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.
Diamer Superintendent Police (SP) Roy Ajmal told Dawn 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 have been dispatched to investigate the reports, SP Ajmal said, adding that no one has claimed responsibility for the incidents as yet.
PTI Chairman Imran Khan has condemned the attack on schools and promised that his party will implement its agenda to ensure the provision of quality education across the country.
The PTI chief said that girls’ education is an integral part of the upcoming government’s policies.
The schools, which are spread across Diamer, were identified as:
- Girls Primary School located in Ronay, Chilas
- Girls School Takya
- Social Action Programme (SAP) 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 of KP)
- Girls Primary School Sheegay Manikal, Darel Valley
- Girls Primary School Galee Bala, Tangir Valley
- Primary School Galee Bala, Tangir Valley
- Girls Primary School Khanbary
- 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!]
'No arrests made so far'
Commissioner of Diamer, Syed Abdul Waheed Shah, told DawnNewsTV no arrests have been made so far. He said police were investigating the incident and a first information report (FIR) 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 female education are present, Shah disclosed.
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.
The schools were built to promote education in Diamer district, which has the lowest literacy rates for boys and girls in GB.
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.
Diamer is the lowest-ranking district in terms of quality of education in GB, with a score of 36.37, and among the 10 lowest-ranking districts in Pakistan.
There are 244 government schools in the district, about 83 per cent of which are primary level, 10.6pc middle schools and 6pc high schools. There are no higher secondary schools in the district. Of the total number of government schools, 156 are boys schools, while 88 are girls schools, according to Alif Ailaan.
Of the 16,800 students enrolled in government schools, only 20pc or 3,479 are girls.
With additional reporting by Shakeel Qarar in Islamabad and Sirajuddin in Peshawar.