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Editorial: Shrouded in suspicion

In its recent dispatch, the Human Rights Watch expressed concerns over the use of schools as shelters by the security forces and militants. Researcher of the watchdog, Ahmad Shuja, claimed that last year Afghan security forces used schools as shelters 15 times and the Taliban five times. The HRW’s report could not be analyzed until the indicators and statistics were shared. However, the dispatch has shown the militant group more pro-education than the government. If the figures are valid and backed by evidence then it should wake up the government from its deep slumber. The authorities shall go into depth of the report to test its credibility. If there are shortcomings, protest; otherwise, measures should be taken to respect schools as sanctuaries for children.

At the same time, the HRW shall share complete details which shaped the dispatch such as interviews, statistics and visit of its field officers. It is necessary to gauge credibility of the report. The dispatch is shrouded in suspicion because ground realities and official statistics present a totally different picture than that of the watchdog. Although, the group acknowledges that it could not verify use of schools as shelter by the Taliban, but here emphasized should be on presenting a clear picture to let the people to decide who is right and wrong. Presenting incomplete information is against ethics in every profession because it misguides people, not in hundreds but in millions.

According to official statistics, there are 16,000 schools in Afghanistan. Around 9.5 million students go there to quench their thirst for education. More or less, 700 schools are closed. As per report of the UN published in February this year, 20 incidents were recorded in which Afghan army and police fired at the enemy positions from schools or adjacent area. It is against policy of the government and defense ministry to use schools as shelters. It is also true that some Afghan Local Police officers or army captains might have used schools as shelters for short time, but it is also true that the government could not reach there to take action against those who violated the rules.

As far as the facts go, the Taliban and Daesh have established bases mostly in schools and clinics but the Human Rights Watch cannot go there. Therefore, the watchdog has no information that exactly how many schools and clinics are shut by the militants and in how many districts. Last week, Afghan security forces during a military operation in Helmand province, rescued 16 people from the Taliban. They were kept in a school which was turned to prison by the militant group. In February when the security forces launched military operation in Achin district of Nangarhar province against Daesh, they found that the terrorist group had established command center and prison in a school.

There are two sides to every picture. One is incomplete but yet presented. The watchdogs shall be careful because their job is sacred—to provide complete and credible information to audiences. Hope, these organizations would work independently or jointly to tell the story of schools that have been closed by the militants. The government shall also take steps to punish cops and soldiers who are violating the codes.

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