Suspect behind torching of Pakistan girls’ schools killed: Police

Islamabad: The prime suspect behind the torching of 14 girls’ schools in Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan region was killed during a search operation on Sunday, a police spokesman said.

The spokesman told Dawn news that Shafiq, who has no known association with any organised militant or terrorist outfits, was the prime suspect behind the brazen arson attacks targeting girls’ schools in the Chilas, Darel and Tanger tehsils of Diamer district between 2.30 a.m. and 3 a.m. on Friday.

The police began conducted raids in various parts of Diamer on Saturday night to track down those responsible for the arson attacks.

So far, 18 suspects have been arrested.

Among the schools targeted, eight were government-run while the other four were run by non-profits in the remote and mountainous region that borders Afghanistan, China and Jammu and Kashmir.

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.

In 2004, half a dozen girls’ schools had been torched in one go. Girls’ schools were also targeted by extremists in 2011 and 2015.

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 and injured by the Taliban in 2012 for advocating the education of girls in Swat valley.