PESHAWAR - Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan faced an embarrassing situation on Wednesday when he was confronted outside the Army Public School by some protesters, apparently parents of the martyred children.

Imran Khan, along with his wife Reham Khan, visited the school which was attacked last month by Taliban militants who massacred over 140 children, sending a wave of grief and rage across the country.

As the newly-wed couple reached there, some ‘parents’ staged a protest outside the school and shouted slogans against them. The protesters, particularly a couple of emotionally-charged women, tried to block their way. They viewed that politicians were visiting the school just for political point-scoring.

Police however got cleared the way for Imran’s entourage. Imran and his party men called it a ‘staged protest’ which they said was arranged by their political opponents to sabotage the visit.

Talking to students of Army Public School (APS), Imran lauded the parents and schoolchildren for their courage to rejoin the school for studies. He said sacrifices of martyred children would not go in vain. “I am pleased to see children have restarted their studies in APS,” he remarked.

Later, the PTI chief left the school from the back gate to avoid protesters. The protesters scuffled with police and continued their protest as long as Imran Khan remained at the school. Extra contingents of police were also summoned to control the enraged protesters.

Imran Khan expressed bewilderment at the protest. “I don’t understand what the point of the protest was... I am just a chief of a party and Pervaiz Khattak is the chief minister of the province, but the school is run by the army,” said Imran while talking to media later in a news conference.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Mushtaq Ghani blamed political opponents for trying to obstruct Imran Khan’s way. “Awami National Party and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz have formed Shuhda Forum and the protesters outside Army Public School were members of that forum,” Ghani alleged in a press conference. He said 8 to 10 political workers tried to block route of the convoy to score “political points”.

The protesters during their protest chanted slogans of ‘Go Imran Go and ‘politics on blood of children unacceptable’ on arrival of Imran. They, carrying posters and banners, tried to stop his vehicle from entering APS premises and complained that PTI government did not show any concern regarding the school attack.

They said the province had given mandate to the PTI for positive change but so far the party has done nothing. They also said the ruling PTI has given no financial assistance to the victim families. They warned to come on the roads against the PTI government after the Chehlum of the martyred children if their reservations were not addressed and foolproof security not ensured for all schools in the province.

One of the protesters said the visit of Imran along with his bride was nothing but a political gimmick, adding that he should have delayed his marriage till the Chehlum of the slain students. The demonstrators also lamented that it took Imran Khan about a month to come to Peshawar and address students after the deadly school massacre.

But Imran Khan clarified that he postponed his visit, previously scheduled for January 12, to the APS due to Army Chief General Raheel Sharif’s visit to the school, adding that he regretted this postponement. The attacked school resumed its academic activities on Monday, after 26 days of the attack. On the first day, COAS Gen Raheel Sharif had welcomed the returning children and attended the school assembly.

The PTI chief went on to add that he was caught off guard with protest since he only visited the school to stand with the parents and to increase the morale of the students. “I fully understand their (parents’) grief...they have lost their children… I respect their protest,” he said, adding he came here to encourage the students. But he said he failed to understand the reason behind the protest.

“If the parents’ anger is emanating from the lack of security at schools then he should not be held responsible. There were over 65,000 schools in KP and police could not possibly provide security to all of them,” he added. Imran also clarified that he initially got off his car to pacify protesters. “But I saw some people who did not look like parents, they responded with political comments so I sat back in my car.”

Imran however said he was happy to see the courage of the students who survived the attack, adding his party’s government in KP would not allow disruption of educational activities in the province. He said he was there to encourage the students but the students encouraged him instead. The PTI chief said horrific attack on the school was an attempt to scare children from going to school.

“I am thankful for such a great welcome, the morale of the students was high,” he said. “Without education, the country cannot progress,” he said. “It is essential for all political leaders to stand with the school. We will not let education be affected in our country at any cost; it is part of our religion.” Earlier, he along with his wife laid floral wreath on monument of martyred children at the Army Public School, and offered fateha for their departed soul.