Published in The Nation newspaper on 10-Oct-2012
SWAT - Children rights activist and National Peace Award winner Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head in an assassination attempt on her school van in Sharifabad area of Mingora on Tuesday.
Another student, Shazia, was also injured in the attack. She received a bullet in her arm.
Talking exclusively to TheNation after the incident, Shazia said, “We were on our way home from school in a van. Malala was also with us. As we reached Sharifabad area of Mingora, two armed men in a car intercepted our van and started questioning. One of them asked us is it Khushal Public School van? We replied, yes. Then they asked one of the girls who is Malala Yousufzai? As she pointed towards Malala, the gunmen opened indiscriminate fire on the van leaving Malala and I injured.”
After the incident, Malala and other injured girl were shifted to District Headquarters Hospital Saidu Sharif where doctors told that Malala life was out of danger. However, a detailed medical examination later showed that her life was in danger.
She was hit by a bullet in her head.
It is pertinent to mention here that District Headquarters Hospital in Saidu Sharif lacks proper emergency facility. After first medical aid at Saidu Sharif hospital, Malala, 14, was shifted to Peshawar’s Combined Military Hospital (CMH) via a helicopter. Malala was unconscious. Doctors declared next four days very crucial for her.
Malala was 11 when she wrote a blog on the BBC Urdu website. She also featured in two New York Times documentaries. In a 2011 BBC news report, she read out an extract of her diary that gave a sense of the fear she endured under the Taliban. She used the pen-name Gul Makai in her diary. Her identity only emerged after the Taliban were driven out of Swat. For her courageous and outstanding services to promote peace under extremely hostile conditions‚ she was conferred the first National Peace Award by the Pakistan government on 19th December, 2011. She was also nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize by the international children’s advocacy group, Kids Rights Foundation, making her the first Pakistani girl nominated for the award.
DIG Malakand division, talking to this scribe, said militants only targeted Malala, but he claimed the overall security situation is normal in the area. A joint police and military search operation were underway at Gulkada and surrounding areas of Sharifabad. A suspect has been arrested from Cheena Market area of Mingora.
Meanwhile, people from all walks of life have condemned the attack on Malala. In a statement Mussarat Ahmadzeb, a social activist, said, “We condemn this cowardly act of shooting the innocent children. We have suffered a lot due to insurgency. I don’t’ believe these people have any religion or cast.”
PML-N leader Asim Khan said, “We denounce this brutality, this is indeed a failure of law enforcement agencies that how armed men are patrolling the city freely.” He held the police responsible for the attack.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf held a telephonic conversation with father of Malala Yousafzai and condemned the attack.
The prime minister said the government would bear all the expenses of her treatment. The PM also informed her father that he had directed the hospital authorities to extend best possible treatment and care to Malala as well as her friend who was injured in the attack.
The prime minister directed Senior KPK Minister Rahim Dad Khan to rush to the hospital and convey the feelings of the president, the prime minister, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Aseefa Bhutto Zardari and Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari to her father. Rahim Dad was to present bouquets to Malala and her friend on their behalf.
The prime minister also prayed for the speedy recovery of the injured girls.
Meanwhile, President Asif Ali Zardari strongly condemned the attack on Malala Yousufzai and her schoolfellow and directed the authorities concerned to provide best possible medical assistance to the injured girls. He directed that Malala and other injured girl be brought to the best hospital in the country on immediate basis.
Later, a report said that the President has ordered shifting Malala to a hospital abroad in an air ambulance.
In his message, the President said that terrorists would never be able to shaken the resolve of the nation through such dastardly acts and the nation would continue its fight against militants till its logical conclusion.
He said that young girls like Malala Yousafzai symbolise the quest for knowledge of the girls of Swat and other areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Agencies add: Two other girls were also wounded, police officer Rasool Shah said.
Tuesday’s shocking incident in broad daylight in Mingora raised serious questions about security more than three years after the army claimed to have crushed a Taliban insurgency.
Police accounts of the attack changed during the day. Initially, an officer said Malala was shot as she was getting on the school bus, then later that a gunman on foot flagged down the bus some distance away.
“One of them, who had a small beard, went inside and asked the children where was Malala,” Shah told AFP.
“He fired three shots. One bullet hit Malala’s head. The second hit the shoulder of her school friend and the third inflicted a minor leg injury to another girl on the bus,” the policeman added.
Doctors at the Saidu Sharif Medical Complex in Mingora said the bullet penetrated Malala’s skull but missed her brain.
“A bullet struck her head, but luckily the brain is not damaged,” said Doctor Taj Mohammed.
KPK Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain blamed the attack on terrorists and said Malala had been flown to a military hospital in Peshawar for treatment.
“She was targeted because she is an icon of peace. She struggled to get an education and worked to bring peace,” he told reporters in Islamabad.
“Those terrorists destroyed peace in Swat and they are responsible for this attack. We will never bow down to them.”
In a 2011 BBC news report, she read out, “Last night I had a scary dream in which I saw soldiers, helicopters and Taliban. I’m having such kind of dreams ever since the army operation started in Swat. Mother prepared breakfast for us and then I left for school,” she said.
“I was very much scared because the Taliban announced yesterday that girls should stop going to schools.
“Today our head teacher told the school assembly that school uniform is no longer compulsory and from tomorrow onwards, girls should come in their normal dresses. Out of 27, only 11 girls attended the school today,” she said.
“My friend came to me and said, ‘for God’s sake, answer me honestly, is our school going to be attacked by the Taliban?’,” Yousufzai, then 11, wrote in the blog.
Meanwhile, Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said his group was behind the shooting.
“She was pro-West, she was speaking against Taliban and she was calling President Obama her idol,” Ehsan said by telephone from an undisclosed location.
“She was young but she was promoting Western culture in Pashtun areas,” he said. Most members of the Taliban come from Pashtun tribes.
A team of senior doctors late Tuesday completed her medical examination in the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) and stated her condition as critical.
“We have thoroughly examined her, she is in critical condition. The bullet travelled from her head and then lodged in the back shoulder, near the neck,” a doctor in the CMH told AFP.
“Next three to four days are important for her life. She is in the intensive care unit and semi-conscious, although not on the ventilator,” he said.
London-based rights group Amnesty International condemned the “shocking act of violence” against a girl bravely fighting for an education.
“This attack highlights the extremely dangerous climate human rights activists face in northwestern Pakistan, where particularly female activists live under constant threats from the Taliban and other militant groups,” it said.
Published in The Nation newspaper on 10-Oct-2012