Religious Extremism Threatens Panjgur Education

The charming town of Panjgur used to be the intellectual hub of Makran Division before a violent separatist campaign began by Baloch insurgents.

panjgur-education-pakistanGirls education has not resumed in Panjgur, a district in the west Balochistan province of Pakistan, despite several statements and actions made by Abdul Malik Baloch, chief minister of Balochistan.

Hundreds of the students in troubled Panjgur have been deprived of their scheduled classes’ routine work after a little known religious organization called Tanzeem-ul-Islami-ul-Furqan, threatened to attack the region’s private schools and coaching centers. Islamic militants have targeted and threatened these institutions for offering English courses and allowing gender co-education.

The militants previously had issued a pamphlet threatening all the students of Panjgur in general and the girls in particular that they should stay away from the Western education. As a result, about 35 private schools and 30 language centers are unlikely to open their doors. More than a month has passed and none of the schools or centers have reopened.

Zahir Hussain, an academic from Panjgur says, “We have made it clear to the authorities concerned that religious extremists threats have put the future of our new generation at stake as hundreds of students will be deprived of education.”

He said up to 300,000 students are being affected. The leaflets inscribed on a town’s famous points and walls also asked the parents to stop sending their children to the institutions imparting Western style education in the region. “No school should open with co-education,” the pamphlet warns. Even the restive areas of the district have also been warned. Two of the schools and an vehicle carrying female students to their institutions have been burnt to ashes by the militants.

Considering the severity of the situation, Balochistan’s Chief Minister has imposed an educational emergency. He has also taken a stern notice of the threats but practical measures are yet to be taken in order to expose and punish the culprits.

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The Baloch insurgents waging a war against Pakistan for the rights of their people have started a counter-campaign to protect education in the province and resist the extremists’ blitz. Balochistan Republican Army (BRA), a militant organization seeking separation from Pakistan, openly announced a war against the extremist groups and vows to protect the education system in the region.

Mushtaq Gichki, a lecturer of Zoology at Panjgur Degree College talking to this scribe through the telephone says they are left with no option but to stop sending their children to the schools as the government has badly failed to ensure security while religious extremists and the owners of Islamic seminaries run a parallel government in Balochistan and they have the power to execute anyone who opposes them.

The charming town of Panjgur with long date palm trees only a few miles away from Iran used to be the intellectual hub of Makran Division before a violent separatist campaign began by Baloch insurgents.

Although the people of this small populated area want to educate their children — both males-females — for the first time in the last weeks thousands of people took to the streets protesting against the intimidation.

Shah Meer completed a master’s in International Relations from the National University of Modern Languages and Sciences, Islamabad and is an active human rights activist. Read other articles by Shah.