Education authorities in Pakistan’s northwest launch school enrollment drive for Afghan children

In this undated photo, children of Afghan refugees listen to their teacher (not in the picture) while attending their school at a refugee camp in Kohat, Pakistan. (Photo courtesy: Waheed Ullah)
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Updated 02 May 2022

Education authorities in Pakistan’s northwest launch school enrollment drive for Afghan children

  • The project has been limited to four Khyber Pakhtunkhwa districts with heavy refugee presence
  • Officials say the pace of the enrollment campaign is expected to increase after Eid Al-Fitr

PESHAWAR: The provincial administration of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has launched a pilot project to enroll children of Afghan refugees in four districts while hoping to extend the education drive to the remaining parts of the province in the coming months, officials said.
Pakistan is home to 1.4 million Afghan refugees, though officials say the number has increased by at least 100,000 more since the departure of the international forces from the war-battered country which is now ruled by the Taliban once again.
Ume Laila Jaffry, who works with the provincial department of elementary and secondary education, told Arab News on Saturday the enrollment plan for Afghan children had remained under consideration for about a year, though the authorities only started implementing it shortly before the beginning of Ramadan.
She said the project, Continuation of Education for Children in Afghan Refugee Hosting Areas in KP, would initially cover Haripur, Kohat, Peshawar and Mansehra districts.
“It is a pilot project but we plan to extend it to the rest of the districts after evaluating its success. Afghan children are being admitted in primary and middle classes, but we will work out a future strategy with our partner after completion of their initial education,” Jaffry said while mentioning that her department was working on the project in collaboration with UNICEF.

In this undated photo, Afghan students attend a function with local officials and teachers at their school in a refugee camp in Kohat, Pakistan. (Photo courtesy: Waheed Ullah)

Speaking to Arab News, UNICEF’s communication officer Adresh Laghari said his organization was not actively involved in the enrollment process, though he said it was providing “technical support” to the provincial administration.
Under the program, each Afghan student will get a learning kit which has notebooks, pencils and other stationery items.
“This is sort of an Eid gift for Afghan refugees,” said Waheed Ullah, a resident of Ghamkol Sharif Refugee Camp in Kohat. “Before this offer, few Afghans could afford to send their children to private schools by paying hefty fees. This initiative will help all children get equal learning opportunities regardless of their social standing.”
Muhammad Ayaz, who also works with the provincial elementary and secondary education department, said the enrollment of Afghan children had already started in the four districts.
“The campaign will gain further momentum after Eid Al-Fitr,” he continued. “We have identified 100 schools in Haripur, Kohat, Peshawar and Mansehra where Afghan refugees reside in large numbers.”
He added the authorities wanted all Afghan refugee children to get formal education.

In this undated photo, teachers and officials distribute certificates among Afghan students at a school in a refugee camp in Kohat, Pakistan. (Photo courtesy: Waheed Ullah)

Ayaz said the provincial administration had launched significant reforms and special initiatives in recent years, adding the overall enrollment in public schools had witnessed a record surge in the last five years.
Hajji Tahir, an Afghan refugee who has been educating his young community members in Kohat, said the project was welcomed by everyone.
“Pakistan hosts millions of Afghans, though offering education opportunities to our children with Pakistani students is a matchless favor,” he said. “Afghan students will now use Pakistani curriculum that will help them compete for local and international scholarships.”
Khan Muhammad Babar, another refugee from a camp in Nowshera, said several schools were funded by foreign organizations to make education possible for Afghan children, though these institutions only offered education up to the primary level.
Most children, he added, quit their studies after that.
“My own two sons go to a private school,” he said. “I pay their fee every month which is nearly impossible for me to afford. Now I plan to enroll them in a government-run school.”
Abdul Razzaq, a former teacher of Afghan children in Tank district, said many refugees could not even afford food, adding it was difficult for them to pay for their children’s education.
“Afghan refugees did not focus too much on the education of their children since they knew that higher studies would not be possible for them due to various constraints,” he added. “Now, there is some optimism that children of refugees will also get higher education along with their Pakistan peers.”
Jaffry said the provincial education authorities were planning to give more supplies to children that not only contained learning kits but also sports materials and first-aid equipment.

Bomb kills 34 at mosque inside Peshawar police compound — city commissioner

Updated 10 sec ago

Bomb kills 34 at mosque inside Peshawar police compound — city commissioner

  • Security officials say too early to determine if attack was carried out by suicide bomber
  • Such attacks have increased since Pakistan Taliban called off truce with government last year

PESHAWAR: Up to 34 people were killed and dozens of others wounded when an explosion ripped through a mosque inside a compound where the headquarters of the provincial police force are located in Peshawar, the commissioner of the northwestern city said.

