A few days ago when I was going home, I received a text message from Abdullah Khan, a journalist working in Kohat, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P). It said that three primary school teachers had been killed in Kach Bandha, Hangu in a drive-by shooting.
I immediately called him to confirm the news. I felt goose bumps as he told me that three teachers – Muhammad Khan, Syed Khalil and Faqir Hussain – had been killed and two of them had been targeted because of their sectarian affiliation.
These teachers had left their homes in the morning with prayers from their families and were killed that same afternoon because they didn’t belong to the same sect as the killers. We can’t even imagine the pain and grief their families must be going through.
Mr Azmat, president of the Teachers Muttaheda Ittehad, said these teachers had submitted an application to the education department with a request to relocate them to a settled area after receiving threats. But the education department had shown their usual laziness and had not done anything in this regard.
I tried to contact the executive district officer education (EDO) to get their point of view but their clerks would not let me through to the right person.
The police department denied any earlier application from these teachers about receiving such threats.
Would they be alive today if the education department had shown some concern over the threats they had been receiving from the terrorists?
I think, as I’m sure many others do, that teachers are the most important part of our society because they give us knowledge that our parents can’t give us at home. They build our personality and give us confidence to face life. They invest their efforts into recognising our talent and help us polish it so that we can make a better life for ourselves.
When I look back at my academic career a number of names come to mind. But the one name that stands out is Mrs Naheed Khalid’s – my primary school teacher. She never discouraged any girl in our class, never singled out any girl or pointed fingers at anyone if anything went wrong. She encouraged us to take part in extracurricular activities and invested all her knowledge in us, despite the fact that we belonged to different sects or religions. Back then, we didn’t even know there were different sects – Shia, Sunni, Barelvi, Ahmadi, Deobandi, Christian or Hindu. In fact, we didn’t even know what a ‘sect’ was.
Then, thanks to General Ziaul Haq’s policy on division of sects, I understood the so-called differences between diverse sectarian affiliations during my college years. However, fortunately we had teachers from all sects in my college and they were as kind to all students as my childhood teachers had been. They were always there to help us regardless of their personal beliefs. My two years at university were also the same – different people with different beliefs – but that did not come in the way of education.
The point I’m trying to make is that a teacher is just a teacher. Their objective is to teach students and their aim is to see them getting the education they deserve in order to become good citizens of our country. Teachers don’t teach children on the basis of their beliefs; they treat them equally.
Pakistan is already facing a myriad of problems – terrorism, target killings, regional and religious conflicts, a sinking economy, high poverty rate, unemployment – and well, the list goes on. If these target killings of teachers continue, we will never able to stand united and fight the external powers or even see our country on its way to becoming a developed one in the near future.
I am worried about our coming generation’s future.
Who will teach them?
Will they be able to find the kind of teachers that I had?
How can we let these hideous butchers play with our country and the fate of our children?
Are we just going to sit back and watch this on-going bloody war or are we going to get our act together and stop it?
How many more lives do we need to lose for our government to take notice and take action?
I fear that by the time we even figure these questions out, let alone find answers for them, somewhere someone will be shot for believing in something the trigger-happy person didn’t believe in.
Sadia Widad is a radio journalist who has worked in development media sector as a media trainer and mentor. She tweets as @swidad (twitter.com/swidad)