At least two girls schools were partially damaged after two low-intensity explosive devices went off early on Wednesday in Chilas, about 130 kilometres from Gilgit.
“The blasts occurred at around 2:30 am but the damage to the school buildings is minor,” said Ali Sher, a senior police official at Chilas, headquarters of the Diamer district where the 4,500 MWs Diamer-Bhasha Dam is under construction.
The police official said no loss of life was reported during the explosions. Locals blame ‘anti-dam elements’ for the blasts which could jeopardise foreign funding for the project.
“We will not let such elements succeed in their nefarious designs,” said Salahuddin, a resident of Chilas.
Police said that eight suspects have been taken into custody for interrogation. “Improvised explosive devices were used for the explosion,” revealed Sher.
The ‘targeted schools’ consisted of a single room each with no boundary walls, said Asadullah, another resident of Chilas, adding that all the schools in the valley had been closed due to winter vacations.
Early this year, unidentified assailants had blown up two girls schools and partially damaged the boundary wall of a mosque in town. Clerics had unanimously condemned the act and called for unmasking the ‘hidden hand’ behind such attacks. However, no inquiry report was made public.
The Diamer valley has assumed a pivotal position for the country due to the Diamer-Bhasha Dam project which could generate up to 4,500 MWs of power by 2020. The dam is being built on the River Indus, about 300 km upstream of Tarbela Dam and about 40 km downstream of Chilas. According to experts, the dam is expected to be completed in eight years and will cost over $12 billion.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 29th, 2011.