The university in northwest Pakistan where Taliban gunmen killed at least 20 people last month reopened for classes on Monday with teachers – but not students – allowed carrying weapons.
Pakistani Taliban militants have threatened more assaults on schools and universities since the January 20 attack on Bacha Khan University in Charsadda, fueling a growing sense of insecurity in the country.
The attack had reminded Pakistanis of the horrors that took place a little over a year earlier, when militants massacred 134 pupils at an army school just 19 miles (31 km) away, in Peshawar, the main city in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Before today’s reopening, the university took extra security measures, installing new CCTV cameras, hiring more armed guards, and raising the height of boundary walls, vice chancellor Fazal Rahim Marwat said.
The university also decided that teachers could continue to carry their own licensed weapons as long as they do not display them in classrooms, Marwat said.
A chemistry professor who was killed during last month’s assault had been lauded as a hero for firing back at the attackers. But Marwat said the school decided to reject a request from some teachers to issue them firearms.
“After taking whatever security measures were possible for protection of students and faculty members, we opened the university for classes,” Marwat said.
Students who owned weapons had to submit them at the entrance of the campus, he said.
Firearms are easily available in northwest Pakistan, and gun ownership is ingrained in the culture of Pashtun tribes of the region.
Many of the returning students arrived at the campus with their parents and relatives, who waited while they went to classes. Several, however, were still too traumatised to attend school or were made to stay home by scared parents.
“I know the university has been opened today, but my parents didn’t allow me to go today,” said student Ihsanullah Khan. “I am not afraid and will definitely join my friends very soon.”