification is unavailable as journalists are not allowed into the battle zone.

More than 30,000 soldiers, backed by jet aircraft, helicopter gunships and artillery, are taking on around 10,000 insurgents, with an Al Qaeda contingent of up to 1,500 men, mostly Uzbeks and Arabs.

The operation, codenamed Path to Deliverance, was launched following a string of brazen assaults on Pakistani security forces and other targets, including UN offices that have killed more than 160 people since Oct 5.

Authorities are bracing for more violence amid new intelligence about terrorist attacks, most probably hostage situations.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has condemned the wave of terrorist strikes, vowing that “the operation against the terrorists in Waziristan and other areas will continue till their complete elimination”.