NEW YORK – In the wake of cold-blooded shooting of Malala Yousafzai, the girls rights activist, a prominent human rights watchdog group on Friday asked the Pakistani government to take immediate steps to protect students, teachers and schools.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch also urged armed groups including the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and their affiliates to cease attacks that target children, educational personnel and schools.

“Parts of Pakistan are among the most dangerous places in the world to go to school today. It’s time Pakistani authorities understand that expressions of outrage alone are inadequate and such attacks will only end if they hold abusers accountable,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan Director at Human Rights Watch.

According to the HRW, the Pakistan Army should also refrain from turning schools into targets by using them as bases.

“The unity of global condemnation and the speed of response in the wake of Malala’s shooting were phenomenal, but we need to see the same kind of reaction every time a student or school is attacked,” Hasan said.

The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) tried to kill 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai, who advocated for girls right to education, by shooting her in the head on October 9th, leaving her in critical condition. The attack received condemnation from across international spectrum and the local political spectrum in Pakistan. “The schools that have remained for years as piles of rubble across Pakistan’s north-west bring into question the government’s level of commitment to seeing children return to school in safety,” he further said.

“This is more than just the case of the shooting of one brave girl, but a crisis for the entire Pakistani education system. It is time Pakistani authorities understood that those who seek to harm students and teachers wish to rob Pakistan of its future,” Hasan added.

The statement was based on a collection of reports on 96 school attacks that took place in Pakistan this year alone, whereas the United Nations had reported 153 such incidents in 2011.

Fourteen attacks were reported from Mohmand Agency in the Tribal Areas. Dozens of attacks were reported from various districts of KPK. Thirteen schools were attacked in Swabi district, 12 in Charsadda district, and 11 in Mardan district. Schools have also been attacked in Balochistan and Sindh provinces.

The United Nations reported 152 incidents of partial or complete destruction of school facilities in FATA and KP in 2011.

Agencies add: HRW went on to praise the speedy international response to the Malala incident. It also called on the government to cooperate with provincial authorities to create a ‘rapid-response system’ to deal with attacks on schools and provide affected students with psychological support.

During a tribute to Yousafzai organised by UNESCO’s executive board, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova praised the young woman’s bravery. Bokova reiterated UNESCO’s determination to continue the fight to ensure the right of all children to education, describing the shooting as ‘unacceptable’.

Bokova had issued a statement the day after the attack denouncing the act and expressing her support for the Pakistani girl who has since become a national symbol for civil rights.

Yousafzai first attracted public attention in 2009 when she launched a blog describing her life in Swat Valley, an area that remains under Taliban control. She then became an activist, campaigning for the rights of children and girls.