ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani schoolgirl shot in the head by the Taliban because she campaigned for the right to education is making “slow and steady progress” in her recovery, the military said yesterday.
The shooting of 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai has been denounced worldwide and by the Pakistani authorities, who have offered a reward of more than $100,000 for the capture of her attackers.
She is being treated at the country’s top military hospital in Rawalpindi, the twin city of the capital Islamabad. On Saturday she showed signs of improvement by moving her hands and feet, though she was still unconscious and on a ventilator.
“Doctors have reviewed Malala’s condition and are satisfied,” military spokesman Major General Asim Saleem Bajwa said yesterday.
“She is making slow and steady progress, which is in keeping with expectations. Recovery from this type of injury is always slow.”
Doctors are continuing to monitor Malala’s condition and will carry out a detailed examination on Sunday evening, Bajwa said.
No decision has yet been made on whether to send Malala abroad for treatment, Bajwa said.
“We are waiting for the doctors’ decision — we are ready to follow the doctors’ advice,” he said.
An official in the United Arab Emirates said the Gulf state was ready to send a plane to Pakistan to evacuate Malala for further treatment.
Pakistan’s ambassador to the UAE, Jamil Ahmed Khan, told Pakistani television network Geo TV the air ambulance with six doctors would be on standby in case it was needed.
The cold-blooded murder attempt has sickened Pakistan, where Malala came to prominence with a blog for the BBC highlighting atrocities under the Taliban, who terrorised the Swat valley from 2007 until a 2009 army offensive.
Activists say the shooting should be a wake-up call to whose who advocate appeasement with the Taliban. But analysts suspect there will be no significant change in a country that has sponsored radical Islam for decades.
Thousands of people gathered in Karachi for a rally in support of Malala, organised by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) political party.
MQM leader Altaf Hussain called the attack claimed by the Taliban a shameful and cowardly act.
Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf visited Malala in hospital on Friday, paying tribute to her and two friends who were also wounded when a gunman boarded their school bus on Tuesday and opened fire.
Schools and mosques across Pakistan held special prayers for the wounded schoolgirl, who underwent surgery on Wednesday to remove a bullet from between her shoulders.
Bajwa told a news conference on Saturday that all available resources were being used to investigate the shooting, though he declined to say how many people were in custody.
Ahmad Shah, police station chief in the northwestern town of Mingora where Malala was shot, has said nearly 200 people were detained over the shooting, including the bus driver and a school watchman. But most had been released.
While President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have condemned the attack on Malala, describing it disgusting and tragic, Pakistani authorities believe the US was equally responsible because of the repeated refusal of US-led Allied Forces in Afghanistan to arrest or dislodge Mullah Fazlullah, who freely operates from Afghanistan and whose henchman have targeted Malala.
According to well informed diplomatic circles in Islamabad, the Pakistani establishment has decided to exploit the Malala assault to its own advantage by reminding the Obama administration that the grisly attack was carried out by the shooters of Mullah Fazlullah aka Mullah Radio operating freely from Afghanistan despite repeated requests by Pakistan to proceed against him.
Fazlullah had ordered Malala’s assassination for challenging his extremist brand of Shariah in Swat and opposing the burning of the girls’ schools.
Fazlullah’s spokesman Sirajuddin Ahmed threatened on Friday to kill Malala’s father as well for speaking against them. He confirmed that two assassins from Fazlullah’s special hit squad had been dispatched to target the young schoolgirl.
The shooting has heightened speculation that the army may finally launch a long-rumoured offensive against the Taliban in their stronghold of North Waziristan, on the Afghan border.