Pakistani Taliban insurgents destroyed four schools in the northwestern Swat region yesterday, hours after a Cabinet minister vowed that the government would reopen schools in the violence-plagued valley.
The Swat Valley was until recently one of Pakistan’s prime tourist destinations, but Islamist militants aiming to impose a severe form of Islamic law began battling security forces in 2007.
Residents say the militants are now virtually in complete control of the valley, including its main town of Mingora, where the schools were blown up early yesterday.
“Militants blew up two girls schools and two boys schools,” said Shaukat Yousafzai, a top government official in the valley.
Schools are closed for a winter break and no one was hurt.
As with Afghanistan’s Taliban, their Pakistani counterparts oppose education for girls and recently banned female education in Swat altogether.
The militants also see schools as a symbol of government authority and say the army posts soldiers in them.
Yousafzai said the militants had destroyed 170 schools in the valley, where about 55,000 girls and boys were enrolled in government-run institutions.
Yousafzai said teachers were also refusing to work.
“I try to convince them but they’re scared. They doubt the government’s ability to protect them,” he said.
The president of a Swat teachers’ association said his members would only go back to work if the government brought complete peace and shut down the militants’ radio, or if the militants issued an order over their radio for a return to work.
“The ground reality is there’s no safety,” association president Ziauddin Yousafzai said. “If they’re destroying schools during a curfew, they can do anything. Even if the authorities announce schools are open, nobody will go and parents won’t send their kids.”
Meanwhile, Pakistan temporarily closed the major land supply route to US and NATO forces in Afghanistan yesterday after suspected insurgents killed a soldier and wounded 14, adding urgency to efforts to secure alternative supply lines as more US troops head to the region.
Growing militant activity along the Khyber Pass has prompted several temporary closures in recent months and it was not immediately clear how long the latest suspension would last.
Afghan-based US and NATO forces get up to 75 percent of their supplies via routes that traverse Pakistan, with Khyber being the main conduit into Afghanistan.
The trucks that carry the fuel, food and other goods face constant threats of violence. Militants have also ransacked truck-holding terminals in the nearby city of Peshawar.
The Khyber region is part of Pakistan’s semiautonomous tribal belt, where al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters hold tremendous sway.
The Pakistani government has dispatched paramilitary escorts for the supply convoys and launched a crackdown on militants in Khyber, but militant activity has continued.
In the latest attack, suspected militants fired eight rockets at a Pakistani military camp in the Landikotal area early yesterday, said Fazal Mahmood, a senior government official in Khyber.
One soldier died, while 14 were wounded, he said.
A daylong curfew was imposed in Landikotal, while security forces are hunting down the militants, Mahmood said.
‘SACRIFICED’: Hu Weifeng became the sixth doctor to die from COVID-19 at Wuhan Central Hospital, where calls to raise the alarm over the virus were suppressed The death of a Chinese doctor at Wuhan’s “whistle-blower hospital” has prompted a wave of anger at hospital authorities for not protecting front-line health workers in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. Hu Weifeng (胡衛鋒), 42, a urologist at Wuhan Central Hospital where the whistle-blower ophthalmologist Li Wenliang (李文亮) worked, died of the virus on Tuesday after a four-month battle. Hu is the sixth doctor from his hospital killed by the virus. Another doctor who spoke out, Ai Fen (艾芬), said that authorities told hospital staff not to wear protective gear so as not to cause panic and reprimanded her for “harming
RALLYING A DEFENSE: Former envoys wrote an op-ed piece defending Anna Lindstedt, who was removed for attempting to free Swedish book publisher Gui Minhai in China Sweden’s former ambassador to Beijing goes on trial in Stockholm on Friday for allegedly overstepping her mandate by trying to negotiate the release of a Chinese-Swedish dissident held in China. Anna Lindstedt is accused of brokering an unauthorized meeting during her time as ambassador to free publisher Gui Minhai (桂民海). Lindstedt — a veteran envoy who had previously represented Sweden in both Vietnam and Mexico, and acted as Sweden’s chief negotiator at the 2015 climate summit in Paris — has denied the charges. Gui, a Chinese-born Swedish citizen known for publishing gossipy titles about Chinese political leaders out of a Hong Kong book
‘LEAST WE CAN DO’: The gesture was made famous by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was protesting police brutality that targeted minorities They are images that surprised and moved Americans: police officers taking a knee alongside protesters in the most widespread civil unrest to rock the US in decades — and in doing so embracing an anti-racism gesture denounced by US President Donald Trump. As Trump pushes for a crackdown on often-violent protests over the death of George Floyd, police officers from New York to Los Angeles to Houston, Texas, are making gestures of solidarity with demonstrators incensed at the latest case of an unarmed black man dying while in police custody. “I took off the helmet and laid the batons down. Where do
From boiled catfish soup to spicy fried frog, an eight-year-old in pyjamas and a chef’s hat is delighting Myanmar with her culinary prowess in a nation still being told to stay at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Moe Myint May Thu’s mother posted a video online at the end of April showing off her daughter’s skills as the youngster threw together some spicy fried prawns. With her wide, gap-toothed grin, the video has bounced across social media and brought stardom to the child along with an online moniker: “Little Chef.” She now sells dishes to order and is counting the dividends. “I just