Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old peace activist who became the ‘voice of girls in Swat’ when the Taliban controlled the valley in 2008, was shot at and seriously injured by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on Tuesday, triggering a nationwide wave of revulsion at not just terrorists but also their apologists.
Ms. Yousafzai was returning from school in Swat when the terrorists opened fire at the vehicle in which she was travelling. Two other passengers were also injured in the attack. Ms. Yousafzai was first taken to a local hospital. Her condition was reported to be stable, though there were reports that the next few days could be critical as one of the bullets had grazed her brain.
Her shooting found mention in Parliament with Prime Minister Raja Parvez Ashraf condemning it and announcing that a helicopter was being sent to Mingora to bring her to Islamabad for treatment. Later, it was deemed best to fly her to the Combined Military Hospital in Peshawar.
The TTP was quick to claim responsibility for the attack and threatened to target her again in case she survives the shooting. Ms. Yousafzai had received death threats from the Taliban for speaking out against terrorism and advocating education for girls. According to some media reports, the assailants first asked the passengers in the vehicle to identify Ms. Yousafzai. When they did not oblige, the assailants opened indiscriminate fire at the vehicle.
Ms. Yousafzai shot to prominence in 2009 when she began writing a diary in Urdu under the pseudonym ‘Gul Makai’ for the BBC about the travails of living under the Taliban regime.
She was only 11 then but her heart-rending accounts caught international attention and she was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize by the Amsterdam-based advocacy group KidsRights in 2011.
As news broke of Ms. Yousafzai being shot, condemnation was quick to follow from across the political spectrum with even the religious right-wing parties joining in. Even the Jamat-ud-Dawa condemned the shooting. However, cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) came in for scathing criticism for being an apologist for terrorism and his advocacy of peace deals with terrorists instead of military action against them. In fact, much was made of the fact that PTI had not condemned the attack a good eight hours after her shooting.