12 schools in Gilgit attacked overnight
Twelve schools were attacked with bombs and set on fire overnight in a northern Pakistani district where Taliban-linked militants opposed to girls’ education are active, police said yesterday.
The Pakistani Taliban and allied religious militants, who are opposed to the education of girls, have been attacking thousands of schools for young women in northwestern and northern parts of the country.
Police said that the attacks in villages of Diamer district in northern Gilgit, an area known for its scenic beauty but which has seen Taliban-linked attacks on foreign tourists and minority Shia Muslims, had been a well-planned and co-ordinated act, police chief Raja Ajmal said.
“The miscreants tried to damage around 12 schools in Diamir district. They tried to set fire to some of them and broke windows and doors of some others,” regional home secretary Jawad Akram told AFP.
He said the local government is searching for the attackers.
Police official Kaka Jan told DPA that no group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Dildar Ahmed Malik, a senior official in Diamir district, said that at least 10 of the burnt schools were for girls.
“The incident took place in a far-flung area. We are investigating it, but the inquiry will take time because of the remoteness of the region,” he said.
The attackers had also tried to break into an army-run school, but were stopped by guards, said a local resident, Ghayas Ali. “People heard heavy explosion.”
No one has claimed responsibility.
No casualties were reported.
“You know well who is doing these types of acts and what their motives are,” Ajmal told Reuters by phone.
He said the residents had a history of opposing education for girls, but the government recently helped build girls’ schools there.
In 2012, the Taliban shot and critically wounded Nobel prize winner Malala Yousafzai, known for her girls’ education advocacy in northern Swat valley.
Her father Ziauddin Yousafzai condemned the school attacks.
“We have to provide the same sanctity to our schools and educational institutions as we do to mosques, temples and churches,” he tweeted yesterday.
Several Pakistani Taliban militants disguised as police assaulted a high altitude mountaineers’ base camp in the region in 2013 and killed nine foreign climbers and two local guides.
Gilgit-Baltistan has been relatively free of the violent militancy that has plagued other parts of Pakistan for years.
The region is home to world’s second highest mountain, K2, and numerous other peaks attracting mountaineers and tourists from around the world.
Like many other under-developed areas of Pakistan, basic education needs in Gilgit-Baltistan are being met by private or community organisations, and a large number of primary schools have been set up by non-government organisations.
Education is a pressing issue in Pakistan, where government statistics show that more than 22mn children are out of school – the majority of them girls.