15 December, 2010

Attacks on educationists hamper progress in Balochistan: HRW repprt

Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD: Nationalist, sectarian and militant groups are engaged in killing of teachers and harming educational institutions resulting in hampering development in Balochistan, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report released here on Monday.

The 40-page HRW report, "Their Future is at Stake: Attacks on Teachers and Schools in Pakistan's Balochistan Province," documents the killing of at least 22 teachers and other education personnel by suspected militants between January 2008 and October 2010 in Balochistan.

“To educate or to seek education in Balochistan today means risking your life and your family’s,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, senior South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“By perpetrating such atrocities, Baloch nationalists are harming Balochistan’s development instead of advancing it,” he added.

According to the report, since 2008, more than 200 teachers and professors have either transferred to Quetta or have moved out of the province entirely. Nearly 200 others are in the process of making such transfers.

Speaking at the report launch, Hussain Naqi of HRCP said, a series of separatist violence, sectarian attacks and killings blamed on the Taliban or other militant groups is “severely harming education in Balochistan.”
"Militant groups' grievances against the Pakistani state are no excuse for shooting teachers dead," said Hasan of HRW. "By killing teachers, harming students, and targeting schools, militants only increase Balochistan's problems and deprive its youth of the benefits of education."
Salima Hashmi, Vice chairperson of HRCP (in Punjab) said the report is a warning for the state to take immediate measures to counter surge in militancy.
Talking to Pakistan Observer, Salima Hashmi commented the report is “an advice for groups in conflict to not to target educational institutions which can prove to be an asset for the groups as well as the whole region”

In ethnic Baloch areas, schools are often understaffed, so any further loss of teachers severely jeopardises children’s chances of an education. HRW also said that many teachers who stay on the job complain about being so preoccupied by security, “apart from the report some 1000 teachers have made queries on an unofficial level” said Hasan.

Kamran Asif of HRCP believed that the report briefly monitored a complicated issue of militancy in educational institutes which is affecting the common people of Balochistan as well as stopping development of the province.

The speakers urged that militant groups in Balochistan province should immediately stop killing, threatening, and harassing teachers and other educators.
“Targeting school is a war crime in international law, a serious human rights violation” stressed Hasan while talking to media person at the report launch. The province is at a brink of collapse because of assaulted arm groups who target school – the symbol of state, he added.

The education sector has been targeted disproportionately because militants view them as representatives of the Pakistani state and symbols of perceived Punjabi military oppression, said HRW in its new 40-page report documenting dozens of attacks.

Although killings and abuses have been directed at individuals from all professions, education establishments, personnel, and students but particularly directed at ethnic Punjabis. In one example, the Baloch Liberation Army claimed responsibility for the shooting death of Anwar Baig, a teacher, in Kalat in June 2009, because he supposedly opposed recitation of the Baloch nationalist anthem and hoisting the nationalist flag, instead of the Pakistani flag, in his school.

The report is based on interviews with teachers, students, victims' families and friends, and government officials in Balochistan - describes these attacks and their consequences for the quality of education in the province.