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At least 12 schools mysteriously burnt down overnight in Gilgit-Baltistan

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DIAMER, Pakistan: Superintendent Police (SP) Diamer Roy Ajmal told Dawn that police had so far received information that 12 schools ─ at least half of which are girls-only schools ─ had been set on fire overnight. He said that in some cases, books had also been thrown outside the schools and set alight.

Local police officer Mohammad Bashir said the attacks on schools took place before dawn on Friday near Chilas, but there were no casualties as the schools were closed at the time.

Police teams have been dispatched to investigate the reports, SP Ajmal said, adding that no one has claimed responsibility for the incidents as yet.

The schools, which are spread across Diamer, were identified as:

  • Girls Primary School located in Ronay, Chilas
  • Girls School Takya
  • Social Action Programme (SAP) Primary School in Hudur area
  • Army Public School, Darel Tehsil
  • Primary School in Tabor village of Darel Valley,
  • SAP Primary School in Tabor, Darel
  • APS in Tangir Valley (adjacent to Diamer, sharing borders with Kohistan district of KP)
  • Girls Primary School Sheegay Manikal, Darel Valley
  • Girls Primary School Galee Bala, Tangir Valley
  • Primary School Galee Bala, Tangir Valley
  • Girls Primary School Khanbary
  • Girls Primary School Gyal Village

Local residents and journalists said they had heard explosions in GPS Ronay and Girls School Takya, but police did not mention receiving reports about blasts.

The Diamer Youth Movement has called for a protest in Chilas, the district headquarters, against the targeting of education institutions in the district. This is the not the first time schools have come under attack in Diamer. Girls’ schools, in particular, were targeted, allegedly by extremists, in 2004 and 2011.

Senate Standing Committee on Interior Chairman Rehman Malik took notice of the incidents and asked the Baltistan chief secretary to furnish a report on the matter. He said that those found involved would be severely punished.

The schools were built to promote education in Diamer district, which has the lowest literacy rates for boys and girls in GB.

According to Alif Ailaan’s Pakistan District Education Rankings 2017, GB received a score of 63.18, placing at fourth place out of eight Pakistan territories ─ above Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Sindh and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas ─ with respect to quality of education.

Diamer is the lowest-ranking districts in terms of quality of education in GB, with a score of 36.37, and among the 10 lowest-ranking districts in Pakistan.

There are 244 government schools in the district, about 83 per cent of which are primary level, 10.6pc middle schools and 6pc high schools. There are no higher secondary schools in the district. Of the total number of government schools, 156 are boys schools, while 88 are girls schools, according to Alif Ailaan.

Of the 16,800 students enrolled in government schools, only 20pc or 3,479 are girls.

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Independence Day: Sale of Kashmiri flags on the rise

Sale of Kashmiri flags, badges and other decoration items have gained impetus ahead of Independence Day after the federal government had announced to observe August 14 as Kashmir Solidarity Day.

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MUZAFFARABAD, Azad Kashmir/KARACHI, Pakistan: Sale of Kashmiri flags, badges and other decoration items have gained impetus ahead of Independence Day after the federal government had announced to observe August 14 as Kashmir Solidarity Day, ARY News reported on Thursday.

As marking of 73rd Independence Day is right around the corner, the preparations have gained momentum as a huge rush of people were seen at different stalls of Kashmiri flags, national flags buntings, badges, set up by vendors in different areas of Karachi.

READ MORE: Top 10 schools of Pakistan (2018-19)

All Karachi Tajir Ittehad Chairman Ateeq Meer said that people are very enthusiastic and passionate for purchasing celebratory items to mark Independence Day.

It must be noted that government has decided to observe Independence Day; 14 August, as Kashmir Solidarity Day and 15th of this month as Black Day to express harmony and solidarity with Kashmiris in their recent plight caused by the Indian government.

The national flag will fly half-mast on 15th of this month. A notification to this effect has been issued by the Ministry of Interior.

