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DID CPEC SWALLOW GILGIT SCHOOLS

Arson Spree at Schools Stokes Suspicion at Pakistani Forces

The news of last months Arson attacks targeting twelve schools in the Gilgit-Baltistan region somewhat smelled fishy. With no official statement coming from Pakistan Army, which is generally very prompt in holding press conferences, suspicions over the involvement of in-house agencies cannot be overruled.

The reasons for suspicion emerging through various sources cannot be ignored.

The location of the schools 

A road leading to Chilas Valley in Gilgit-Baltistan. The attacked schools were all in an area that has become one of the most strategically and economically important regions of Pakistan.

Diamer District, a strategic location for China – Pakistan, which has been in news for the over-rated, Chinese CPEC project.  The recent statement by the financial adviser with respect to CPEC has further ascertained the complexity of this controversial project. Too late for mid-course correction, it appears that the starving Pakistan economy – Pak Army has to succumb to the Chinese ambitions, even if it is happening at the cost of people of Gilgit-Baltistan or Balochistan.

“The previous government did a bad job negotiating with China on CPEC. They didn’t do their homework correctly and didn’t negotiate correctly so they gave away a lot. I think we should put everything on hold for a year so we can get our act together. Perhaps we can stretch CPEC out over another five years or so.” – Abdul Razak Dawood

Schools not operational, few under construction

Few schools out of the twelve had not been in use for last four-five years.  However, there was an operational girls’ school just down the road that went untouched.  Sources also confirm that some of the schools attacked were still under construction.

Several other schools that were attacked were similarly deserted. And all lie on the same corridor of mountains that has become one of the most strategically and economically important regions for Pakistan. This suggests clearly that the intent was not to jeopardize the education of girls,  as often threatened by the Taliban. But it used as a  suitable disguise for a vested third party interest for probable economic gains.

No casualties reported

We all remember the  APS attack by the Taliban in Peshawar, Pakistan which led to the killing of 150+ innocent school children.  Malala Yousafzai was also targeted at a point-blank range in the head in a failed assassination attempt.  This time around the aim is clearly not to kill, show power, set fear in the mind of Pakistanis or send a  message to Pak Army (as last time an Army school was targeted).

So when this time twelve schools were torched how come no casualties occurred?  If it was a daylight operation by Taliban or other agencies then some casualties were inevitable.  Was it planned? Where the schools vacated beforehand? Were the locals threatened? If it was a staged arson spree at night then motive behind this destruction is crystal clear.

No relevant media coverage in Pakistan

Very little was covered by Dawn and Express Tribune.  No other major daily covered this massive destruction. The possibility that these reports were fed by the publicity wing of the Pak Army cannot be denied. Conscious measures to carry out perception management by false insertion of the desired narrative,  by twisting media houses is a fact known worldwide. The media is at a seize in Pakistan which is the norm in Pakistan.

No responsibility claimed by Taliban or other agency

Usually, it is seen that in such cases terrorists immediately claim responsibility. Also, no detailed investigation on this subject matter has come out so far.   The residents of the area are tight-lipped as they know who is behind such attacks. No one can flee easily from the area after such attacks as the schools attacked by the unidentified men are very adjacent to the houses of local residents.

Viewpoint

The people of the Northern Areas and a neglected province of Balochistan have been denied all fundamental and political rights just like the Kashmiris in the rest of POK. They have been governed with an iron hand by a Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas nominated from Islamabad and supported by the Pakistan army. The judiciary exists only in name and civil administration is virtually non-existent, with the result that almost no development has taken place and the people live poverty-stricken lives without even a semblance of health care and with only primitive educational facilities.

Distrust and resentment of the military-run so deep in this area, that speculations of Pakistani forces having used the fires as a pretext to start a broader crackdown within the controversial economic development zone cannot be completely ignored. The area is set to become home to some $20 billion worth of development projects by China, part of an estimated $68 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Security along the planned economic corridor has for years been a priority for the military, and the burned schools are all close to the locations of major infrastructure projects. This is alarming but as always will die a slow death in Pakistan.

01 Jan 2019/Tuesday                                                 Written by Afsana 

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