Page last updated at 09:31 GMT, Friday, 16 January 2009

Threatened Pakistan schools close

By M Ilyas Khan
BBC News, Islamabad

Map showing Swat valley

Private schools in Pakistan's troubled north-western Swat district have closed to comply with a Taleban edict banning girls' education, officials say.

The edict was issued on schools in Swat by a Taleban cleric in a radio broadcast last month. A 15 January deadline was set.

Owners say the schools will not reopen until the conflict in Swat is resolved, or the Taleban revoke the ban.

The government says it will do all it can to protect education.

Security pledge

School owners in Mingora, the administrative centre of Swat district, say even if they keep the schools open, parents are unlikely to send their children in view of the Taleban threat.

"The local administration called a meeting of Mingora's school owners two days ago and promised to provide security to us if we remained open, but no-one is ready to run the risk,", Ahmad Shah, a Mingora school owner, told the BBC.

There are more than 350 privately owned schools in Swat, each with separate sections for boys and girls, according to data available from a local association of schools.

Over the past year, most of them were ordered closed by the Taleban, except 96 schools that operated in Mingora town.

They have now closed, bringing all privately administered girls' education in Swat to an end.

The Taleban have destroyed nearly 150 schools in the last year.

Minister for Information and Broadcasting Sherry Rehman said on Friday that the government would work with the provincial administration to protect education, particularly for girls, in North West Frontier Province.

She expected a resolution in the National Assembly against the attacks on schools.

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