Students across KPK (Kyber Pakhtunkhwa) province have taken to the streets to protest the attack on a school van in Swat. Locals have blamed the banned extremist outfit TTP (Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan) for the attack, which killed the driver and critically injured one third-grader. Another child was reported as wounded because he lost consciousness after witnessing the gunfire and bloodbath. TTP has denied involvement, nor has any other organisation claimed responsibility for the attack. Police claimed that the target of the attack was the driver, not the children. Unknown assailants fled the scene after opening fire.
Following the news, more than 2,000 students left thier classrooms to protest, calling for restoring peace in the province. The demonstrations have now reached their 2nd day, with protestors joining from other cities as well. They demanded the arrest of culprits within 24 hours and warned to march towards the capital if authorities failed.
Shooting at School Van in Swat angers Students
According to reports, more than 1200 private schools will remain closed on Tuesday, 11 October 2022. Students and teachers have come out to protest, expressing thier anger towards the growing terrorism in the region. The Private School Management Association (PSMA) also announced to ensure the schools were closed for participating in civil society protests at Nishat Chowk.
The Kalam-Swat road is also blocked for traffic due to a sit-in, where demonstrators have refused to bury the van driver’s body until the culprits are punished. Protestors have claimed that the government was not taking the issue seriously, and the talks with the police and district administration also did not reach any conclusion.
The video clips of the protests have been going viral on social media, with many netizens criticising the PTI government in KPK. They called out former Prime Minister Imran Khan to pay heed over there instead of organising his own political rallies.
Is History Repeating Itself in Sawat?
The attack happened a day after the 10th anniversary of the 2012 assassination attempt on Malala Yousafzai in Swat Valley. The young education activist was shot in the head while coming home from school. TTP claimed responsibility for that attack claiming that she was “anti-Taliban and secular”. Malala became a target in 2009 after writing a diary for a British publication about life under the Taliban since the group took control of the region in 2007. After surviving the attack, she became a global education advocate and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.
The region has seen a resurgence of violence in the last couple of months. Concurrently with the shooting of the school van, another gunfire incident happened near Swat on Monday, where 1 boy and 2 girls were injured in cross-firing. The police called it a case of “personal vendetta”. The region was largely peaceful after Pakistan Army took over in 2009. However, the soldiers have remained in the area, establishing checkpoints on the roads. They overstayed their welcome as residents grew frustrated with the army occupying government facilities in their areas. Now gun-wielding men roaming about on highways setting checkpoints, and several militant attacks have made the popular tourist destination panic.
The protests were much more than only bringing the killer of the van driver to justice. They reflected the much bigger issue in KPK: the return of the Taliban. Pakistan has suffered numerous losses in the battle with the militants from 2001 to 2011. According to ISPR’s report, more than 40,000 Pakistanis, including civilians and military personnel, were killed in the conflict. On the other hand, more than 20,000 militants were killed or captured by February 2010. Residents have become more woke and resilient than ever. Instead of suffering in silence, they have been protesting against another episode of TTP in KPK, questioning Pakistan’s anti-terrorism policies.