Police said up to 350 worshipers were inside the mosque for afternoon prayers when the bomber detonated his explosives.

“It was a big explosion that totally damaged the mosque’s roof but it will be premature to say whether it was a suicide explosion,” Commissioner Peshawar Riaz Mehsud told Arab News, putting the casualties at 34 and number of wounded at 150. “Security officials are investigating the nature of the blast.”

"We haven't yet confirmed how many policemen are dead and wounded but I think 90 percent casualties are of police personnel because most of those offering prayers in the mosque were policemen," Mehsud added.

Muhammad Ijaz Khan, the Capital City Police Officer (CCPO), said many people, including policemen, were still trapped under the debris.

“We can’t as of yet determined what caused the explosion but it was a security lapse,” Khan said.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing but the Pakistani Taliban group have recently carried out similar attacks, with assaults on the rise since last November when the group called off a ceasefire signed with the government in May.

Muhammad Asim, a spokesman for the Lady Reading Hospital (LRH), the city’s largest medical facility, told Arab News people were still being pulled out of the rubble and being brought to the hospital, so the death toll could rise.

Ahmad Khan, a police constable who was inside the mosque when the blast occurred, said the roof collapsed after the explosion.

“It was the time for Zuhr (afternoon) prayers,” Khan said. “I was in the second row among worshippers when the blast took place. The roof of the mosque collapsed with many worshippers trapped but I managed to come out with small injuries.”

Akbar Khan, an official at the Edhi charity in Peshawar, estimated that 50 people, including policemen, were still trapped under the debris.

Soon after the blast, the provincial health department declared a state of emergency at the city’s hospitals.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif urged people, especially followers of his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz ruling party, to donate blood to those injured in suicide attack.

“Reach Lady Reading Hospital, Peshawar, and contribute to saving precious human lives,” he tweeted.

The prime minister's office later reported Sharif had flown via helicopter to Peshawar.

Pakistan’s human rights record examined by UNHRC in Geneva

Updated 30 January 2023

Pakistan’s human rights record examined by UNHRC in Geneva

  • State minister Hina Rabbani Khar presents Pakistan’s human rights record at Human Rights Council in Geneva
  • UN member states urge Pakistan to abolish the death penalty, suspend its use and end early child marriages

ISLAMABAD: The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on Monday examined Pakistan’s human rights record, with the country’s state minister for foreign affairs, Hina Rabbani Khar saying Pakistan’s human rights record is “overall on an upward trajectory.”

The UNHRC conducts a Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the human rights record of all UN member states. In it, each state is provided the opportunity to declare actions they have taken to improve the human rights situation in their countries and fulfill human rights obligations. 

“Mr. President, today I am pleased to report that my country’s human rights progress is overall on an upward trajectory,” Khar told the 42nd UPR review in Geneva. “We continue to aspire for a pluralistic and progressive society, which puts a high premium on the respect of human rights for everyone.”

Khar said Pakistan is proud of a “vibrant civil society, with our independent judiciary and legal community.” She said Pakistan had enacted the Anti-Rape Act 2021 and established courts against gender-based violence against women. 

She mentioned how devastating floods in 2022 affected 33 million people and left thousands dead and injured. Khar said an astounding 8 million people had been displaced by the deluges while over 2 million houses had been either damaged or destroyed. 

Khar said Pakistan was taking due care of the rights of minorities in the country. “Individuals belonging to various religions are equal citizens of Pakistan and as a responsible state, we are fully committed to protecting and promoting their fundamental rights and freedoms,” she added. 

She said Pakistan has taken safeguards against the misuse of the blasphemy law in the country, citing Section 211 of the Pakistan Penal Code which calls for action against any person who falsely accuses another person of blasphemy.

In response, UN member states urged Pakistan to enact a bill criminalizing rape and enact the Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Act. Member states also urged the country to reinstate the national commission on human rights and abolish the death penalty and suspend its use. 

They also called on Pakistan to make further efforts to end enforced and early (child) marriage and increase the legal age of marriage to 18. 

KSRelief distributes food aid in Pakistan, Lebanon and Niger

Updated 30 January 2023

KSRelief distributes food aid in Pakistan, Lebanon and Niger

  • The Saudi charity distributed 1,960 food packages for 13,720 Pakistanis in Sindh
  • KSRelief also distributed 3,125 food parcels in Niger and Lebanon's refugee camps

RIYADH: King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) distributed food aid to floods victims in Sindh Province, Pakistan.

The Saudi charity distributed 1,960 food packages, benefiting 13,720 people.

Elsewhere, KSRelief also distributed  3,025 food parcels to Syrian and Palestinian refugees in several Lebanese regions, benefiting 15,125 people.

