The provincial government in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province has given teachers permission to carry concealed weapons to classrooms -- a decision that has been criticized by several local organizations as reckless and counterproductive -- according to media reports. The move comes over a month after Taliban militants attacked an army-run school in the provincial capital of Peshawar, killing over 150 people, mostly children.
“We’re at war,” Mushtaq Ghani, the provincial minister for education and information, who belongs to a party led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, said, adding that the province’s 65,000 police officers are not enough to secure the region's more than 40,000 schools, colleges and universities, according to a report by The New York Times. “We don’t want teachers to take up guns, but it is necessary in the circumstances.”
The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa police have also started providing basic weapons training to teachers interested in learning how to use firearms, the Times reported.
In addition to allowing teachers to carry concealed weapons, the provincial government also pledged to spend $69 million on enhancing security at government-run schools in the restive Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa region, according to a report by CNN.
“The December 16 tragedy showed us that we need to learn to be able to take care of ourselves and our students,” Naheed Hussain, an assistant professor at Peshawar’s Frontier College for Women, told the Times. “We will not replace our pens with guns. But the situation could arise where we are required to serve our country.”
However, the decision to arm teachers has been criticized by many within the Pakistani civil society, who feel that the move could end up glorifying guns for school children.
“Teachers are meant to teach,” Umar Daraz, a primary school teacher and a member of Peshawar's Primary Teacher Association, told CNN. “If teachers take guns into classroom it glorifies this deadly weapon in the eyes of children, and in the future it could inspire them to seek out guns, misuse them and cause more tragedies to take place.”
Moreover, the decision to allow women to carry weapons has faced stiff criticism from religious groups in the province, exposing fissures in the deeply conservative and patriarchal Pashtun society.
“This is the stupidest and most illogical thing that has happened in Pashtun society,” Abaseen Yusufzai, head of the Pashto department at Islamia College University in Peshawar, told the Times. “Women provide moral support, food and water to our warriors … but never in our history have they been required to take up arms. It suggests that the men have lost their nerve, and the courage to fight.”