A 14-year-old Pakistani girl whom Taliban terrorists shot last week because she
spoke out for her right to go to school was airlifted to the United Kingdom on
Monday for medical treatment, as the international outcry over the attack
Malala Yousafzai, a blogger whom the Taliban in Pakistan’s Swat
Valley have acknowledged trying to assassinate, was moved to Queen Elizabeth
Hospital in Birmingham. The hospital regularly treats British soldiers seriously
wounded in Afghanistan, a spokeswoman for British Prime Minister David Cameron
“The panel of doctors recommended that Malala be shifted abroad to
a UK center which has the capability to provide integrated care to children who
have sustained severe injury,” a military spokesman in Islamabad said, Reuters
The increasing global attention paid to Malala’s ordeal, and
the larger international campaign to ensure that girls everywhere have access to
education, shows how wide is the gap between conservative forces that are
reluctant to take on the Taliban, and more liberal circles that think the
Pakistani government should treat the incident as “the straw that broke the
While around the world, politicians and average people
continued to express shock over October 9’s intentional shooting of Malala in
the head and neck, in Pakistan many took the intense reaction in the West as
sign that the event was being “spun” for political purposes.
center of the controversy is a publication of a recent photo of Malala and her
father – a girls’ school principal who defied Taliban orders to shut down – with
US envoy Richard Holbrooke.
Islamist newspapers and websites have tried
to use the photo to paint her as a US spy. Now, more conservative Pakistani
papers are full of fantastic conspiracy theories – from Malala being a Western
plant to the embarrassing shooting being the fault of the US, India and Israel –
the usual suspects.
“Initially there was a strong, sympathetic reaction
from everyone. But then people who wanted to use it for their Internet campaigns
took it on, and as a result, everyone got very suspicious.
sense here that at the least, she was hand-fed,” said Saifullah Mahsud, the
executive director of the FATA Research Center, a think tank focusing on the
Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) where the Taliban enjoys support and
latitude to operate.
“There’s a belief here that perhaps she was used by
the Americans and made into an icon when she wasn’t,” he explained in a
interview from the center’s Islamabad office.
By putting the emphasis on
Malala, these groups say, it takes attention away from US military activities in
Pakistan – or perhaps justifies it. The drone attacks in search of Taliban
terrorists have led to the deaths of 18 children, according to a popular
“Conservatives are trying paint her on Facebook as being as
someone who was created by the US, and who is sitting with infidels against
fellow Muslims,” Mahsud said, referring to the picture of Malala with
Outrage over Malala’s shooting continues to pour in from
around the world, from both average citizens and senior politicians. In the
latest development, former British prime minister Gordon Brown has launched a
United Nations petition in Malala’s name, using the slogan “I am Malala” and
demanding that all children worldwide be in school by the end of 2015. Brown
will hand the petition to Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari in November, his
Prominent Pakistani journalist and author Ahmed Rashid
described in a New Yorker blog why Malala’s story was much bigger than it
seemed, and was a critical point for Pakistan.
“Since 9/11 the Pakistani
military has failed to adopt a comprehensive strategy toward terrorism and
extremism,” wrote Rashid, author of the book Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and
Fundamentalism in Central Asia.
He continued, “Is this the moment for one
to develop? For years, critics like me have been voices in the wilderness trying
to point out that the military needs to change its narrative and stop backing
extremists in the name of countering India if it is to allow Pakistan to develop
as a modern state.
Now could be that moment – one provided, tragically,
by the shooting of a 14-year-old girl who is now fighting for her life. It won’t