A Catholic mission school in Swat, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was targeted in a terror attack on Tuesday 16th May.
A police constable who was protecting a school bus with primary aged girls, began firing shots at the students.
During the attack one girl was killed and six others were injured.
Injured students were taken away from danger and transported and treated at a nearby medical facility.
Christian schools and girls schools in Pakistan are fearful that this attack is a precursor for further attacks.
A school-bus in Swat Valley, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa carrying children home at the end of school, around 2pm (10am GMT), on 16th May 2023, was targeted in a terrorist attack.
Police officer named Alam Khan who was posted to protect Sangota Public School since February has been arrested for involvement in the shooting.
It has been reported that, Mr Khan who was on duty at the main gate, indiscriminately opened fire at the girls in the school-bus, as they were returning home. During the carnage, Ayesha (5 yrs), was killed and six other girls were left injured. All the injured children were rushed to be treated at Saidu Shareef Hospital, where they were safe.
Ayesha was cremated the very next day, 17th May. The six other girls Ruma, Hussain, Naheed, Arisha, Hourain…sustained a mix of minor and major injuries such as a broken arm to a bullet to the head. All the children have fully recovered and are now discharged from the hospital.
Alam Khan has been arrested by the police and is now under investigation. During the police investigation, Mr Khan has been identified to have mental abnormalities. Police initially stated that he had fired the gun by accident (click here). Since then, however The District Police Officer in Swat, Shafiullah Gandapur, announced:
‘The murderer will receive the punishment he deserves and be dealt with according to state laws.’
“The initial statement of the DPO to the school management was that the constable ‘was mentally ill’ and suspended ‘twice for violent behavior,'” Archbishop Joseph Arshad of Islamabad-Rawalpindi said in a press release.
Mr Khan’s trial will begin once the police have submitted their investigation report to the court.
One of the possible answers to why this horrific terrorist event occurred at the missionary school is due to a hatred of education for women, in radicalised Pakistan. Swat has faced several anti-women’s education movements in the past, when it was under the stronghold of the Taliban.
The Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was formed in 2007 to oppose the Pakistani military. They hold historical ties with the Afghanistan Taliban. Between 2007 and 2009 172 schools were damaged or destroyed, which deprived 23,000 girls of their education.
Sangota Public High School, has been victim to previous attacks. In 2008 Sangota Public School was targeted with a terrorist bomb, in response to fear that nuns providing education in English were trying to convert Muslim girls to Christianity.
It is believed that since the Taliban have regained power in Afghanistan, the TTP are now attempting to retake the city of Swat.
Juliet Chowdhry, Trustee for British Asian Christian Association, said:
“We mourn the loss of young Ayesha.
“The killing and injuring of young girls in this manner is an evil act beyond comprehension.
“I’m shocked that initial reports from the police suggested the attack was due to accidental fire.
“Semi-automatic weapons have safety mechanisms and to be given authority over one by a police authority, means deployed officers have had extensive training.
“We pray for the quick healing of all those injured in the attack and for some peace for the family of Ayesha.”
Hannah Chowdhry, a BACA volunteer and student of law in the UK, said:
“This is a devastating attack that violates the human rights of so many women in Pakistan.
“The right to education is enshrined in international human rights laws.
“Attempts to thwart this freedom and equality need to be stopped.
“No-one should be afraid of going to school and no woman should be denied this right.
“This police officer was in position to protect these girls yet harboured extremely radical views.
“It beggars belief that safeguarding measures failed to pick up how inappropriate his deployment at a school was.
“The man was known to have mental illness and had two previous violent episodes – I’m sure an investigation will reveal a more sinister extremist background.”