ISLAMABAD: Six Shia Muslims, including four teachers and two lower staff were killed in a shooting at a school in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s Kurram district on Thursday in what appeared to be retaliation for an attack shortly before in which a Sunni Muslim teacher was shot dead, officials said.
Both incidents occurred in the Parachinar area near the border with Afghanistan, they said. The area is off limits to journalists and human rights activists, which makes it difficult to verify facts independently.
The teachers, who were at the school to perform examination duties, were inside the staffroom when unknown assailants opened fire on them. An emergency has been imposed in all hospitals of the area by the authorities.
The attackers are said to be still at large.
Contradictory accounts were given by regional authorities about the motive for the killings.
A statement from the provincial chief minister’s office said it involved a property dispute, but the regional commissioner said sectarian antagonism appeared to be the cause.
The teacher killed in the first incident was a Sunni Muslim while those shot in the second attack at the school were Shias, the deputy commissioner, Saiful Islam, told Reuters.
“It is not clear whether the second incident was a reaction to the first one,” he said, adding security has been heightened in an area already tense due to sectarian violence.
The tribal district has a majority Shia population who are often attacked by militant groups from the local Taliban movement.
Local police said they were gathering more information as they investigated the incidents.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif strongly condemned the incident and expressed grief over the loss of lives in the deadly shooting.
In a statement, he condoled with the bereaved families and prayed to Almighty Allah for raising of ranks of the deceased in heaven. He also prayed for the early recovery of the injured and ordered provision of all possible medical assistance to the wounded.
The prime minister sought a report of the incident from the officials concerned.
Board examinations have been deferred for an indefinite period in Parachinar for now, announced the chairperson of Kohat’s education board, Samina Altaf. “The students inside the examination centre remained safe,” she said.
The chairperson further informed that board examinations in the rest of Kurram district and areas will be held as per schedule.
Pakistan’s tribal regions have long served as safe havens for terrorists. Proximity with Afghanistan, which has been wracked by a long deadly civil war, has made the tribal regions a potpourri of militants who frequently use the porous border between the two countries to sneak in and out to mount attacks in the two countries.
This tribal belt was the birthplace of the TTP, the umbrella of terrorist groups responsible for most militant violence in the country. Proximity with the tribal regions also rendered K-P vulnerable to TTP attacks.
Four days ago, tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest against the ever-deteriorating law and order situation in Lakki Marwat district of K-P.
A large number of local residents including political workers of all parties, civil society, lawyers and students participated in the protest.
The call for protest was given by Olasi Pasawon Lakki Marwat after terrorists attacked a local college where the army was camped.