Missionary school shut after warning
MINGORA, Sept 9: A Christian missionary girls’ school at Sangota was closed down for an indefinite period on Sunday after a letter threatening suicide attacks was issued purportedly by an extremist organisation.
The organisation charged the school’s administration of preaching Christianity and vulgarity among students.
The organisation Janisaran-e-Islam (Devotees of Islam) issued a two-page ‘red notice’ in Urdu language warning the Sangota Public School’s administration to wind up its activities and replace the Christian staff with Muslims within seven days or else face suicide attacks.
Local police enhanced security for the Christian staff, including some women Sri Lankan nationals, at the school.
“Keeping in view the current uncertain situation in the area we have decided to close down the school for an indefinite period,” the acting principal Ms Seema said. She added that the school would reopen after the situation improved.
Principal Ms Constantine, hailing from Sri Lanka, was on leave. Two other Sri Lankan staffers were Ms Welmarina and Ms Moraine.
“We have taken appropriate measures for the safety of the staff and have enhanced the number of policemen deputed at the school,Â” DSP Mingora Abdul Kalam told Dawn.
The school was established in 1954 and was currently educating 950 girl students out of which 215 were boarders.
The school was gifted by the British Government to the then Wali of Swat and was initially co-ed, but since 1998, it had only been admitting girl students.
Hostel students have started leaving the school fearing attacks. Some students regretted that it was unjust on part of the militant organisations to deprive them of seeking education.
The militant group had on Saturday sent the letter to the local press club directing it to publish it in newspapers. Earlier, similar letters were sent to different people, including video and CD shops, hairdressers, net cafes, nurses, girls’ schools and organisations dealing with population planning. Some shops and infrastructures were targeted when their warnings were ignored.
In the letter, the extremist organisation warned the school administration to replace male and Christian students with Muslims and ordered the school shut till such an arrangement was in place. It added that students should be clad in burqa while going to school and younger girls should wear head-scarves. They warned parents that if any student was seen without a burqa then they would target them with suicide attacks.
The organisation levelled serious allegations against the school’s administration alleging that hostel students were being taken to the church located inside the school during the night.
Moreover, it added that students were being encouraged to use the Internet, which they used for chatting and viewing vulgar pictures.
The organisation alleged that girl students of class fourth and fifth were being taught by women teachers whereas males had been recruited for higher classes.
The militants warned guardians of the students of dire consequences if their demands were not fulfilled.