Perhaps the pen is not mightier than the sword in K-P

Published: January 28, 2015
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Teachers handle various firearms during a weapons training session for school, college and university teachers at a police training centre in Peshawar on January 27, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government has finally unleashed its first substantial policy reforms since the Taliban massacre in Peshawar that killed over 130 innocent children. The policy is to allow teachers in the province to carry weapons to engage terrorists.

One wonders how many geniuses it took for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) government to come up with such a preposterous initiative. The naivety in argument is that there are not enough police officers in the province to provide security to every school. This clearly shows that the government has not yet conceived even the simplest and dangerous consequences that such a move might entail.

The first and foremost question occupying the minds of many is why should teachers be expected to serve as security guards considering the country has a huge defence budget, the fourth largest standing army in the world, scores of intelligence agencies, police, rangers and paramilitary forces? After all, their job is not to act as a counter-terror force but to teach the students.

Secondly, did it cross the authorities’ minds that what happens if even a single of these armed teachers turn in favour of the Taiban? Who will guarantee that this will not happen? In fact, the mess that we stand in today is because we thought by arming and pumping the Taliban during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and afterwards, we will always maintain them as our surrogates. Look how that turned out. Today, with the same weapon, they have killed more than 50,000 innocent Pakistanis.

Thirdly, in our country where not only madrassas but also public and private schools are tailored to encourage Taliban’s views through curriculum that teaches children ‘A’ for Allah, ‘B’ for bandookh (gun) and ‘J’ for jihad. What impact will a teacher holding a gun in the class have on the children? The same teachers who students look up to, who shape our society by imparting good values into our children. What lessons are our children learning when they are being taught by a teacher with a book in one hand and a gun in the other? Does the government realise the extent of psychological and negative impact of this policy on our children, the future generation?

Fourthly, will the children feel safer by having people with loaded guns around? What arrangements has the government made to ensure that these weapons will not spark bloody accidents on campuses, in colleges and universities?

By any definition, the idea of arming teachers is not only inappropriate but dangerously insane too. With almost half of Pakistani children, aged between five and 16, not going to schools due to various reasons, and only half of the population being able to read and write, what is required is training and arming our teachers and children with books and pens, not guns.

Today, the success of any country depends on how well it equips and trains its teachers with skills and knowledge necessary for today’s information age, and what future generations learn from them. The frustrated, young, unemployed youth in Pakistan is already at the helm of blandishments of extremists and terrorist ideologies. Introducing a culture of Kalashnikovs in our schools, colleges and universities, is sliding society in further chaos.

Kashif Ali

Kashif Ali

The writer holds Masters in governance and public policy from Germany and works in the development sector. He tweets as @s_kashif8 (twitter.com/s_kashif8)

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

  • Parvez

    Very well said……..this initiative is a completely hair-brained idea.Recommend

  • HZR

    That’s because of illiteracyRecommend

  • Saad

    Your argument is mostly flawed. If the government does not have enough resources to provide security, your solution to that issue is to question the govt as to why they do not have enough security? The answer is no govt in the world has enough resources to prevent terrorism attacks. Besides, dont you think the leak needs to be fixed first to avoid further damage, before reconsidering the whole system? Secondly, owning a weapon license or even a weapon does not enforce you to become a ‘security guard’. A teacher does have a responsibility to make sure their students are taught in a safe classroom environment. Many parents would be assured that basic precautions are taken by the school to reduce terrorist attacks. As for the students, it is quite evident they are witnessing that full measures need to be taken to protect ones right to education.

    There is nothing wrong with practicing self defence, even with a pistol weapon, especially if you are located in one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Your argument is only valid only for 1st world countries who have developed sufficient safety measures (Except that some few countries are still struggling with gun related crimes). I do believe it still remains govt’s responsibility and until federal govt does not flip from bottoms up to the right side up, it is sensible that these people are taking such precautions to tackle safety issues. Can the people themselves counter terrorism? No, but they can at least prepare themselves instead of raising their hands up and pleading to the govt after the damage is done. As sensitive as it may get, think about how many lives would have been saved if every teacher on that day were trained and armed?Recommend

  • Zeeshan

    Author, u need to understand that we r living in a state of War right now! Nowhere in the world does militants storm a school and kill innocent kids indiscrimatley. we need to take drastic measures to save our children.
    Israel for example, has made it mandatory for every adult over 18 man or woman to take military training as it is in a state of warfare like Pakistan. Therefore, i support this decision!Recommend

  • KahnaKacha

    Author, You raised a good question, but did not provide any solution. Pakistan military has not only armed Taliban, but also anti Taliban forces and Tribes in FATA, and lots of times people switch sides (first the Taliban and then many Anti Taliban militias).

    Honestly, I don’t see that happening with teachers, but still it is not the best practice to arm them.

