KABUL/ISLAMABAD:07 June: Afghan intelligence on Wednesday accused Pakistan of poisoning schoolgirls as authorities battle to halt a string of alleged attacks that have sown panic in parts of the north.
At least 15 suspects have been detained over mysterious illnesses, which usually include mass fainting episodes that have struck scores of schoolgirls in Takhar province almost daily for the past two weeks.
“The regional spy agencies, namely ISI, are behind it. They are trying to sabotage the Shanghai Conference and the success of Afghan education,” National Directorate of Security spokesman Lutfullah Mashal told reporters.
Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence is widely reviled in Afghanistan, where it is accused of fomenting the Taliban insurgency due to its historic links to the Afghan militia that ruled from 1996 to 2001.
Both Afghanistan and Pakistan are attending this week’s Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Beijing as observers. A teacher and three female students are among those arrested and all 15 have confessed to being involved in poisoning, Mashal said. But the ISI dismissed the Afghan accusations as “absurd and senseless”. “This is an attempt to strain ties between the two countries. Pakistan wants peace and stability in Afghanistan. A peaceful and stable Afghanistan is in our interest,” a Pakistani intelligence official told AFP.
Afghan officials regularly accuse Taliban insurgents, who banned schooling for girls while in power from 1996 to 2001, of poisoning school wells or using “gas” or “toxic powder” against the girls.
None have died, however, and no traces of poison have been found in blood samples, officials say.
In a message received by Daily Times, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said that the allegations were baseless.
Commenting on the Taliban’s policy towards education in Afghanistan, he said that they always tried to promote literacy and education in the country as much as possible within their resources. “Though Taliban had limited economic resources till 2001 but they used to allocate 20 percent of their budget for education,” he said.
As many as 160 girls, aged between 10 and 20 from the Aahan Dara Girls School, were shifted to hospital after allegedly being poisoned for a third time in seven days in May. afp/.