ISLAMABAD/SWAT - The physicians treating Malala Yousafzai are expected to decide on her treatment abroad today (Sunday) as the 72-hour time period, declared as crucial for the patient, passes today evening.
A panel of reportedly seven doctors at the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC) including senior military officials and renowned surgeons from the civilian side had said on Friday that 36 to 48 hours were vital for the young patient who is yet to regain her senses.
Swat National Jirga held a peaceful demonstration at Nishat Chowk on Saturday to condemn the attack on Malala and her fellow students. A TTP militant had shot the 14-year old Malala in the head on Tuesday while she was on her way back home in Swat’s town of Mingora for her vocal opposition to Taliban’s brutality and her support to women education in tribal areas.
Also on Saturday, President Asif Ali Zardari enquired about the health of Shazia and Kainat – the two friends of Malala who were also injured in the terrorist attack – and he directed the authorities for free and best medical care to them.
“The sedation given to Malala was reduced today so that neurosurgeons could do their clinical assessment and as a result of it Malala responded and moved her hands and feet,” military spokesman Major General Asim Saleem Bajwa said. “It is a positive development,” Bajwa told a press conference near Army headquarters in Rawalpindi, where Malala is being treated in a military hospital. “As per doctors, (the) condition of Malala is stable.” Two other girl students wounded with Malala were “also being taken care of at places where they can get best treatment”, he said, without elaborating.
A team of specialist doctors are providing “constant care” to Malala and all “contingencies” are in place in case they decide to move her abroad for further treatment, the general said. “It is a case of serious head injury and the progress is very slow in it.”
Malala is being treated at the AFIC, a top medical facility of Pakistan Army, and ISPR in a statement said the panel of doctors was monitoring the injured child rights activist consistently. Her health condition has shown signs of improvement during the last two days, ever since she is brought to the AFIC from Combined Military Hospital (CMH) Peshawar on Thursday.
However, her persisting unconsciousness is said to be a cause of concern for the doctors who are to go for other options for an immediate clinical breakthrough to bring her back from coma. Reportedly, the AFIC authorities have also consulted renowned neurosurgeons in Islamabad, Dr Inayatullah Khan and Dr Khaleeq-uz-Zaman, for their expert opinion on Malala’s case. Both the surgeons, it is learnt, have recommended sending Malala abroad in case she is not back in her senses by Sunday (today).
When approached, the two physicians, in their separate responses, did not share any details in this regard. “It’s a sensitive matter and I’m under obligation not to disclose any information pertaining to this particular case. It would not be appropriate to disclose the details, therefore,” Dr Inayatullah said.
“The medical norms do not allow sharing of any clinical correspondence that goes between a doctor and his (or her) patient outside the patient’s family members or authorised persons,” was Dr Khaleeq-uz-Zaman’s response.
Military sources said, the doctors’ team treating Malala would go by the recommendations of Dr Khaleeq and Dr Inayatullah if the patient’s senses are not back by today evening. She could be taken either to Germany or United States or Britain provided that the doctors’ panel decide for her treatment abroad, officials said.
Talking to The Nation at the AFIC on Saturday, Malala’s father Ziaud Din Yousafzai said, any decision of the doctors regarding his daughter’s health would be acceptable to him and his family. “So far, we are satisfied with the treatment given to our daughter. They have enough expertise and understanding to decide what is good for their patient. Either she is taken abroad or stays here, we want best healthcare and treatment,” he said.
Ziaud Din said that the muscular movement of Malala’s arms and legs has shown a slight improvement. “This brings a major relief to us. Her doctors told us she has started feeling pain and is regaining senses. But we would be fully relieved only after she opens her eyes.” About security measures taken for Malala’s protection, her father said that the security conditions at the AFIC were better compared to the CMH Peshawar.
During his press briefing when asked whether the military might now consider launching an offensive against the Taliban in North Waziristan, Major General Asim Saleem Bajwa said: “Such decisions are not taken overnight.” Bajwa said that all available resources were being used to investigate the incident and some arrests had been made, but he declined to say how many people were currently in custody and how many had been let go.
On Saturday morning, police reportedly arrested three more suspects from Akbar Pura area of Nowshera. The suspects identified as Irfan, Abdul Haji and Inam are believed to be real brothers. Police in Mingora, where the attack came, said the number of people arrested so far has risen to 200 – though most of them were released after preliminary inquiries.
The security agencies on Saturday also took into custody two guards of Khushhal Girls Public School, where Malala is studying. The guards are being interrogated at some undisclosed location. Driver Usman and accountant Rahimullah are already in the custody of law-enforcers.
However, DSP Sher Zada Khan, who is part of the investigation team, refuted the claim of a private TV channel that police had arrested three attackers including Qari Attaullah, the alleged mastermind of the attack from an area of Swat. DPO Gul Afzal Afridi contacted this newspaper and denied the news of arresting three outlaws including the mastermind of the attack. He said, “I was also was also wrongly attributed in that report while I was totally unaware of any such arrests.”
DSP Sher Zada Khan, however, confirmed that search operation were underway in the nearby areas of the main spot. Areas of Landikas, Gulkada and Bangladesh were searched out on Saturday while search operation in Takhtaband area was carried out Friday night. Swat District Police Officer (DPO) Gul Afzal Khan Afridi said the pace of investigations is satisfactory and the real culprits will soon be tracked down.
Requesting anonymity, a serving army brigadier told The Nation that four-tier security was being provided to Malala. Troops of Rawalpindi Corps, Defence Services Guards (DSG), General Headquarters (GHQ) and CMH Rawalpindi’s internal security are deployed inside and around the AFIC for ensuring foolproof protection. Security arrangements, the brigadier said, have been tightened following threat from the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militant Maulla Fazlullah. Noted news agency Reuters has reported that two of Fazlullah’s men have been sent to kill Malala and her father.
Despite that Malala’s father was repeatedly receiving life threats from the militants in Swat before she was shot, the military authorities and civilian security agencies had not provided security to him and his family. Commenting on Fazlullah’s latest threat, Ziaud Din Yousafzai said, “We were under threat in the past as well. We were not provided security maybe because we never asked for it. We’ll be more careful in future.”
Presidential Spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the president Saturday enquired about the health of Shazia and Kainat, the school fellows of Malala who were travelling with her in the same van that was attacked by the militants. President Zardari also asked the concerned government authorities to provide free medical care to the two students.
The president said that the quest for knowledge of all these children despite threats had illumined the path for all. They represented the true face of Pakistan, were a national asset and had raised collective national consciousness against the barbarism of militants and extremists, he said. The president called for report on their condition and prayed for their early recovery.
Father of Kainat, Riaz confirmed that provincial government had also contacted him for the medical treatment of his daughter. Kainat, who was injured along with Malala, has vowed to continue her education and become a doctor to serve the country. She said the attackers opened fire after identifying Malala. She said she fell unconscious as she saw Malala in a pool of blood. Kainat also prayed for speedy recovery of Malala Yousafzai.
Though stable, Malala still unconscious