ISLAMABAD: On the pattern they followed in Afghanistan, Taliban militants in Pakistan's restive north-western Swat valley have banned girls from attending schools, warning that any violators would face death.
The move comes in the wake of a terror campaign by Taliban targeting girls' schools in the region with more than 100 such schools being blown up or torched.
"You have untill January 15 to stop sending girls to schools after which we will blow up the schools," Shah Dauran, a deputy of Maulana Fazlullah, the Taliban commander in Swat, held out the ultimatum on the militants' clandestine run FM radio channel.
Girls can no longer be enrolled by government or private educational institutions, he dictated. Dauran threatened to blow up all schools that violated the ban and said schools providing education to girls would be forced to close. Any person violating the ban will face harsh action, he said.
Prior to issuing this dictum, Taliban in several towns and villages of Swat had either barred girls from attending schools or directed teachers to ensure that they came to
schools in burqas.
Reports said dozens of schools have either been destroyed or closed through out Swat valley, where Pakistani forces are supposedly undertaking an operation against the
Not content with barring girls going to schools, the militants have also launched efforts to "Islamise" the curriculum of schools and have begun targeting state-run schools as part of their campaign.
So effective was the Taliban dictum that the NWFP government had to launch an advertisement campaign in newspapers in June-July asking militants to stop blowing up
schools. But it had little or no impact, neither did the efforts of residents of Swat, who had tried to oppose the militant campaign against girls' schools.
Taliban commanders like Fazlullah have said that female education is "un-Islamic". The militants have also targeted shops selling music and movies, barber shops and cyber cafes.
Fazlullah has been leading a violent campaign for the imposition of Shariat or Islamic law in Swat. After his followers established a parallel administration in some 60 villages in the region, security forces launched a crackdown in October last year.
According to official figures, Swat has 1580 schools registered, with most of them labelled as Pakistan's top schools.