Unidentified assailants burned down at least 12 schools in Gilgit-Baltistan’s Diamer district late on Thursday night and fled, causing panic among residents, locals and police said.
Superintendent Police Diamer Roy Ajmal told media that police had so far received information that 12 schools – at least half of which are girls-only schools – had been set on fire overnight. He said that in some cases, books had also been thrown outside the schools and set alight.
Local police officer Mohammad Bashir said the attacks on schools took place before dawn on Friday near Chilas, but there were no casualties as the schools were closed at the time.
Police teams were dispatched to investigate the reports, SP Ajmal said, adding that no one has claimed responsibility for the incidents as yet.
The schools, which are spread across Diamer, were identified as: Girls Primary School in Ronay, Chilas;
Girls School Takya; Social Action Programme Primary School in Hudur area; Army Public School, Darel Tehsil; Primary School in Tabor village of Darel Valley; SAP Primary School in Tabor, Darel; APS in Tangir Valley (adjacent to Diamer, sharing borders with Kohistan district); Girls Primary School Sheegay Manikal, Darel Valley; Girls Primary School Galee Bala, Tangir Valley; Primary School Galee Bala, Tangir Valley; Girls Primary School Khanbary, and Girls Primary School Gyal Village.
Local residents and journalists said they had heard explosions in GPS Ronay and Girls School Takya, but police did not mention receiving reports about blasts.
The Diamer Youth Movement called for a protest in Chilas, the district headquarters, against the targeting of education institutions in the district.
Later in the day, locals held a protest rally in Chilas against the torching of schools and demanded that the police arrest the culprits immediately. They raised the slogans of “Pak Army zindabad!” [Long live Pak Army!] and “Dehshatgard murdabad!” [death to terrorists!]
Commissioner of Diamer, Syed Abdul Waheed Shah, told a news channel no arrests have been made so far. He said police were investigating the incident and a first information report would be registered.
The commissioner revealed that attempts were made to blow up two schools using explosives, while 11 schools were set on fire.
There are no Taliban militants in the area, however, extremists who oppose girls education are present, Shah disclosed.
This is not the first time schools have come under attack in Diamer. Girls’ schools, in particular, were targeted, allegedly by extremists, in 2004 and 2011.
Senate Standing Committee on Interior Chairman Rehman Malik took notice of the incidents and asked the Baltistan chief secretary to furnish a report on the matter. He said that those found involved would be severely punished.
According to Alif Ailaan’s Pakistan District Education Rankings 2017, GB received a score of 63.18, placing at fourth place out of eight Pakistan territories – above Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Sindh and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas – with respect to quality of education.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justice (Retd) Nasir ul Mulk on Friday strongly condemned the burning of schools including girls schools at Chilas, Gilgit-Baltistan and directed for bringing the perpetrators of the incident to justice.
The prime minister also sought report of the incident from the authorities concerned, a statement issued by the PM media office said.