Hitting out at the Taliban in Pakistan for reportedly prohibiting girls from attending schools, hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani on Monday said the act is "unjustifiable and against Islamic ideals and teachings".
"I have received with great distress the reports regarding preventing girls from pursuing education in some parts of Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province (NWFP)... It is far from Islamic ideals and teachings," Geelani, considered to be close to Taliban ideology, said in a statement.
"Depriving 74,000 girls the right to pursue education, burning or blasting 150 schools are unjustifiable acts. It can be said without any hesitation that those imposing such ban and prohibition are ignorant of Islamic values and principles even being Muslims," he said.
Criticising the diktat of the Taliban that girls would be allowed to study only till fourth standard and not beyond that, he said this amounted to depriving half of the society of basic and a fundamental right.
He appealed to the groups to withdraw such dictates and stop the practice of burning schools. "Girls should be allowed to take full advantage of educational facilities as per their resources and capabilities," he said.
He said Pakistani rulers, ulema, politicians and civil society groups need to engage the groups collectively through talks and stress upon them the need to eschew such policies that have become a source of misunderstanding about Islam and Muslims.
About 400 private schools in Pakistan's troubled NWFP and Swat region stopped offering education to girls following a Taliban diktat issued by radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah.