DIAMER: Law enforcement agencies (LEAs) claimed to have identified one of the 36 suspected militants arrested for their alleged involvement in the burning down of schools in Diamer District of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B).

According to sources, two suspects and a police constable were killed in the shootout between ‘militants’ and security personnel during the Saturday morning’s operation in Tangir area. One of the suspect has been identified as Shafiqur Rehman aka Commander Shafiq.

A suicide jacket, grenades and weapons have been recovered from the militant hideouts during the ongoing search operation.

The operation was initiated after unidentified attackers believed to be militants opposed to girls’ education bombed and torched a dozen schools, including an Army Public School, in various parts of Diamer district on August 2, triggering road protests and blockade of the Karakoram Highway. Most of the schools were all-girls while at least one of the institutions had been attacked at least five times in recent years.

12 schools in Gilgit-Baltistan’s Diamer district burnt down

IG G-B Sanaullah Abbasi told media that the accused were local people but trained in Afghanistan. He added that the counter-operation was centred around Darail village in Diamer. An official privy to details had revealed that the ‘militants’ were part of a wider nexus associated with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Educational institutes across the country have frequently come under attack by the militants. Earlier this year, an under-construction school was razed to the ground in Khyber District when bombs planted by militants exploded near it.

An official of the political administration in the ex-Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) told The Express Tribune that the school, located in Sawa area of the Tirah Valley of Bara Sub-division, was being built keeping in view the repatriation of internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Why terrorists attack education

Condemnations

The attack on educational institutes has been condemned by prominent personalities including prime minister-in-waiting Imran Khan.

“Shocking & condemnable torching of schools in GB, more than half of them girls’ schools.This is unacceptable & we will ensure security for schools as we are committed to focusing on education, esp girls’ education which is integral to Naya Pakistan,” he said.

Meanwhile, Chief Jusitce Mian Saqib Nisar has taken suo motu notice of the attack after linking it to his call for building more dams and said it (the initiative) had fallen victim to ‘opposition’. “The schools are burnt in Gilgit-Baltistan in response to raising our voice for the construction of dams,” the chief justice said while addressing the Multan Bar Council.

CJP smells conspiracy in G-B schools attack

Senate Committee for Interior Affairs chairman Rehman Malik had sought a report from Chief Secretary Gilgit-Baltistan and demanded LEAs to arrest those responsible at the earliest.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala also condemned the incident on Twitter. “The extremists have shown what frightens them most – a girl with a book. We must rebuild these schools immediately, get the students back into their classrooms and show the world that every girl and boy has the right to learn,” she wrote.

“Strongly condemn the burning down of 12 girls schools in ChilasTerroristAttack,” said Leader of the Opposition in Senate Sherry Rehman. “All of Pakistan is united against such heinous targeting of our schools and must give a strong message of Zero tolerance for such attacks by immediate action against the militants who did this.”