Pakistan: Taliban’s Southern March In Balochistan – Analysis By Ambreen Agha
Balochistan had not recorded any terrorist or insurgent attacks on education facilities till this point. This new threat further compounds the already poor educational access and high dropout rate in the Province
Pakistan: Taliban’s Southern March In Balochistan –
May 26, 2014
By Ambreen Agha
Exploiting the restive and conflict ridden environment in Balochistan, terrorist outfits that share their ideology with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) are spreading their influence in the Province. The TTP and its proxies, as SAIR has noted earlier, have long had a strong base in the northern part of the Province. In the recent past, however, they have extended their networks into the Makran Division, including Turbat, Panjgur and Gwadar Districts, which lies deep in the South Balochistan. Significantly, the region has witnessed attacks on private schools with the extremists professing abhorrence for western and girls’ education.
On May 21, 2014, at least six people, including a Government school teacher, identified as Master Hameed, were shot dead when terrorists entered his residence and opened fire, killing him and five of his relatives in the Dasht area of Turbat District. The attack came in the wake of threatening letters sent to private schools by a newly surfaced terrorist group, Tanzeem-ul-Islami-ul-Furqan (Organisation of the creation of Islam) in Panjgur District, warning the people to completely shut down girls’ education or to prepare themselves for “the worst consequences as prescribed in the Quran”.
Earlier, on May 13, 2014, four armed TIF terrorists, wearing headbands with Allah-o-Akbar (Allah is Great) imprinted on them, set ablaze the vehicle of Major (Retired) Hussain Ali, owner of The Oasis School, in the same District, while he was driving girls to school. The masked terrorists asked him and the girls to de-board the vehicle, before setting it ablaze.
On May 7, 2014, TIF threatened 23 English Language Learning Centres in Panjgur to shut down and stop imparting co-education and teaching in English, which they referred as “Haram (forbidden) in Islam”. In their letter, TIF warned, “Private schools should completely stop girls’ education, both co-education and separate education. We urge all van and taxi drivers to refrain from taking girls to schools. Otherwise, they will also be targeted… Any institution or persons defying the warning will be deemed as an enemy of Islam and therefore punished.” On the same day, masked terrorists barged into a language centre, threatening the teachers and young male and female students against co-education and learning English, and destroyed the school’s furniture and textbooks.
In the aftermath of the May 13 attack, some 2,000 protesters marched through the streets in the District on May 14, raising slogans against TIF and its radical ideology, demanding that the Government immediately arrest the terrorists who had been threatening private schools. The head of a local school, who confirmed receiving threats over the phone, stated, on condition of anonymity, “All these attacks seem to be a part of the fresh campaign against girls’ education.” Narrating his experience, he disclosed that he had been instructed by the terrorists to shut down his school where hundreds of girls were currently enrolled. Calling the closure of the girls’ school a “national tragedy” he recounted, “When I asked the reasons for their demand to stop educating the female students, they spoke rudely and said they would teach me a lesson if I did not stop educating girls.”
These attacks in Panjgur and Turbat Districts indicate the penetration of the Taliban ideology of intolerance and religious bigotry into the Southern regions of Balochistan, which had, thus far, escaped the influence of TTP and its likes. South Balochistan was affected by the Baloch nationalist insurgency, while the North had been under the influence of Islamist terrorist formations, including the TTP and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ).