PESHAWAR (AP) – Thousands of people protested in northwest Pakistan yesterday after a gunman opened fire on a school van, killing the driver and critically injuring a child, a decade after schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai was shot by the Taleban in the same city.
Monday’s attack took place in Mingora in the Gully Bagh neighbourhood, sparking fears of a resurgence in militant activity in the Swat Valley.
The Swat Valley was the focus of a monthslong army offensive in 2009 to push out militants from the area, but the operation also displaced hundreds of thousands of people.
Political activists, members of civil society and members of the public thronged to the city’s main intersection chanting slogans denouncing the Gully Bagh attack.
The mass protest brought the city to a standstill, with businesses and markets closing in solidarity.
Protesters demanded the immediate arrest of the attackers and for peace and order to be restored.
One placard read: “We cannot let the hard earned peace be destroyed,” while another read: “Act now against the attackers before it becomes too late.”
The school van attack coincided with the 10th anniversary of Yousufzai being shot in Swat for her outspoken advocacy for girls’ education. Yesterday, the Nobel winner arrived in Pakistan to visit flood-hit areas.
The funeral for the driver killed in Monday’s attack hadn’t yet take place as his relatives are demanding the arrest of the perpetrators. A protest was also held in Gully Bagh, with the driver’s casket put out on the street. Police have made security arrangements at both the places to avert any violence.
No one claimed immediate responsibility for the shooting. Local police officer Zafar Khan said on Monday a hunt was underway to trace the attackers who fled the scene on a motorcycle.
President of the Private Schools Management Association Sawab Khan told the Associated Press that all 1,300 private schools in the Swat Valley were shut on Monday and yesterday.
From today, the private schools will observe a partial strike and teachers and staff will hold a demonstration.