Parents in a village of Terich in Upper Chitral recently stopped sending their daughters to a school as a mark of protest against a function held in the school on Independence Day.
Local sources told ChitralToday that on Aug 14 a function was held at the Govt Primary School for Girls in Lonkoh in which students of primary to high schools from across Terich took part.
There was a competition of Naat and Hamd recitation among girl students. At the end of the function organized by a civil society organization, Pakistan Thinkers Forum, and the school management, awards and medals were given to the students.
Retired bureaucrat and founder of Pakistan Thinkers Forum Malik Liaquat Tabassum was the chief guest at the function.
Soon after the event, local ulema launched a campaign to stop girl students from going to the school.
Khoja Khalil, an organizer, told ChitralToday that religious clerics started propaganda against the organizers making the event as a pretext in order to malign them.
He said the drive by the clerics was also aimed at depriving the girl students of their right to education.
When a member of the Ulema Council Terich and former member of the village council Mufti Asad Ullah was contacted by this correspondent, he said the school which organized the function has been functioning as a co-education centre for many years.
On Aug 14 every year, the school holds a function and we never have objected to it, he added.
“We have even worked to increase enrollment due to which now there are nearly 280 girl students in the school.”
But on Aug 14 this year, he added, a person was called from Punjab who distributed awards and medals among the girl students violating our traditions and values.
This created resentment among the local people who decided not to send their daughters to schools.
“But we tried to persuade the parents not to take such an extreme step. We also asked the school management to avoid organizing such events in future,” he added.
Mufti Asad demanded that a separate school should be set up for girls in the area.
Molana Attaur Rehman, who is also a member of the Ulema Council and a former member of the district council, said the situation was very tense in the area after the August 14 function.
“We sat together and resolved the issue. As a symbolic protest, we did not send our daughters to schools only for one day to press the government to open a separate school for girls,” said Molana Rehman.
But Khoja Khalil said the clerics were still maligning the organizers of the function and asking them to apologize. But apology for what crime? If they did not stop the anti-education drive we would seek legal action, he said.
When Karam Elahi, the headmaster of the school, was contacted, he claimed that no one stopped any girl from coming to the school. Girl students attend school on alternative days as part of the Corona SOPs, he claimed.