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Dera Bugti chronicles: Too scared to go to school


DERA BUGTI: Since that incident, Asif Ali Bugti has never been to school, as his father fled from the troubled district and took refuge in Jacobabad, Sindh. This young boy who was 14 and in grade 8 at the time, was happily studying in Government Model High School Dera Bugti until the 2006 military operation shattered his dream. That is when unrest in his hometown began as a result of the late Nawab Akbar Bugti’s resistance against security forces.

“Guns and fear stopped me from taking classes,” said Asif. His father Babal Bugti, 41, has also been a teacher but is now running a shop to feed his five kids.

Asif is not the only student who was forced to migrate soon after the operation. There are some 20,000 students who are not in schools in Dera Bugti. Their parents have migrated to cities like Rahim Yar Khan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Dera Allah Yar Khan, Kashmore, Quetta, Karachi and Hyderabad in search of safety.

Babal quit teaching after receiving threats from militants who wanted all schools closed in Dera Bugti and Sui. “I was forced to pull out my children from school and migrate to Jacobabad, Sindh,” Babal told The Express Tribune.

Sobia Asad, director ‘Taaleem Foundation’, who recently visited Sui, confirmed threats to her lady teachers from the militants who asked them to stay away from schools. Her organisation is providing quality education to around 5,000 students in eight districts of Balochistan.

Maulana Raza Muhammad, cleric in the Nawab Akbar Bugti Mosque said that some 300 students of this mosque could not take their classes since the city was destroyed by the military in 2006.

Pir Koh Madrassa, the only Madrassa in Dera Bugti, has also been closed due to worst law and order situation in the area.

Lives of around 700 teachers at 112 educational institutions (3 higher secondary, 15 secondary, 25 elementary, 45 primary, 10 Madaaris schools and 14 public schools) are at risk, said an English-language teacher Bashir Ahmed. “We receive threats every day. Militant Balochs warn us to quit the job or face consequences,” said Ahmed, adding that around 80% teachers are from Punjab.

Though teachers’ packages are double as compared to other districts’, no one is ready to pursue a career in this troubled district, Ahmed said.

The FC and military have established cadet colleges but no local student is studying as locals don’t like this trend, said Abdur Rehman Pizarani.

What does the police say?

Abad Ali, Assistant Sub-Inspector at Dera Bugti Police Station deputed on security of Bugti’s Fort, said, security situation is improving. “As internally displaced persons are returning to their homes, security forces are hopeful normalcy will return to the area,” Ali added.

Ali, however, has concerns over gun proliferation in the area after the military operation.

Haq Nawaz, SHO Dera Bugti Police Station, also pointed out that several schools have also been targeted by commanders of Baloch Liberation Army and Baloch Liberation Front recently. “Dejection and horror still haunt parents’ minds who don’t want to put lives of their kids in danger in the name of education,” Nawaz added.

Women’s education

Concept of women education is almost non-existent here, particularly because tribal elders are dead against it, said Pizarani, adding that “Women institutions are almost deserted and very few girls attend the schools. Some of the girl schools have even been closed down.”

Due to fear, Government Girls High School Dera Bugti has been closed by the authorities, as most of the teachers who belonged to Taunsa Sharif, never came back to join their duties, said Arif Qaisrani whose wife once taught there.

“Our sardars don’t want the women to come out of homes,” said Nawabdeen Bugti. He was not too optimistic about girl schools being opened by security forces if the security situation improves.

Navand Kumar, a Hindu by religion, said that the old customs and rigid traditions being imposed by Sardars and Nawabs is a major roadblock in the way of promotion of education. A teacher by profession, he served in FC Public School and College until 2009, but has now migrated to Kashmore due to threats to his family.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 2nd, 2013.




Author: Mukhtar Ahmed