Taliban bans education for girls in Swat Valley

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About 3,500 students are attending Saidu Sharif Degree College for girls. The town also has a medical college and several other colleges and schools.

“Many girls want to continue their studies; however, their parents are not allowing them due to fear of militants,” said Ziauddin Yousafzai, a representative of the private-schools association in the town.

“We cannot do anything. The government cannot do anything,” he said. “Only an announcement by militants on the FM radio withdrawing from their decision would convince parents to allow their daughters to attend schools.”

He said the private-schools association has urged the militants, through newspaper advertisements, to revoke their decision.

Even Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has distanced itself from the Swat militants’ decision.

Two days after the ban was announced, TTP spokesman Mulvi Omar told reporters that the organization does not oppose girls’ education.

“We are in touch with leaders of Swat Taliban and hope they will revoke the ban,” he said.

However, Swat militants refused to withdraw the ban. Muslim Khan, a spokesman, said girls would be allowed to attend school up to the fourth grade under certain conditions: Schools, for instance, must be single-sex, including the teachers. The average age of a fourth-grade student in Pakistan is 9.

Mr. Yousafzai condemned the Pakistani government for its ineffectiveness.

“Fazlullah, Shah Doran and Muslim Khan are the real kings of Swat,” he said. “Whatever they say will happen.”

Sardar Hussain Babak, education minister for the province, said the fault rests with the militants who, he said, work for unnamed foreign elements.

“If they say they are against United States, then what is the logic behind blowing up schools in Swat?” he said. “No American is studying in those schools. Only the children of Swat are studying there.”

Mr. Babak said the provincial government is committed to providing security and education to the people of Swat.

“We believe that the army shall vigorously carry out the military operation,” he said.

The government operation against militants in Swat began in November 2007. However, almost 80 percent of Swat is still under the direct control or influence of militants.

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