K-P schools, taking ‘guns’ into their own hands

Published: January 14, 2015
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Weapons in or near schools should simply not be allowed.

It is almost been a month since December 16, 2014. A new year has begun, the political diatribes are proceeding in full swing, the civil-military nexus is repeatedly flashed across screens, the debates on military courts and capital punishments are continuing, and this week, the schools have now reopened across Pakistan.

However, parents are asking the question: Are our children safe?

It is a terrible thing to ask that question. You are not sending your child to war; you are sending them to school. To sit and wonder whether terrorists will barge into your child’s school and indiscriminately kill innocent young human beings, to talk to little children about the threat of death and destruction, is a matter that says nothing but this – we are in a state of war.

It may not seem like that, with famous leaders getting married, famous politicians squabbling and morning show hosts still being happy at triggering hate speeches – but it is true. Pakistan has been long at war and December 16th was the blood-filled battle cry that jolted throughout the ears of the people of this country.

It is as if someone has pressed the panic button yet no one has any idea what to do. And in this state of chaos, anyone who seems to be coming up with any war plan is deemed as fit. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s (K-P) decision of allowing arms within school premises is one such ill-schemed, ill-advised plan that is now effective. Instead of creating ways to ensure security measures, instead of preventing more arms and ammunition making their way near schools or installing equipment that ensures no weaponry is near, someone brilliant in the K-P administration has decided, “hey, let’s give them all guns!”.

A source who works at PAF City School has informed us that they recently received a ‘coffin’ due to which they increased their security by raising their walls and building walls around corridors and any entry points. It is imperative to mention here that Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has not backed off – they claim that they will continue attacking Pakistan and its schools and that their next attack might be even bigger.

Does none of this sound familiar to K-P administration?

The threats, the warnings, the lax security measures – were these not similar conditions before the Peshawar school attack?

Now that the country’s leadership has taken a full throttle to go ahead on fighting against the TTP and there are open condemnations on many avenues, you want to add more guns in the mix?

Who would have thought that this would bring us to a debate on gun control in the country? At a point where the chances of violence need to be minimised, K-P government has decided to add a catalyst – give them more guns.

Countries like UK have low gun-related deaths because they have extremely strict gun control laws. Countries like US have high gun-related deaths because they have extremely trigger-happy gun-control laws. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out. It doesn’t even reflect smart policy; it’s just what it is. The right to bear arms is a hot debate in the US because of the horrendous gun-related crimes that have occurred there in the past. While there is a strong gun-enthusiast lobby there that stops from passing strict gun control laws, there is hardly anyone stating that the people of the US should have more guns to protect themselves.

The administration’s logic is that the government is not equipped to deal with the security threat and was unable to provide for the safety of each and every school. This makes perfect sense because the government of Sindh placed all the responsibility on private schools, claiming that ‘they make more money, they can afford security measures’. In a similar stream of news, ‘mobile phones’ have been banned in schools in Sindh. The headless chicken scenario is unmistakable.

If community policing is what the government is suggesting, it could have been done in a much better way by creating a neighbourhood cell, a program that encourages citizens to participate in reporting suspicious activity anonymously. That doesn’t take money or infrastructure, it just takes initiative. You could have spent less amount on bakery items, dear K-P government, less money on diesel and protocol for dharnas and what not and spend the same money on police and security arrangements.

You could have brought security experts to guide schools, you could have tried encouraging schools to hire security firms at a better rate, you could have helped partial patrolling of school routes, and you could have taken a hard line on those schools that are unable to provide security measures for children. And instead of giving them deadlines, you could have shown seriousness by simply not letting them open.

When rats infest a restaurant, it’s time for that restaurant to close its doors and wrap up its business. When a school is unable to function, the government, given the conditions, can give strict ultimatums to ensure safety procedures or else, face closure or high penalty. Any of these measures could have helped in creating a better security situation for our children – anything but the proliferation of more weapons. Giving guns in the hands of school teachers and staff is nothing less than another disaster waiting to happen.

Weapons in or near schools should simply not be allowed. If the K-P government cannot provide civilian schools with adequate security then it must not allow them to go banana republic either.

Otherwise what’s next?

Shoot outs to settle scores?

Accidental misfire causing deaths?

Have they not thought this through?

Does this still not leave parents thinking: Are my children safe?

Mahwash.Badar.

Mahwash Badar

The author is a clinical psychologist, a mum to two boys and permanently in a state of flux. She tweets @mahwashajaz_ (twitter.com/mahwashajaz_)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.