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Police guard kills 2 girl students in Pakistan

School, run by Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin in the restive Swat Valley, was once bombed by Taliban
Students from Public School Sangota in Swat district in Pakistan perform a dance on March ?29, ?2017. Tragedy struck the school on May 16 when a policeman guarding the school shot and killed two school girls

Students from Public School Sangota in Swat district in Pakistan perform a dance on March ‎29, ‎2017. Tragedy struck the school on May 16 when a policeman guarding the school shot and killed two school girls. (Photo: YouTube screen grab) 

Published: May 17, 2023 10:23 AM GMT
Updated: May 17, 2023 10:27 AM GMT

Two school girls, including a 9-year-old, were killed and five others hurt when a police constable opened fire at a missionary Catholic school on May 16 in Pakistan's northwest province.

The school, managed by the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin in Sangota in Pakistan's restive Swat Valley in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, was targeted at around 2 p.m. when students were getting ready to leave the school in a van.

“I was panicked after seeing blood on the foot of my daughter. The vehicle was parked inside the school when the firing started,” said a parent. Angry parents protested and blocked the road outside the school soon after the shooting.

Alam Khan, a police constable posted to Sangota Public School, built in 1962, to provide security in February, has been arrested as part of the ongoing probe.

“He is a murderer, arrested with the weapon of offense. I promise the parents that we shall meet the requirements of justice. …Our hearts are sad,” Shafiullah Gandapur, a Swat district police officer (DPO), told the media.

“The initial statement of the DPO to the school management was that the constable 'was mentally ill' and suspended 'twice for violent behavior,'" Archbishop Joseph Arshad of Islamabad-Rawalpindi told UCA News.

"We feel threatened and insecure amid increasing terrorism in the country "

“This is so unfortunate. We demand punishment for the guard to avoid such a tragedy in the future,” said Arshad, who directed 448 Church-run educational institutes in the Muslim-majority nation to hold a day of prayer in solidarity with the missionary school.

In a May 17 statement, the Ecumenical Commission for Human Development urged the government to review the security breach at the school.

“The religious minorities are heartbroken. We feel threatened and insecure amid increasing terrorism in the country gripped in economic and political tumult. We pray for the souls departed and healing of survivors who were only targeted for getting an education,” said James Rehmat, its executive director.

In a statement on May 16, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said that the shooting was “a grim reminder of how vulnerable the young remain to wanton violence, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where the state has failed to maintain law and order.”  

As a mark of protest and mourning, 12 Presentation Convent Schools in the country were closed on May 17. 

The Catholic school, popularly called Sangota Public School, is renowned for imparting quality education in the Malakand region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where thousands were killed and millions displaced during the War on Terror waged by the US government with the support of Pakistan's army against the Taliban based mainly in neighboring Afghanistan. 

"The Taliban bombed Sangota Public School for providing an English education to girls"

Angered by Pakistan's cooperation with the US, the Pakistani Taliban, also known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP,  was officially set up in 2007 when different outlawed groups agreed to work together against Pakistan. The TTP has historical ties with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

In 2008, the Taliban bombed Sangota Public School for providing an English education to girls and accused the nuns of converting young Muslim girls to Christianity. 

The school reopened in 2012 after the Pakistan army rebuilt the institute, located on a hill.  

Swat district is the nerve center of the picturesque Swat Valley, once a stronghold of the Pakistan Taliban.

Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 in Swat Valley but she recovered and went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 at the age of  17.

In November last year, the Pakistan Taliban ended a months-long cease-fire pact with the Pakistan government and told its fighters to resume attacks across the country.

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