ISLAMABAD - Unknown arsonists burned down 12 schools, half of them girls-only, in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan on Thursday night, local media reported.
In some cases, books were taken outside the buildings and separately set on fire. Some of the buildings were still under construction. Residents heard explosions during the night, according to a local newspaper Pamir Times.
Diamer, the district that suffered the attacks, has one of the lowest literary rates in the G-B region.
Police have dispatched units for a search operation to find the culprits. No group has so far taken responsibility. Local residents staged protests against the attacks.
Rehman Malik, chairman of the Pakistan Senate Committee for Interior, has strongly condemned the attacks and demanded that the G-B chief secretary file a report and arrest those responsible.
This is not the first time schools have come under attack in this conservative area in Northern Pakistan.
Several girls schools were targeted in the region in 2004, and again in 2011.
Pakistan faces an education crisis, according to groups that promoted literacy. Almost 25 million children are out of school. Those who attend schools often receive substandard education.
According to Alif Ailaan, a campaign to support quality education run by a team of media specialists, 43 percent of government run schools in Pakistan are in "dangerous or dilapidated condition and lack basic facilities such as furniture, bathrooms, boundary walls, electricity and running water."
Pakistan’s constitution guarantees free education to all children between the ages of 5 and 16.