Twelve schools, mostly all-girl institutions, were burnt down on Friday in Pakistan’s Gilgit Baltistan region in a series of coordinated attacks by unidentified militants, police said.
The attackers torched the schools between 2.30 am and 3 am, said Abdul Waheed, the Police Commissioner of Diamer district where the attacks took place, the Pakistani media reported.
“We don’t really know who was behind it. A few people here are against girls’ education but most people are for it. There may be one group or more behind it,” Waheed said.
Among the schools targeted, eight were government-run while the other four were run by non-profits in the remote and mountaineous region that borders Afghanistan, China and Jammu and Kashmir.
The attackers also torched books, Superintendent Police (SP) Diamer Roy Ajmal told Dawn newspaper.
There were between 200 and 300 girls enrolled in each school on an average, taking the total enrolment to around 3,500 in the area.
The district had witnessed similar attacks between 2004 and 2011 and “has one of the lowest literacy rate in Gilgit Baltistan”, said a police officer.
A Human Rights Watch report last year said that between 2007 and 2015, there were 867 attacks against educational institutions in Pakistan that left 392 dead and 724 wounded.
It added that repeated attacks against educational institutions were undermining the cause of education in the country, especially that of
Destruction of schools and attacks on teachers and students, especially girls, by Islamic insurgents are common in Pakistan, where around 23 million children are out of school.
Nobel Prize winner and education activist Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban in 2012 for advocating the education of girls in Swat valley.
The attack on Yousafzai grabbed international headlines and highlighted the challenges facing girls’ education in Pakistan. In 2014, a government report had said 47 per cent of women in Pakistan were illiterate.