Relatives say 14-year-old Pakistani peace activist appears to be doing well after three-hour operation
Pakistani surgeons have removed a bullet from the head of Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old schoolgirl and peace activist who was shot by a Taliban gunman on Tuesday.
Relatives of the girl, who rose to fame for her outspoken opposition to Taliban militancy in her home town of Swat, said she appeared to be doing well after a three-hour operation.
Her father, Ziaudduin Yousafzai, said doctors were encouraged by a CT scan taken after the operation. She was unconscious but had moved her hand slightly after coming out of surgery.
Malala could be moved abroad for further treatment. A plane is on standby in Peshawar and Rehman Malik, the interior minister, has contacted the family to make sure their passports are in order.
Three years ago Malala blogged on the BBC website about the terror of living amid a rising Taliban insurgency. Last year she received the country’s first peace prize. She was on a Taliban hitlist for publicly advocating what the movement derides as “secular governance”.
On Tuesday morning as she and her classmates sat on a bus to take them home after a midterm exam, three men reportedly approached in search of Malala.
“The man who stopped the vehicle signalled to his other armed accomplices that Yousafzai was inside,” the bus driver, Usman Ali, told the Express Tribune newspaper. “Another armed man went to the back of the vehicle and started firing inside.”
Malala attempted to deny her own identity, but one of the other girls pointed her out. According to the Express Tribune, a total of four girls, including Malala, were injured.
On Tuesday the Taliban appeared more than happy to take the credit for the attempted murder. “She was pro-west, she was speaking against Taliban and she was calling President Obama her ideal leader,” said a spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan. “She was young but she was promoting western culture in Pashtun areas.”
The attack has horrified many in Pakistan, especially liberals who have long been aghast at what they see as the feeble response by the state and some religious political parties towards the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Pakistani offshoot of the hardline Islamist movement that closed down girl’s schools and ran public executions when it was in power in Afghanistan in the 1990s.
On Wednesday, Pakistan’s parliament unanimously passed a resolution condemning the attack. Even the head of Pakistan’s military, General Ashfaq Kayani, made public his anger during a meeting with Malala’s parents at a military hospital in Peshawar.
The attack has alarmed residents of Swat, which was infiltrated by Taliban insurgents who burned schools and executed its enemies. An operation by the Pakistani military eventually forced the Taliban out of the valley in 2009, but the attempt to kill Malala indicates their continued ability to mount attacks in an area still living under a heavy army presence.
“The suicide bombings and blasts may be over in Swat but this attack has rung alarm bells reminding us that militants are still in Swat,” said Iqbal Hussain, one of Malala’s teachers.
He said the girl’s classmates were anxious to return to school despite the attack. “Girls of Swat are courageous and bold and they want to continue their education they cannot be bettered by these tactics of the militants,” Hussain said.
[Brain surgery photo via Shutterstock]