Blackburn penalizes the town of Abbottabad….

The town of Abbottabad, a scenic abode of peace-loving people, has been in the news for the last two months, though entirely for the wrong reasons. This town, having educational institutions and medical facilities of international standards, was the headquarters of the Hazara District during British rule of India. It was named after Major James Abbott, one of the players of the Great Game who founded the town and district in January 1853 after the annexation of Punjab. He remained the first Deputy Commissioner of the Hazara district from 1849 until April 1853. Major Abbott is noted for having written a poem titled “Abbottabad“, before he went back to Britain, in which he wrote of his fondness for the town and his sadness at having to leave it.

The world seems to have decided to punish this town because it was a target of a special operation of US Navy SEALS. According to a story by AFP, a town called Blackburn in the UK said Wednesday it had axed a school twinning partnership with Abbottabad in Pakistan where Osama bin Laden was killed, but said the move should not reflect badly on the school. The caption of the report is very provocative which says, schools axe link to Pakistan Bin Laden town. A town named after Major Abbott, has now been labeled as bin Laden town with one stroke of pen. The report says that a planned visit by teachers from Pakistan to the city of Blackburn was called off in mid-May, shortly after the Al-Qaeda chief was killed by US forces in Abbottabad on May 2, local authority officials said.

“The scheme, which was a British Council-funded initiative, was programmed to come to an end around this time and this has now happened,” said Harry Davenport, director of education in Blackburn. “A decision was taken in consultation with head teachers to wind down the scheme slightly earlier and we were clear that this would bear no reflection on the school,” without specifying the reason.

Under the three-year twinning scheme, children from eight schools in Blackburn and Abbottabad exchanged letters and emails and worked on shared projects, while their teachers received professional development training. It was part of the British Council’s Connecting Classrooms program, which aims to link British schools with others around the world to develop greater understanding between young people. In 2010, the scheme involved more than 3,600 schools worldwide in more than 50 countries, including Brazil, Argentina, Thailand, Tanzania and South Africa. About 100 British schools have ties with schools in Pakistan, and Blackburn is the only one to have severed links, a British Council spokeswoman said.

Pakistan’s restive FATA region is being governed under Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) introduced during British period. The laws, called draconian laws, have the provision of “collective responsibility” where the entire tribe is punished for the crime a tribesman. Although, Abbottabad is not a part of FATA, this rule is being applied by Blackburn to punish the whole town. It means that all those towns and cities where fugitives are captured should be penalized and Blackburn will mete out similar treatment to schools in such towns. What a poetic justice by the city of a country which is torch-bearer of fair-play and justice!

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