Islamabad - As the news about the arson attack on girls’ schools in Darel and Tangir valleys of Diamer district continues to trickle in, it has emerged that the terrorists behind it belonged to a local offshoot of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.

As this story was being filed, terrorists perching on mountains in the narrow Rim and Phoogach valleys continue to fire on passing vehicles with sophisticated guns, virtually blocking the road leading to Tangir valley.

High-placed local and police sources confided to The Nation that the terrorists including the one killed on Saturday, Shafiqur Rehman, belonged to a local offshoot of the TTP – who torched around 14 girls’ schools in Darel and Tangir valleys a couple of days back.

According to the sources, late Molvi Shahzada, the father of the killed terrorist, was also a member of a jihadi outfit and he used to train his men in a jihadi camp – locally known as “masker” – before it was decimated by the local authorities and the military.

But Shahzada’s seminary in the area, currently being run by one of his sons, continues to brainwash the students to oppose girls’ education, the sources said.

His men, believed to be 200 in number, continued to carry out their sabotage activities in Darel and Tangir valleys with impunity, while the local administration, the police and the GB government kept their eyes shut to their saboteur actions.

His son Shafiqur Rehman was in fact killed by the armed locals when he along with his men attempted to escape a police cordon in Darel valley. The terrorists who managed escape have taken positions on the mountains in Rim and Phoogach valleys and continue to discharge bullets on vehicles passing on the road below.

After the torching of schools, police reinforcement had been called to Darel and Tangir and an operation was carried out before it was rescinded in the wake of stiff resistance from the terrorists, a local police official said. The ASI said that the operation had to be aborted to seek help from the locals in arresting the holed-up terrorists.

According to the sources, a local jirga of elders and religious figures initially asked the hiding terrorists to surrender but when they did not oblige, the elders gave the green signal to the authorities to carry out a full-fledged operation to dislodge them from the mountains.

A senior police official, requesting anonymity, told The Nation that the terrorists were having sophisticated weapons while the police had ramshackle ones, which hardly reach the far-away positions of the terrorists.

He said that dislodging the terrorists from the mountains was beyond their capacity and a military operation involving gunship helicopters was the only solution.

Wasef, a local elder, said that Shafiq and his men belonged to a local terrorist outfit further linked to the TTP and it was in the knowledge of the local administration and the police who have turned a blind eye to their activities.

According to him, of the 14 torched schools, only three were functional while the rest could not be inaugurated because of opposition from the militants - despite the fact that the buildings were constructed a year or so ago.

Another local, who wished not to be named, claimed that Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) Police Inspector-General Sanaullah Abbasi along his personal guards returned to Gilgit city from Shatial area after his motorcade was cautioned against moving ahead to Darel valley in the wake of the continuous shelling by the terrorists.

Another source said that some of the terrorists managed to sneak into Singal and Gulmuti Nalla, adjacent to Darel and Tangir valley after they were chased by the armed locals.

The source said that almost all the hills in the area are stuffed with proclaimed offenders and hardcore terrorists, who come down in the night to have food at the houses of their sympathisers and sneak back to their dens in the wee hours. “Law of jungle prevails here. Terrorists and offenders roam in the hills with impunity,” he said.

On Monday, GB Youth Forum and Diamer Youth Organisation held a demonstration outside the National Press Club, strongly condemning the arson attack on the girls’ schools. Speakers lashed out at the GB government for failing to go after “a handful of terrorists” who have taken several valleys hostage.

Human rights activist Tahira Abdullah, speaking on the occasion, took the GB government and the federal government to task for their utter failure to protect girls’ right to education by becoming hostage to the whims of a handful of radicals and fanatics.

She also called for legislation in the national parliament, ensuring girls’ access to education in a fearless environment. She also took the organisers to task for not inviting female members from GB - especially the girl students - to the protest rally. She urged them to call it a spade if they were really concerned about the girls’ education in GB.

Chief Secretary Babar Hayat Tarar, Diamer SP Ajmal Rai and the IG police did not respond to repeated calls and text messages sent on their cell phones, seeking their versions on the issue.

 

 

TTP offshoot behind attacks on GB schools