Pakistani girls protest naming of college after Malala



Islamabad: Scores of students of a girls' college in the erstwhile Pakistani Taliban stronghold of Swat have protested the renaming of their institution after teenage rights activist Malala Yousufzai, saying the move could make them vulnerable to attacks by militants.

Over 100 students of the Government Malala College for Girls in Saidu Sharif, one of the main towns in Swat district, on Wednesday boycotted classes and tore up pictures of 15-year-old Malala, currently being treated in a British hospital after being shot in the head during a Taliban assassination bid in October.

The students gave the government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province three days to restore the institution's earlier name of Government Girls Degree College.

During the protest, several students claimed the new name could make their school a target for Taliban fighters.

The students also criticised Malala and her family for leaving Pakistan after the attack on her life. They said most of them were from poor families and could not flee Swat if they were targeted.

Some girls claimed militants had made phone calls threatening to attack the school.

Officials told the students that their demands would be conveyed to the provincial government.

The government sent Army troops into Swat Valley, located 160 km from Islamabad, in early 2009 to flush out the militants.

Though hundreds of militants were killed or captured, the Taliban leadership of the region escaped to Afghanistan.

In recent months, the militants have carried out several attacks in Swat, including the attempt on Malala’s life.

Malala came to prominence in 2009 after she started a blog for the BBC's Urdu service about Taliban atrocities in Swat.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Amir Haider Khan Hoti approved the move to rename the school in Saidu Sharif after Malala on October 16.

The federal and provincial governments have taken several steps to honour Malala, including the renaming of schools around the country while the UN observed a "global day of action" for her last month.

Malala's father Ziauddin Yousufzai, a teacher, has been appointed a UN adviser on education.

PTI