ISLAMABAD/LAHORE/KARACHI - The Pakistani nation observed Youm-e-Dua on Friday for early recovery of Malala Yousafzai who was seriously injured in a terrorist attack in Swat.
The shooting at the bus carrying Malala and her schoolmates has been denounced worldwide. Pakistani authorities had offered a reward of more than $100,000 for the capture of her attackers and Swat police confirmed on Friday that they had arrested three attackers while efforts were on to hunt down the mastermind of the attack who is on the run.
The 14-year-old schoolgirl, who campaigned for the girls’ right to an education, was shot in the head by the Taliban. Doctors at the country’s top military hospital in Rawalpindi, where she is still on a ventilator, said the next two days were critical.
“Malala’s condition is satisfactory, praise be to God, but the next 36 to 48 hours are critical,” military spokesman Maj-Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa told a media briefing. “Today is the sacred day of Friday and the entire nation is praying for her health. I pray to Allah that He bestows her with good health very soon.”
Speaking to media representatives at the ISPR office, the ISPR DG said two foreign doctors were being consulted, but that for the moment no decision had been made on sending her abroad for further treatment. He said Malala was undergoing tests and she was still on a ventilator.
In Karachi, Pakistan’s biggest city, thousands of worshippers cupped their hands towards heavens in supplication for Malala’s health. “May Allah bestow her with His blessings and grant her a long life,” said Ikram-ul-Mustafa Aazmi, chief prayer leader at the city’s prominent Memon Mosque.
He condemned the attack, but did not mention the Taliban, calling on the government to protect all those striving for peace and education. “No Muslim scholar or preacher is against education. On the contrary we educate our daughters as our sons,” he said in reference to Malala’s struggle for an education under the Taliban, who destroyed hundreds of girls’ schools.
In Lahore, Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) organised a congregation, praying for Malala’s health. The prayers were attended by the party office bearers from Punjab including the office-bearers of the PTI women wing. The attendees of the congregations also took out a procession in Garden Town area after the prayers.
The protestors shouted anti-US slogans alleging that American conspires were at play behind incidents of terrorism in Pakistan. The PTI rally demanded the arrest of Malala’s attackers and said that those killing innocent children were not Muslims rather the agents of anti-Islam forces.
In Peshawar, one minute silence was observed in the schools, colleges and universities, and government employees prayed for the health of Malala and other injured children at their offices. Prayers and rallies were also taken out in Faisalabad, Muzaffargarh, Khanewal, and Chichawatni.
Malala Yousafzai was targeted by the Taliban for her vocal views denouncing Taliban brutality and her efforts in promoting women education in Malakand Division and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). The 14-year-old inspiring schoolgirl, who was nominated for several peace awards, was shot in the head in her school van while she was on her way home from school in Mingora (Swat).
Her father runs the small school that she attended and has received threats from terrorists in the region for years. Malala kept a blog for the BBC that promoted education for young girls and highlighted atrocities under the Taliban who terrorised the Swat Valley from 2007 until a 2009 army offensive. The attack on young rights campaigner has sickened the county and activists say the shooting should be a wake-up call to those who advocate appeasement with the Taliban.
Swat Police have arrested three suspects for the shooting. They say the three men, aged 17 to 22, were involved in the attack, but that they all said the mastermind was a man Qari Attaullah, who is still at large. Earlier, Ahmad Shah, a police station chief in Mingora, said that nearly 200 people were detained over the shooting but most had been released.
Swat District Police Officer (DPO) Gul Afzal Khan Afridi said on Friday that the three militants were detained from Mangota village in Swat. They are involved in executing attack on Malala on the directives of Qari Attaullah, this plan’s mastermind, he said.
“Police parties have been constituted to arrest Qari Attaullah who is on the run. He is a member of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and is involved in waging attacks on security forces in the tribal region. Malala’s family was receiving threats from eleven unregistered cell numbers that were traced to reach out to the suspects, the DPO further said. “The main culprit would be behind the bars soon. The security situation is under control in Swat.”
The Provincial Information Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Mian Iftikhar Hussain on Thursday had shared with The Nation that three suspects were traced who were instrumental in launching a life attempt on the young girl.
On Friday, Mian Iftikhar Hussain said, the chief secretary of KP is in direct contact with the deputy inspector general (DIG) Malakand Division, DPO Swat and the military authorities and the intelligence agencies, for the arrest of Qari Attaullah.
“The security forces have sealed the entry and exit points of Swat. Qari would not be able to make it out of that area. The detained suspects have divulged useful clues in arresting the TTP leader,” he told The Nation. “They will have to pay for what they did to an innocent child,” Iftikhar said reiterating ‘no mercy’ for the perpetrators.
Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, who visited the hospital to see Malala, paid rich tribute to her and her two friends, Kainat and Shazia, who were also wounded in the attack. “It was not a crime against an individual but a crime against humanity and an attack on our national and social values,“ he said.
The prime minister said the extremists attacked Malala for what she stood for because they were scared of the power of her vision, he added. Raja said that she had a simple message: “The right for girls to be educated”. He said that Malala is a true Pakistani and is the real face of Pakistan and nobody would be allowed to destroy the real face of Pakistan. He said she has created a movement across Pakistan and girls want to follow her footprints.
Raja Pervaiz Ashraf said that “today we have gathered here to pay tribute to the bravery and courage of Malala, who along with her friends was subjected to a cowardly attack by senseless people in Mingora”. He said that all 180 million of Pakistanis wanted peace in the country.
Pledging renewed vigour in Pakistan’s struggle with militancy, the prime minister told reporters: “We have sacrificed, both in terms of men and material, be it our valiant armed forces, innocent civilians, children or security forces. We have to unite and stand together to uproot this menace to save our children,” he said.
“I have often said that we face a threat from a bigoted and radicalised mindset, which wants to rob us of our cherished values of peace, pluralism, moderation, tolerance and passion for knowledge. Today, we pledge to fight this mindset” he maintained. He said that the government pledged that it would not allow the future of the children to be endangered by the militant mindset.
“We cannot see our children dying at the hands of militants. No Pakistani can see dying his children at the hands of extremists” he said. “The whole nation stands united in condemning the brutality and degradation of those who perpetrated this crime and the poisoned mindset that seeks to destroy the soul of our nation” he added.
Thanking all the members of his cabinet and other political parties to be there with him at AFIC to see Malala, the PM said that this gathering of various political parties at this occasion not only sent a strong message to the terrorists but also the world comity that Pakistanis are united against the menace of terrorism and will root out it at any cost.
President Asif Ali Zardari on Friday telephoned Ziaud-Din Yousafzai, father of Malala, and expressed grief and shock over the incident and strongly condemned the barbaric act of the militants. He said that through such acts the militants have shown their real face to the world.
The president said that the militants would never succeed in shaking the resolve of the people and the government through these acts and this incident has further revived our spirits to face the menace of militancy head on. He prayed for early recovery of Malala and also expressed sympathies for the friends of Malala who too sustained injuries during the attack of the militants on the school van.
The president said that Malala symbolises the quest for education by the girls of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and is also a symbol of courage of our women to challenge and stand against barbarity and oppression. He said that the doctors of Pakistan armed forces were providing best medical treatment to the injured girl and the government will put into service all possible means for the treatment and early recovery of Malala.