In Niger, 100 food packages were also distributed, benefiting 768 people.

KSRelief also carried out a project to empower young people to improve the living conditions in Al-Mahrah Governorate, Yemen.

A total of 1,250 young people in eight governorates have benefited from the projects through vocational courses in 11 fields.

Ex-president sends legal notice to Imran Khan over 'fabricated' assassination allegations

Updated 30 January 2023

Ex-president sends legal notice to Imran Khan over 'fabricated' assassination allegations

  • Ex-president Asif Ali Zardari sends Rs10 billion legal notice to Imran Khan for 'scandalous' allegations
  • In televised address last week, Khan accused Zardari of devising a plan to assassinate him

ISLAMABAD: Ex-Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari sent a legal notice to former prime minister Imran Khan on Monday for making “fabricated, scandalous” allegations against the former of hatching a plot to assassinate him.

Zardari, Khan’s political rival and leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), served as Pakistan’s president from 2008 to 2013. Tensions between the two escalated last week when Khan, during a televised address, told his supporters Zardari had devised a plan “behind closed doors” to have him assassinated. 

Khan also maintained that Zardari was guilty of accumulating ill-gotten wealth and had paid “a terrorist group” to assassinate him. The allegations have been vehemently denied by PPP and Zardari.

Ousted via a parliamentary vote of confidence in April last year, Khan received gunshot wounds during an anti-government rally in Pakistan’s Wazirabad city in November 2022. He blamed Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, and a senior intelligence official for orchestrating the attack, without providing proof. The military and government both strongly rejected Khan’s allegations. 

On Monday, Zardari’s legal representative Farooq H. Naek sent an Rs10 billion notice to Khan for making “false, fabricated and scandalous remarks/statements” against the former president. “That through your baseless accusations of malicious and defamatory nature you have tried to defame our client nationally as well as internationally,” the notice read. 

The notice said Khan had tried to create a link between Zardari and militant organizations, reminding him that the former president’s wife, Pakistan’s first woman prime minister Benazir Bhutto, was also assassinated by militants. 

It said that while Khan had accused Zardari of accumulating wealth through ill-gotten means, the PPP leader had spent almost eight years in prison on “false, fabricated, trumped up and concocted cases” that were never proven against him. 

“You, through your malicious accusations have injured and defamed our client with ulterior motives to get undue benefit in current political situation of the country,” it said. 

Zardari demanded an unconditional apology from Khan within 14 days, stating that if Khan doesn’t comply, he would be compelled to take legal action against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman. The notice said Zardari would initiate legal proceedings against Khan in “the competent Courts of law and forums of Pakistan as well as of England, including but not limited to Suit for Damages for Rs.10,000,000,000/.”

The former prime minister has so far not responded to Zardari’s legal notice. 

US envoy on Afghanistan to discuss women’s rights during Pakistan visit

Updated 30 January 2023

US envoy on Afghanistan to discuss women’s rights during Pakistan visit

  • US Special Representative for Afghanistan Thomas West to visit Pakistan, Germany, Switzerland from January 29 to February 4
  • West says will work with counterparts to ‘refine a unified regional and international response’ for women’s rights and access to aid 

Islamabad: US Special Representative for Afghanistan, Thomas West, announced on Monday he would be visiting Pakistan, Germany, and Switzerland from January 20 to February 4 to seek a “unified regional and international response” for women’s rights and access to aid in Afghanistan. 

Ever since seizing control of Kabul in August 2021, the Taliban have issued edicts that have restricted women from seeking education and employment in the country. 

In December 2022, the Taliban government banned women from working in non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on the pretext that female staff of NGOs had violated the dress code by not wearing hijab. The Taliban have also prevented women from entering parks and gyms, among other public places, in the country.

A couple of days before that, the Taliban banned women from attending universities and secondary schools across the country. The move sparked international outrage with Washington, United Nations, and several other countries including Pakistan, criticizing the move. 

“I will travel to Pakistan, Germany, and Switzerland Jan 29-Feb 4 to consult with partners, Afghans, and humanitarian relief organizations regarding extraordinary challenges we face in supporting the Afghan people,” West wrote on Twitter. 

West said that the Taliban’s recent decisions have posed “extraordinary challenges” for the international community as it seeks to support the Afghan people. 

“SRA West will work with counterparts to refine a unified regional and international response that reflects a collective commitment to Afghan women and girls’ rights and access to vital aid,” the US State Department website added. 

While Pakistan has expressed “disappointment” over Afghanistan’s edicts concerning women, it has called on the world to engage with the Taliban government rather than shun ties with it altogether. Islamabad has also called on the world to provide humanitarian aid to Kabul to stave off an imminent economic collapse of the country.