Pakistan university reopens one month after deadly attack

Pakistani police commandos patrolling the premises of Bacha Khan University in Charsadda after it reopened yesterday. Gunmen stormed the institution on Jan 20 in a rampage that left 21 dead.
Pakistani police commandos patrolling the premises of Bacha Khan University in Charsadda after it reopened yesterday. Gunmen stormed the institution on Jan 20 in a rampage that left 21 dead.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PESHAWAR (Pakistan) • A university attacked last month by the Taleban has reopened, guarded by hundreds of police amid an atmosphere of fear after the militant group vowed more strikes on schools.

Gunmen stormed Bacha Khan University in the north-western town of Charsadda on Jan 20, killing 21 teachers and students.

The attack shattered a growing sense of security in the troubled region a year after the Peshawar school massacre, in which more than 150 people - mainly children - were killed.

"I am very happy to announce that the university has been reopened today but amid very strict security," Vice-Chancellor Fazal Rahim Marwat said yesterday, adding that the objective was "to defeat the mindset of militants".

A sense of panic has gripped parents across Pakistan in the wake of the university assault, with rumours of attacks leading to closures of educational institutions.

Last week, a government girls' college in Rawalpindi was evacuated following an exchange of gunfire between police and car thieves nearby. It followed a similar incident at a girls' high school in the central city of Faisalabad just weeks earlier.

At the university yesterday, students passed through body scanners and were frisked before entering.

Mr Marwat said the school had set up special camps for the psychological treatment of traumatised students.

"We have come to the university today with a firm commitment to uphold the sacrifices of our fellow students," said biotechnology student Rehmat Ullah, 20.

Professor Iftikhar Alam added: "We are starting classes today to make it clear to the world that we are ready to defeat our enemies and those who want to plunge Pakistan into darkness and illiteracy."

Elsewhere yesterday, a soldier was killed and another wounded by an improvised explosive device (IED) in the South Waziristan tribal region, bordering Afghanistan.

A security official said the soldiers were sweeping the area for IEDs, so a military convoy could pass, when one exploded.

Pakistan has been fighting a home-grown insurgency since 2004, when militants displaced by the US-led invasion of Afghanistan began a campaign in border tribal areas.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 16, 2016, with the headline 'Pakistan university reopens one month after deadly attack'. Print Edition | Subscribe