Taliban ban female education in Swat district

A question for Imran Khan: Is this a reaction to American policies in Afghanistan? You are an opportunist politician Mr. Khan, who is afraid of condemning the evil ideology that the Taliban represent…

Taliban ban female education in Swat district

SWAT: Taliban in Swat district have imposed a ban on female education and have warned teachers of ‘severe consequences’ if any girl is seen heading for school after a 15-day deadline ends, local residents said on Wednesday. The announcement was made by a spokesman of radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah – who has waged an armed struggle to impose Taliban rule in the district – on a pirated FM radio frequency. “All the private and government schools have been given 15 days to close down the female education facilities. They have also banned women from visiting markets,” Muhammad Osman, a school teacher, said. “Taliban have established a parallel government in 90 percent of the district’s area and they execute everyone who opposes them,” he added. online (Daily Times, 25 Dec 2008)

Taliban’s dilemma

TO educate or not to educate — girls in particular — seems to be the question the Taliban are agonising over. They have yet to make up their mind and demonstrate their honesty in the matter. On Thursday it was reported by a section of the media that militants in Swat have announced a total ban on female education in the district from Jan 15. Such a move, if it is actually implemented, would keep an estimated 40,000 girls out of school. But a day later the leadership of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan sought to distance itself from the ban that smacked of anti-social obscurantism. Mercifully, the TTP chief has now proclaimed that he was not opposed to female education, so long as the girls are properly veiled. He has promised to probe the issue and get the Taliban in Swat to rescind their decision about which they are now being equivocal.

All’s well that ends well, it is said. But can we be certain girls’ schools will not be bombed? Even when no formal ban had been announced, the Taliban proceeded to bomb girls’ educational institutions as a matter of routine. The worst affected were the regions where their writ runs since the war on terror intensified. In the last 14 months they have destroyed over 100 schools in Swat and this has been done even when they have entered into accords with the Pakistan authorities not to do so.

Although strategically speaking, bombing girls’ schools may not create such a critical impact on the course of the war, it certainly has profound implications in terms of the political and social message it sends. In a society where women are an underclass by virtue of their gender and are denied equal advantages of education — only 36 per cent of women over 15 years of age are literate compared to 63 per cent men — bombing of girls’ schools comes as a warning to parents to desist from changing this pattern. In a wider sense it also means that no change in the status of women will be brooked. Since the education of girls poses a threat to the ideological beliefs of the Taliban they want to resist it. This should also come as a wake-up call to the policymakers in Pakistan. The emergence of the Taliban reflects, amongst others, our failure to make education accessible to all and inculcate tolerance, compassion and humanism in the population. (Dawn, 29 Dec 2008)


Also, please read this report on BBC Urdu. By Arif Shamim.