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Underground Religious Group Warns Against Girls’ Education in Panjgur

By Malik Siraj Akbar

Visit TheBalochHal for full story, links and photos: Underground Religious Group Warns Against Girls’ Education in Panjgur

PANJGUR: An underground religious extremist group has warned all private schools in Balochistan’s western Panjgur district to completely shut down girls’ education or prepare for ‘the worst consequences as prescribed in the Quran”.

Several private schools have temporarily shut down while hundreds of girls have stopped going to school in the wake of threats issued by an underground religious extremist group that has called for a complete end to girls’ education at private institutions.

The hitherto unknown organization that calls itself, Tanzeem-ul-Islami-ul-Furqan, has circulated a list of the heads of the private schools in a threatening letter that has alleged them of corrupting the characters of the local girls by imparting western education.

“Private schools should completely stop girls’ education—both co-education and separate education,” warned the letter (pictured below), adding, “we also urge all van and taxi drivers to refrain from taking girls to schools. Otherwise, they will also be targeted.”

Local residents say Panjgur has become the epicenter of Baloch nationalist movement where the government is pitting Islamic extremist groups to counter secular nationalist forces.

The latest warning letter said any individual teacher or institution that defied the warning and continued with girls’ education would be deemed as an enemy of Islam and therefore punished.

Once ranked among the most educated districts of Balochistan, Panjgur, according to a local resident, had not seen such widespread panic among school administrators and the students.

A warning letter has been issued to all private schools in Panjgur against girls’ education

Prior to this warning, unidentified people had attacked a private school in Washbood township last week which was then followed by another such attack on Ideal Public school.

“All these attacks seem to be a part of the fresh campaign against girls’ education,” said the head of a local school who also confirmed receiving threats on his phone. He said he had been instructed to shut down his school where hundreds of girls are currently enrolled.

“When I asked the reasons for their demand to stop educating the female students,” he revealed, “they spoke rudely and said they would teach me a lesson if I did not stop educating girls.” He added that over the past many years, his school had educated tends of thousands of girls and a sudden closure would be a ‘national tragedy’.

Meanwhile, representatives of various private schools met with the district administration officials on Monday to inform them about the warnings they have received from the underground extremist group.

“The local government did not offer us any assurances of protection from any future attacks,” regretted one participant of the meeting.

“We appeal to the provincial and federal governments, the non-governmental organizations and the media to take notice of the threats to girls’ education in Panjgur. If we are not provided timely protection, the academic lives of hundreds of girls currently studying at our schools will be disrupted,” said one head of a private school whose name has also been mentioned in the threatening mail.

The private schools in Panjgur have enjoyed a good reputation for churning out qualified female students who have successfully passed examinations at medical, engineering, law colleges and other provincial and federal services.

Zahir Hussain Baloch, founder of The Oasis Academy that revolutionized the women's education landscape in Mekran.

Zahir Hussain Baloch, the founder of The Oasis Academy, Panjgur

Panjgur gained attention for the first time 15 years ago when Zahir Hussain, a U.S.-educated local resident, opened the first private school which was then called the American English Language Center. Former Balochistan Governor Amir-ul-Mulk Mengal visited the American English Language Center which was subsequently renamed as The Oasis Academy.

The Governor lauded the Academy and praised the services of Mr. Hussain, the founder of the institute. Led by Mr. Hussain, Panjgur’s educational change soon spread across Balochistan, particularly in the neighboring districts of Kech and Gwadar.

“The biggest contribution of Mr. Hussain was the opening of doors for girls education in this remote area,” said Amjad Ali, a social activist, “he set such a precedence that thousands of other girls started going to school.”

The warning letter from the underground group also included the name of Mr. Hussain, who has been widely revered as the pioneer of modern education in Mekeran.

Editor-in-chief The Baloch Hal; Huffington Post writer; Former Hubert Humphrey Fellow; ex-Reagan Fascell Democracy Fellow at National Endowment for Democracy. Washington DC.

Faiz Baluch