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Maryam’s interview “stopped forcefully:” Nadeem Malik

An interview of Maryam Nawaz Sharif, a vice president of the PML-N, was “forcefully” taken off air soon after it was run, it was reported on Thursday.

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Maryam Nawaz

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: An interview of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif was taken off air forcefully seconds after it started.

“Just came to know Maryam Nawaz Sharif’s interview has been stopped forcefully just [a] few minutes after it started live,” tweeted show host Nadeem Malik.

Hum News, the channel on which the interview was aired for a few brief moments, released a statement shortly after the incident, saying: “Hum News believes in a free and responsible media. Protecting freedom of expression is one of our core values. At the same time, we stand for the respect and dignity of [the] judiciary in line with our ethical values and the Constitution.”

The development comes days after AbbTakk TV24 News, and Capital TV all had their broadcasts cut after screening a press conference by Maryam Nawaz.

Authorities say the three channels were unavailable due to “technical issues”, but Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a global media watchdog, described the outage as an act of “brazen censorship”.

It slammed the local authorities over the removal of three television channels from the country’s airwaves, saying the move was “indicative of disturbing dictatorial tendencies” as pressure mounts on journalists in Pakistan.

READ MORE: Arrest me if you want to, I won’t run away like your master Musharraf: Hamid Mir

Maryam is the daughter of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif — who is currently behind bars for corruption — and a recent press conference she hosted featured a judge reportedly claiming he had been blackmailed into convicting the former premier.

The move came as Prime Minister Imran Khan’s administration vowed to block any media coverage and interviews of politicians “who are convicts and under trial”.

Earlier this month, Geo News TV abruptly took an interview with former president Asif Ali Zardari off air shortly after it began.

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Several dead and dozens injured in Pakistan train collision

A collision between a passenger train and a stationary freight train near the central town of Rahim Yar Khan in Pakistan has killed at least 10 people, with more than 70 others injured, according to police and hospital officials.

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RAHIM YAR KHAN, Pakistan: A collision between a passenger train and a stationary freight train near the central town of Rahim Yar Khan in Pakistan has killed at least 10 people, with more than 70 others injured, according to police and hospital officials.

The incident on Thursday took place at the Walhar railway station, located about 35km south of Rahim Yar Khan.

“The Akbar Express [passenger train] going from Bahawalpur to Quetta hit a freight train that was parked there at 7.40am,” a local police official told Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to media.

Senior police official Umar Salamat told local media the collision took place because the passenger train was diverted onto the incorrect track at the station, hitting the parked freight train.

Rescue operations were under way at the collision site, with workers using equipment to get to some of those trapped in the train wreckage, local media reported.

The injured were taken to a nearby government hospital and to a more advanced facility in Rahim Yar Khan, hospital officials said.

Nine of the dead were taken to the government hospital, with more than 60 people injured in the wreck also treated there, Liaquat Chohan, a senior hospital official, told Al Jazeera.

“The injuries were of multiple types – many had fractures, others had bleeding wounds. Some were crushed under objects,” he said.

At least one dead body was also taken to the Sheikh Zayed hospital in Rahim Yar Khan, where 11 of those wounded in the accident were being treated, hospital official Ilyas Ahmer told Al Jazeera.

“One person’s leg was cut off [in the collision], and another is having serious chest surgery,” he said.

‘Emergency steps’

Pakistan’s aging railway network carries both passengers and goods across the country, but suffers periodic derailments and other accidents due to aging infrastructure.

A major Chinese investment in the country is seeking to upgrade the main railway line that connects the length of the country, raising speeds and safety standards.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed his condolences for those who were killed and injured, and ordered Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad to speed up work on the country’s rail infrastructure.

“Have asked Railways Minister to take emergency steps to counter decades of neglect of railway infrastructure & ensure safety standards,” Khan tweeted after the accident.

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