Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has written this letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education calling for an intervention in this case in Pakistan. The federal and provincial governments are not doing much beyond making sure that their coalition governments would not crumble down, women education be damned.
Those of who want to register their protest at this can go to this link and send out letters to the President, Prime Minister and concerned officials through AHRC’s urgent appeals system.
Here is the text of the letter, I have not added a single word.
Militants operating in Swat have threatened to blow-up all female schools if they are not closed by January 15, 2009 and have already started demolishing the schools. It is reported that the militants belong to Islamic fundamentalist organisations operating in Pakistan with their connections stretching across the border, into neighboring Afghanistan.
After the expiry of the deadline fixed by the militants, they have already blown-up six girls’ schools. During the year 2008 the fundamentalists, particularly the Taliban, have demolished 200 primary girls’ schools and around three dozen boys’ schools in different areas in the north of Pakistan, close to the border with Afghanistan.
According to the Aryana Institute of Regional Research and Advocacy, an organization based in Pakistan, the threat from the militant and fundamentalist organisations will deny an estimated 119,000 female students their fundamental right to education. Additionally it will also render an estimated 3,425 women teachers jobless.
The threat against educating the girl child and the destruction of schools come in the backdrop of a series of crimes committed with impunity by these militant organisations in the past several years in Pakistan. Man-slaughter, murders by beheading, land grabbing, social ostracism and extortion in the name of Islam are common incidents in some provinces of Pakistan like the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) and the North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) during the last several years.
It is also a common practice that these acts committed by the Islamic fundamentalist organisations are later sanctified by the tribal courts active in these regions called the Jirgas. Jirgas are notorious for their brutality and the misinterpretation of the Quran. Owing to this, and due to the complete absence of a properly functioning state apparatus in these regions, the ordinary people residing in these areas feel that they are under the siege of the militant groups. The majority of people feels besieged and shares a common feeling of abandonment by their country and the world.
The destruction or the closing down of the schools will deprive thousands of children of the Swat valley of NWFP, of their right to education. The abuse against the children and their families by the Islamic fundamentalists is also an act of denying their right to dignity, honor and peace of mind. The Government of Pakistan has thus far failed to provide any form of protection to the children and their families. In fact state agencies like the Pakistan Army has made use of the fear spread by Islamic militants in the region for their benefit.
It is also reported that in the past, state intelligence agencies and the army were involved in nurturing Islamic militant organisations in the region to fit the Government of Pakistan’s interest in the region’s politics. The nexus between the militants and the state agencies was close-knit particularly during the Afghan war. This relationship flourished further after the initiation of the so-called war against terror.
The change of political regime in Islamabad, from a dictatorship to a democracy, has made no dents to this illegal and dangerous relationship. This has left the people in high desperation concerning their life which continues at the mercy of Islamic militant organizations operating in these regions. The girls and their parents suffer the most due to this impasse.
I therefore urge you to provide immediate protection for the children and their families and take whatever actions in your capacity in order to secure their right to education.
What used to be a thriving school has now turned into ashes, dust and rubble …