Ever so often, the country demonstrates its almost unerring ability to either compound tragedy or to turn it into farce.
Either indictment can be applied to the event in Peshawar on Tuesday, photographs of which have been circulating: women in bright dupattas drawn tightly over their heads, as custom demands in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, familiarising themselves with the use of assault weapons.
This, it seems, is the new face of teaching in the province: books and pens replaced by guns in the hands of those entrusted with the care and education of children. It was appalling enough that matters had come to such a pass that schoolteachers feel so vulnerable.
Even worse, though, is the cynicism with which the authorities turned the training sessions into a photo-op, as though schoolteachers with guns are not the worst possible distortion of what the future should hold, a perverted glorification of the very tools that have caused so much senseless bloodshed.
Up until Tuesday, some 10 educational institutions in Peshawar had requested the police for such training. That they felt it necessary to resort to such an extreme step should have been a matter of shame and a reason to introspect on all that has gone wrong. That said, clarity is desperately needed on what the KP government&’s policy is regarding arms on campuses.
At what level are these decisions being made — or reversed? On January 12, the KP information minister said that the provincial cabinet had decided to allow employees of all educational institutions to carry licensed arms on the premises, so that they could “engage attackers”.
Just over a week later, the provincial minister for elementary and secondary education said that his department had never issued any such instructions and that his government would never encourage arms in classrooms.
So which is it? This is a matter of the gravest proportions; the KP government needs to clarify its stance immediately, and find ways of tackling insecurity other than by further militarisation.