The number of schools torched in Gilgit Baltistan's (GB) Diamer district has gone up to 13, locals and police officials told DawnNews TV on Saturday.
Media reports on Friday had claimed that a dozen schools — half of which were girls-only centres — had been burned down in Diamer by unidentified assailants during the night. Today, however, it emerged that another school in the area was also set alight at the same time.
GB government spokesperson Faizullah Firaq, however, claimed that he had no information about the development.
Local officials visited the site of the crime but did not comment on the incident. A search operation is underway but police have not shared any findings with the media so far.
An initial report of the incident has been submitted to the chief minister, according to GB Information Minister Shams Mir.
According to the report, the "miscreants" carried out the attacks in an "organised manner". The assailants first vandalised the buildings and then set them on fire, said the report.
The report also claimed that the investigation uncovered "important evidence" that suggested that foreigners and some local facilitators were involved in the incident.
No one has claimed responsibility of the incident so far.
Mir further said that the police were tracing phone records of multiple mobile numbers. Meanwhile, GB spokesperson said that at least 10 people had been arrested in connection with the incident.
In addition, a list of about two dozen "extremely dangerous" criminals has been submitted to the local jirga so it can be passed on to the administration.
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
GPS Gokaj, Darail tehsil of Diamer
GB chief minister has ordered reconstruction of the torched schools within 15 days, Firaq said.
Earlier, Commissioner of Diamer, Syed Abdul Waheed Shah had told DawnNews TV 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.
This is the not the first time schools have come under attack in Diamer. Girls' schools, in particular, were targeted, allegedly by extremists, in 2004 and 2011.
Supreme Court demands answers
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has ordered the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit Baltistan to submit a report of the incident within 48 hours. Notices have been issued to the federal government and interior minister as well.
Additional reporting by Haseeb Bhatti