A 14-year-old Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban could make a “good recovery”, doctors treating her in a British hospital said Tuesday.
Malala Yousafzai was spending her first full day in Britain after she was flown into Birmingham Airport on Monday on board an air ambulance before being taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in the city.
Hospital medical director David Rosser said British colleagues who were in Pakistan when Malala was shot believed she had “a chance of making a good recovery”.
“Clearly it would be inappropriate on every level, not least for her, to put her through all of this if there was no hope of decent recovery,” he told reporters.
Malala was shot on a school bus in the former Taliban stronghold of the Swat valley last Tuesday as a punishment for campaigning for the right to an education, in an attack which outraged the world.
The teenager, who had a bullet removed from her skull last week, is in intensive care in the highly specialised hospital in central England, where British servicemen who are seriously wounded in Afghanistan are treated.
Doctors in Pakistan have said Malala needs treatment for a damaged skull and “intensive neuro-rehabilitation”.
Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari said Tuesday that the shooting was an attack on all girls in the country — and on civilisation itself.
“The Taliban attack on the 14-year-old girl, who from the age of 11 was involved in the struggle for education for girls, is an attack on all girls in Pakistan, an attack on education, and on all civilised people,” Zardari said at an economic summit in the Azerbaijani capital Baku.
Asked if Malala will be guarded at the Birmingham hospital, British Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokeswoman said: “You wouldn’t expect me to talk about security matters in detail but certainly security has been taken into account.”
Rosser warned that Malala faces a long road to recovery.
“We do unfortunately have very extensive experience of dealing with this sort of traumatic bullet related injury,” he said.
“Our experience with battle casualties, and you can deal with her as a battle casualty from a physiological point of view, is that patients need lots of different specialities.”
The shooting has been denounced worldwide, including Pakistan, which is meeting the costs of her treatment.
Malala came to prominence with a blog for the BBC highlighting atrocities under the hardline Islamist Taliban, who terrorised the Swat valley from 2007 until an army offensive in 2009.
Sayeeda Warsi, Britain’s Foreign Office minister for Pakistan, wrote in The Sun newspaper: “The Koran encourages women’s education. What’s truly obscene is trying to kill a teenager for speaking this truth.
“The Taliban have failed. Malala’s message of freedom and equality has now gone global.
“Our duty isn’t just to help this little girl. It is to carry on spreading her message.”
On Sunday, around 10,000 people gathered in Karachi for a rally in support of Malala, organised by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement political party.
But right-wing and conservative religious leaders have refrained from publicly denouncing the Taliban. They have warned the government against using the attack on Malala as a pretext for an offensive in the militant bastion of North Waziristan.
Malala was first airlifted from Swat to a military hospital in the northwestern city of Peshawar, then to the country’s top military hospital in Rawalpindi outside Islamabad, where doctors on Sunday took her off a ventilator for a “successful” short trial.
Pakistan has offered more than $100,000 for the capture of her attackers. Nearly 200 people have been detained but most have been released.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]