India tells staff to pull out students from Pak schools
26 July 2016
India has declared Pakistan a 'no school-going mission' and asked the staff at its high commission to remove their children from Islamabad schools and send them back home or to other countries, officials said on Monday.
This is the first time India has asked its diplomats in Pakistan to send back their school-going children during peacetime though such orders have been enforced when the countries have been at war.
As a result, around 60 schoolchildren of Indian diplomatic staff will not resume their classes from the next quarter in Pakistan.
''It is normal practice for all countries to review staffing and related policies for their diplomatic missions, including in view of prevailing circumstances at those stations. With effect from this academic session, officials posted in the high commission of India in Islamabad have been advised to make arrangements for education of their wards outside Pakistan, till further notice,'' external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said.
Nafees Zakaria, Pakistan's foreign office spokesperson, said, ''This is an informal, internal, administrative arrangement we were informed of two months back. No other considerations were communicated to us.''
A source said India had been considering the move ever since Taliban gunmen broke into a school in Peshawar in 2014 and opened fire, killing 132 students and nine staff.
After a blast at a short distance from the American School in 2009, the children of foreign diplomats stopped going to school for some time. The explosion targeted a university and killed many.
The attendance of Indian children at the American School was affected several times in recent years because of security threats.
After the March 2009 terror attack on a bus carrying Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore, the Indian high commission had bought four custom-made bullet-proof buses, especially to ferry the children of officials between the mission and the ISOI school in Islamabad.
The high commission is located deep inside Islamabad's fortified diplomatic enclave, while the ISOI is 11km away on the outskirts of the city.
At least one parent would accompany each bus in the mornings and on the return journey from the school along with the locally hired drivers. An escort vehicle would also accompany the school bus to and fro each time.
Relations between India and Pakistan have worsened over the past few months, with violence in Kashmir over the killing of 22-year-old Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani being the latest flashpoint. Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif recently made provocative statements over Kashmir, saying it ''will one day become Pakistan''.
Therefor, it was felt, the bullet-proof buses ferrying children of Indian mission staff in Islamabad had become a prime target for militants after terrorists attacked an army school in Peshawar, killing over 160 children.
India had asked Pakistan last week to ensure the safety of Indian officials and their families there in view of the threats of marches and protests at the high commission.
The decision by India to pull out its diplomatic staffers' children from Islamabad schools is likely to further strain the ties between the two countries.
Around 50 children of the Indian high commission officials are enrolled in the International School of Islamabad (ISOI), popularly known as the American School. Around 10 children are enrolled in the Roots International School.
One of the reasons for India's move was the restriction on the free movement of Indian students in Islamabad. Whenever schools planned trips outside Islamabad, the Indian students had to seek approval from the Pakistani foreign office, according to the Daily Times.