–Girls-only buildings among 12 schools vandalised overnight in Gilgit-Baltistan’s Diamer district
–Official says bombs were used to blow up two schools while remaining were set on fire, denies Taliban presence in area
–Inside sources claim locals were motivated against female education
–Malala calls for reconstructing torched schools
CHILAS: While the law enforcement agencies are yet to identify those involved in attacking and torching 12 girls’ schools including two Army Public Schools (APS) in Diamer district of Gilgit Baltistan, sources claim that locals were used for the shameful incidents as no one has been arrested so far.
Police confirmed that unidentified assailants burned down the schools, at least half of which are girls-only schools, in Chilas on Thursday night, adding that there was no loss of life as the schools were closed at the time.
Explosions were also set off in at least two schools,” a police official said, adding that in some cases, books had also been thrown outside the schools and set alight.
The damaged schools include 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, and Girls Primary School Gyal village.
‘LOCALS, NOT TALIBAN’:
Diamer Commissioner Syed Abdul Waheed Shah told a private news channel that no arrests have been made so far. He said police were investigating the incident and an FIR [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 female education are present, Shah disclosed.
According to a local journalist Meraj Alam, residents of the area are largely tight-lipped as they know who are behind such attacks. “No one can flee easily from the area after such attacks as the schools attacked by the unidentified men are very adjacent to the houses of local residents. Attacks on different girls’ schools in different villages, towns and cities of the district took place simultaneously which is a clear indication that the elements within the local residents were motivated against female education and they are behind the attacks,” he said.
“They know who motivates people to discourage education of girls. The education of girls is openly discouraged by local clerics in their Jumma sermons,” he added.
Interestingly, three ministers represent the trouble hit district in GB’s cabinet but all of them were reluctant to comment on the subject as they fear loss of support in their constituencies in case they talk against the militant group. The only woman minister of the district, Sobia Muqaddam, who holds a portfolio of youth affairs and women development also declined to talk about the issue.
“Usually the militant element pledge to avoid disclosing anyone’s name before law enforcement agencies before committing any such crime. This is why the police and administration are probably unable to identify those involved in the attacks,” said another local journalist in terms of anonymity.
Habibur Rehman, a political leader and resident of Chilas, the headquarter of Diamer district, where two schools were exploded on Friday, told Pakistan Today that a handful element enjoying help from outside could be involved in the attacks.
Another political activist, who also wished not to be named, said the girl’s schools were attacked at a time and interestingly all schools attacked in three Tehsils of the district were in range of mobile services.
An insider claimed the administration and local representatives were in talks to identify involved people.
Prime Minister Justice (r) Nasirul Mulk strongly condemned the ransacking and torching of schools girls’ schools.
According to the statement issued by the PM Media Office on Friday, the premier, condemning the sad incident of burning educational institutions, directed for bringing the perpetrators of the incident to justice.
The prime minister also sought report of the incident from the authorities concerned.
Meanwhile, Senate Committee for Interior Chairman Rehman Malik has taken notice of the incident and asked the provincial chief secretary for a report.
Malik called the acts “sad and condemnable” and demanded those responsible for the crimes be arrested as soon as possible.
The Diamer Youth Movement has called for a protest in Chilas, the district headquarters, against the targeting of education institutions in the district. 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.
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 districts 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.
During the last 10 years, at least 1,500 schools have been destroyed in the tribal belt, according to a report.
In 2012, Malala Yousafzai, who later won the Nobel Prize for her efforts to promote education in the tribal areas, was shot by the Taliban for the same reason.
The Human Rights Watch (HRW) in 2017 issued a report and said that the education of thousands of students, especially girls, was disrupted by attacks perpetrated by the Taliban and other militant groups.
The 71-page report, “Dreams Turned into Nightmares: Attacks on Students, Teachers, and Schools in Pakistan”, is based on 48 interviews with teachers, students, parents, and school administrators in the Pakistani provinces of Punjab, Sindh, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
It urged the government to take necessary measures to ensure that schools were safe for students.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on Friday strongly condemned torching of girls schools at Diamir district of GB.
According to the details issued by party’s Central Media Department, PTI Gilgit Baltistan Secretary Information Taqi Akhunzada said that the incident of torching girls’ schools showed the inefficiency of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government in GB.
He said that it was very sad that till now the miscreants involved in this heinous act were not arrested.
He claimed that the PML-N government in GB failed completely, especially in providing a secure environment to the girls’ schools.
He demanded that educational institutions must be provided security and those responsible be brought to justice.
Caretaker Chief Minister Punjab Dr Hasan Askari strongly condemned ransacking and destroying of schools in Chilas and reiterated that such nefarious acts cannot stop daughters of the nation to study.
According to a statement issued on Friday, he said that those who are trying to spread fear and panic among people through such transgressions are an atrocious enemy of national development and prosperity.
He said that the criminal offenses aimed at depriving the girls of studying tantamount to sheer ignorance and fanaticism.
“It is very essential to light the candle of knowledge everywhere to fearlessly counter extremism, as it can only be defeated through an emphatic light of knowledge in society,” he added.
We would have to defeat the conspiracies of anti-social elements trying to make the nation a hostage of the darkness of ignorance with our commitment and passion, concluded the chief minister.
Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) President Asif Ali Zardari strongly condemned the act of terror in Diamir/Chilas area in which girls schools were torched and ransacked.
In a statement, the former president demanded immediate arrest of culprits and strict punishment for this shameful and despicable act. He said that such acts are unpardonable and stopping girls from education cannot be tolerated and PPP will resist any such act. He asked the government to keep an eye on such miscreants and they should be apprehended.
MALALA CALLS FOR RECONSTRUCTING TORCHED SCHOOLS:
Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai called for reconstructing the 12 girls schools ransacked and torched by unknown miscreants in district Diamer of GB.
In a tweet on Friday, Malala Yousafzai said that the terrorists by attacking and ransacking girls’ education institutions want to terrify the female teachers, students and their parents.
However, by reconstructing the destroyed female education institutions, the students should be brought back to schools to fail the endeavor of terrorists and make it clear on international community that both girls and boys have equal right to get education.
She also urged the parents to show courage, send their daughters to schools to make them an active part of the society.
For raising voice in favour of girl’s education, Malala Yousafzai was herself attacked by Taliban on October 9, 2012 injuring her critically.