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Militants target “Western entertainment” shops, girls’ schools

The destroyed remains of a tailoring shop in NWFP targeted by extemists for sewing women's clothes.
(Kamila Hyat/IRIN)

Driving across Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province (NWFP), which lies along the country’s western border with Afghanistan, more and more often, in the bazaars of small towns such as Kohat, Bannu or Tank, ruined buildings stand desolately, resembling a scene of war.

Now such scenes are also becoming more commonplace in Peshawar, NWFP’s provincial capital and a city of over two million people: Most of the affected buildings are shops that once sold music CDs, video or DVD films, or housed tailoring businesses.

All have been targeted by militants who hold “Western entertainment”, or the stitching of women’s clothes by male tailors, a violation of religious principles.

Earlier this month, for example, militants targeted three shops selling CDs on the busy Kohat Road in Peshawar, using homemade explosives to damage them and force their closure. “Fortunately no one was injured this time, but who knows what militants can do next,” Firdaus Ahmed, a nearby shopkeeper, said.

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Girls’ schools have also become a target. At least six schools were attacked in the Darra Adam Khel area, about 35km south of Peshawar, in 2008, badly affecting girls’ education, with parents terrified to send their daughters to school.

“These attacks on education are very alarming for people and of course pupils suffer badly,” Iqbal Haider, co-chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, told IRIN, calling for measures to combat the threat.

Women activists and non-governmental organisations active in the promotion of women’s education, including the Peshawar-based Khwendo Kor, which sets up schools for girls in remote parts of the NWFP, have also been targeted in the past.

A recent bomb attack on a girls’ middle school in the Germany Qila area of Darra Adam Khel on 28 March badly damaged the building. At least five other schools have also been hit in the area, with the blasts timed to avoid loss of life while destroying buildings.


Photo: David Swanson/IRIN
Recent attacks have had a negative impact on girls’ education

The purpose is to keep female students out of school, local observers said. In some cases letters had been sent to schools telling them to close down, or fliers distributed telling people not to send their daughters to classes.

At a Peshawar bus stop, Uzma Bibi, 45, standing with her college-going daughters as they waited for a bus, said: “These people want to hold back women for ever. All of us must together work to prevent this.”

The party which heads the government is known for its fierce opposition to militancy, and party chief Asfandyar Wali has promised a “changed” NWFP and the combating of extremism. The overwhelming vote in favour of the party is also seen as a verdict against extremism.

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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