Bacha Khan University re-opens one month after deadly attack; staff demands weapons for protection

Peshawar: A Pakistani university attacked by the Taliban last month re-opened on Monday guarded by hundreds of police, highlighting a pervasive atmosphere of fear after the Islamist group vowed to continue to strike schools throughout the country. Meanwhile, the university has also demanded the government arm its staff as it seeks to boost security after the deadly assault in which 21 people were killed, officials said.

"We have demanded weapons from the government and weapons licenses for all teachers and management officials," Bacha Khan university registrar Hamidullah Khan told AFP.

Authorities at the university in Charsadda in Pakistan's troubled northwest have also called for police checkpoints both inside and outside the campus and watch towers to protect students, he said.

The Bacha Khan attack, which bore chilling similarities to the Peshawar massacre, has spurred the debate on arming teachers in Pakistan once more.

University registrar Khan said the campus had been reopened Monday but only to administrative staff, with classes suspended indefinitely as authorities seek to improve security.

Bacha Khan University re-opens one month after deadly attack; staff demands weapons for protection

File image of Pakistani army soldiers in a search operation at the Bacha Khan University on 20 January. AFP

"Students wanted to resume the classes," he said. "We appreciate their courage, but we now cannot take any risk on security."

Students and teachers were being screened by police and security guards at the entrance to the campus Monday, an AFP journalist said.

"They (militants) cannot stop us, we will try to face them and continue our studies," a student who gave his name as Abdullah told AFP.

University employee Jehangir Khan echoed the call for the government to provide tighter security, noting the university was surrounded by open fields.

"Students are afraid," he said.

Meawnhile, the university's vice-chancellor Fazal Rahim Marwat told AFP, "I am very happy to announce that the university has been re-opened today but amid very strict security."

He said the university was re-opened with an objective "to defeat the mindset of militants, which was behind the terrorist attack of January 20".

On Friday, the Taliban faction behind both the Peshawar massacre and the Bacha Khan attack posted a video message vowing to target schools throughout the country, calling them "nurseries" for people who challenge Allah's law.

The attack shattered the sense of security growing in the troubled region a year after the Peshawar school massacre, in which more than 150 people — mainly children — were killed.

A sense of panic has gripped parents across Pakistan in the wake of the university assault, with rumours of attacks leading to closures of education institutions.

Last week, a government-run girls college for women in Rawalpindi evacuated hundreds of students following an exchange of gun-fire between police and car thieves nearby.

Last year saw the fewest number of civilian and security forces casualties to militant attacks since 2007 — the year the umbrella Pakistani Taliban group was formed — though the threat of attacks, particularly on "soft targets" like schools, remains.

Pakistan has been fighting a homegrown Islamist insurgency since 2004, when militants displaced by the US-led invasion of Afghanistan began a campaign against Pakistani forces in the country's border tribal areas.

Overall levels of violence have fallen since a concerted military push against the Taliban's bases that began in 2014.


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Updated Date: Feb 15, 2016 13:45:59 IST

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