12/14/2010, 00.00
PAKISTAN

Baluchistan: Islamists slaughtering teachers

In spite of its mineral riches, Baluchistan is Pakistan’s poorest province. Islamic extremists and local nationalists are opposed to Punjabis in their midst. They increasingly attack teachers who dare teach mixed schools. The rise in Islamic schools is directly correlated with the rise in murders, at least 22 in less than 30 months.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) – Islamic extremists are systematically targeting teachers in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province. Their crime is to teach children of both sexes in violation of Sharia.

According to a report by Human Rights Watch (MRW) on the issue, at least 22 teachers were killed in the province between January 2008 and October 2010.

Despite its vast mineral resources, Baluchistan remains Pakistan's most impoverished province. It is also the stage of an insurgency by local nationalists seeking independence as well as the home of religious extremists. Both groups are involved in the attacks on teachers, Human Rights Watch said.

“If such killings and intimidation does not stop, the future is bleak, not just for Baluchistan’s children, but for prosperity and progress to ever reach the province,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, senior Human Rights Watch researcher in South Asia.

Titled Their Future is at Stake, the HRW report was published on Monday and is based on testimonies and eyewitness accounts of relatives and colleagues of the victims.

Most of those targeted are from the Punjab province. Local nationalists have singled them out as retaliation for alleged excesses by the Pakistan army, which is dominated by Punjabis.

However, Islamic radicals are by far the worst offenders when it comes to murdering teachers because, contrary to Islamic law, many schools in Baluchistan are mixed, with boys and girls in the same classroom. The rise across the country in the number of madrassah, fundamentalist Islamic religious schools, is in fact directly related to the violence against civilians.

Like in post-Soviet Afghanistan, Muslim clerics funded by Saudi Arabia teach religious hatred and push young people to take justice in their own hands against a government that is increasingly unable to maintain even a semblance of secular neutrality.

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