    So please provide a solution. While you think of a solution, let me remind you that the 4th largest Army in the world, along with its intelligence agencies (that failed to prevent attacks) are not under provincial government of KPK.Recommend

  • Milind A

    “The first and foremost question occupying the minds of many is why should teachers be expected to serve as security guards considering the country has a huge defence budget, the fourth largest standing army in the world, scores of intelligence agencies, police, rangers and paramilitary forces? ‘
    Shhh… You just touched a raw nerve, by attacking Pakistan’s holy cow – the army….
    Yes you’re right, the idea of arming teachers is as hare-brained as the justifications & arguments advanced in favour of guns by the gun-lobby in U.S. – something like “Guns don’t kill, people do”…. We’re seeing the after-effects of the gun culture in U.S., where toddlers shoot and kill people…Recommend

  • Naveed Sethi

    For you Mr. Kashif

    1. Teachers are not acting as counter terror force but they are being imparted with the knowledge to fire a bullet for self defence and be helpful at times of such incidents.

    2. As far as team building is concerened I am prettu sure that you must be knowing that these people are in our roots, a teacher going in their team (yes, a hard question) but if one gets teamed up with Taliban there will be sixty who can raise the alarm, blow the whistle.

    3. As far as I remember, some years may be 10 to 15 years back an initial training was given to students in schools and colleges through FC. In which they were trained for self defence, emergency help and working out with different weapons. It was called NCC. I am sure that this arrangement will once again give the students and the teachers the courage and knowledge that they require. Nothing will be happen to the students as far as our MEDIA is alive and showing all this mess they are already taking those negative imapcts.

    4. The teachers are being trained not provided with guns and weapons. It’s just that they know who this stuff works when it comes to have a GO.Recommend

  • Kashif Ali

    “The teachers are being trained not provided with guns and weapons. It’s just that they know who this stuff works when it comes to have a GO.”

    I would recommend you to read the details of the news again.Recommend

  • Kashif Ali

    The provincial government is also not independent, it comes under the federal government. So they should ask the centre for assistance. Regarding solutions, I believe, terrorism can effectively be countered only through revisit of our foreign policy. I have written about it many times on these pages.Recommend

  • Kashif Ali

    While respecting your views. I don’t agree, because the comparison is not valid. You are comparing apples with oranges; two extremely different cases.Recommend

  • Kashif Ali

    We have enough resources, just lack the will.Recommend

  • Hamzah

    Good piece. This is synonymous with the state of lax gun laws here in the US, where brutal shooting becomes anything more than an afterthought. Given our history and the fact that we have been saddled with a Klashinkov Culture, the KPK government could have done more than promote cosmetic measures to help women fend off against themselves. Will all due honesty, Imran Khan is and has made a specimen out of himself.Recommend

  • Jehanzeb Mahar

    The article is completely unrealistic and naive. Let me answer the arguments:

    1. Security forces and law enforcement agencies can’t be deployed at every educational institute. It takes more than just deploying security personnel to maintain law and order. And its a bitter truth that our government has failed in this regard. So, the people are fully justified in protecting themselves with licensed firearms

    2. Your concern regarding a teacher turning in favour of terrorists is justified. That’s why more and more teachers and school staff should have guns so that any rouge teacher or staff member doesn’t dare do anything. Remember, any such rouge element can bring a concealed handgun to the school irrespective of the fact that govt has allowed the teachers to bring guns or not. And God forbid, if that happens, just imagine the situation.

    3. You are equating the supply of rockets and machine guns to Afghan taliban with licensed small arms in the hands of pakistani citizens. Pity you

    4. Our children have already seen the worst of violence. So please don’t say guns in the hands of teachers would have negative impact. I personally feel safe for myself and my children when there is a familiar person around with a gunRecommend

  • Visibly

    Have you ever thought critically about violence?
    If a terrorist comes into a school where he knows the teachers carry arms: what will he do?
    Or a criminal coming to your home? Or a criminal seeing a police officer?
    All people will be far safer if that criminal/terrorist believes/knows that their opponent is not armed. Being armed will not help you if don’t feel dedicated and educated in how to kill/wound, and fast.

    Does it mean that we should let such people rule, by use of guns? Not at all. But society will be much safer if use of violence against violence is confined to specialists.Recommend

  • Jehanzeb Mahar

    That’s why we need relaxed gun laws and affordable shooting rangesRecommend

  • KahnaKacha

    You nullified your argument yourself. Foreign and domestic policies of centre (Military included) has brought this mess in the first place.

    Should KPK ask them to rethink their foreign policy (as if that would make any difference), or ask them for HELP, to do damage control, that is caused due to centre’s flawed policy.

    Only help centre can offer, is to rethink the policy. They have nothing else to offer to KPK. Arming teaches, is a desperate attempt to counter the damage, done by Centre’s policies.Recommend