On May 16, two schoolgirls, one of whom was 9 years old, were killed and five others were wounded by a policeman who opened fire in a Catholic missionary school in Pakistan.
The school, run by the Sisters of the Presentation of the Most Holy Virgin in Sangota, in the north-western province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, was attacked around 2 o’clock in the afternoon, when the students were preparing to leave the center in a van. “I entered in panic on seeing the blood on my daughter’s foot. The vehicle was parked inside the school when the shooting began,” said one of the parents.
Immediately after the shooting, the parents, upset and furious, blocked the road outside the school. Police agent Alam Khan, who was sent to the public school in Sangota in February to ensure security, was arrested in the context of the investigation underway.
“He is a murderer arrested with the weapon of the crime. I promise the parents we will uphold the rules of justice. Our hearts are sad,” said to the media Shafiullah Gandapur, police officer of the Swat district.
“The DPO’s initial statement to the school’s office was that the agent ‘was mentally ill’ and suspended twice for violent behaviour,’’ said the Archbishop of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, Monsignor Joseph Arshad to the media. “We demand that the officer be punished to avoid similar tragedies in the future,” added Monsignor Arshad, who also made an appeal to 448 educational institutions, run by the Church, to observe a day of prayer in solidarity with the Sangota Public School.
The Ecumenical Commission for Human Development urged the Government to act. Religious minorities have a broken heart. We feel threatened and insecure given the growing terrorism in the country, submerged in economic and political confusion. We pray for the souls of the deceased and for the healing of the survivors, attacked when they were only there to get an education,” said James Rehmat, Executive Director.
The Catholic school, popularly called Sangota Public School, is famous for imparting quality education in the Malakand region of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where thousands of people died during the war against the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan. Angry about Pakistan’s cooperation with the United States, the Pakistani Talibans, also known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP, were created officially in 2007, when several proscribed groups decided to work together against Pakistan. The TTP has historical ties with the Talibans of Afghanistan.
In 2008, the Talibans bombed the Sangota Public School for teaching the girls English, accusing the nuns of converting the Muslim students to Christianity. The school was reopened in 2012, after the Pakistani Army rebuilt the institution, located on a hill.