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Pakistan: An Attack on Education

Extremism in Asia / Research and Visualization

* Report created by ISVG’s Nikole Snyder

In violence-riddled Northwestern Pakistan, attacks against educational institutions are often eclipsed in the media by higher casualty events.  While these attacks against educational institutions often produce relatively few casualties, they have a dramatic impact on Pakistan’s social system. Education is a fundamental human right and it is essential to restoring normalcy, especially in conflict situations.[1] Targeting educational facilities is intended to deter children—especially girls—from attending school and from getting an education.

Figure A. (Left Image) Represents Total Attacks in Pakistan between 1/1/2009 and 12/31/2011 (Right Image) Represents Total Attacks against schools in Pakistan between 1/1/2009 and 12/31/2011.

Educational institutions are the most frequently targeted types of buildings in Pakistan. Despite the high frequency of attacks, the number of casualties caused by these events is extremely low—educational buildings are the only targets of violent attacks that produced fewer casualties than there were total events. This is likely due to attacks taking place against these buildings when students are not present. The motivation for these kinds of attacks appear to differ from the motivation behind attacks against other target types in this region; the attacks on schools appear to be carried out with the intention of causing damage to the facility instead of creating casualties. By causing damage to the educational facility, it makes it more difficult for children to attend school. It is possible that rather than creating casualties, the real goal is to discourage children from pursing an education altogether.

Focus on Gender

On January 15, 2009, the deputy leader of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) announced that a ban would be placed on female education in the northwestern region of the Swat district in Pakistan. He told the citizens in the region that they needed to take their daughters out of all schools, public or private. If people failed to do this, he said, the schools would be bombed and violators would face death.[2] The TTP declared girls’ education a “vulgarity” and “un-Islamic”, and many attacks were carried out specifically to keep girls from being able to get an education.[3]

From 2009 to 2011, there were approximately 244 attacks on boys’ and girls’ schools in Pakistan. Of the 244 attacks, approximately 149 (61%) targeted girls’ schools.

When looking at the number of attacks by year, overall attacks against schools—regardless of gender—are experiencing a similar trend with an increase in the number of attacks in 2010. In 2009 and 2011, there were more attacks on girls’ schools—however, the number of attacks against boys’ and girls’ schools in 2010 is almost identical. Further research should be conducted into the reasons why the number of attacks against Pakistani educational facilities increased so dramatically in 2010.

Overall, it appears that the number of attacks targeting educational facilities in Pakistan are decreasing, with the number of attacks in 2011 being the lowest they have been since 2009.

Level of Education

Although the TTP issued a ban on female education, during an interview a TTP spokesman claimed that “primary schools can remain open as long as the girls and female teachers observe ‘purdah’ [cover their bodies].”[4] This statement seems to directly contradict the ban on female education, and by breaking down the attacks by level of education, it can be seen that most attacks have actually targeted primary schools from 2009-2011. One reason for this may be that the TTP wants to deter children from attending school at a young age. One possible explaination might be that if the attacks target secondary and tertiary schools, it sends a message, but the students already have a cetain level of education to fall back on if they decide to drop out. So, rather than wasting resources on targeting institutions that provide higher levels of education, the majority of the attacks target schools at the lowest level.


Educational facilities are the most targeted building type in Pakistan, but those attacks often go overlooked because they tend to cause a relatively low number of casualties. As of January 2009, the TTP has banned female education in the violence-riddled Northwestern Swat Valley. However, from 2009 to 2011, attacks have targeted both male and female educational facilities. Because education is an essential element of progress, it is possible that attacks on schools are intended to deter children from attending school and obtaining an education.

*Data current as of March 5, 2012


[1]“UNICEF Condemns Attacks on Schools in Pakistan.” Unicef. January 23, 2009. http://www.unicef.org/media/media_47436.html.

[2]“Pakistan: Militants Announce Ban on Education in Swat.” IRIN News. January 1, 2009. http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=82161.

[3]“Pakistan: Mutilated for Venturing Outdoors.” Indian Defence. January 16, 2012. http://www.indiandefence.com/forums/f13/pakistan-mutilated-venturing-outdoors-14163/.

[4]“Pakistan: Militants Announce Ban on Girls’ Education in Swat.” IRIN News. January 1, 2009. http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=82161.


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