If Pakistan has a future, it is embodied in Malala Yousafzai. Yet the Taliban so feared this 14-year-old girl that they tried to assassinate her. Her supposed offense? Her want of an education and her public advocation for it.
Malala was on her way home from school in Mingora, Pakistan, in the Swat Valley, on Tuesday when a Taliban gunman walked up to the school bus, asked for her by name and shot her in the head and neck. On Wednesday, doctors at a military hospital removed the bullet that lodged in her shoulder. She remains in critical condition.
Malala was no ordinary target. She came to public attention three years ago when she wrote a diary for the BBC about life under the Taliban, which controlled Swat from 2007 to 2009 before being dislodged by an Army offensive. Last year, she won a national peace prize.
The Pakistani Taliban was quick and eager to take credit for Tuesday’s attack. Malala “has become a symbol of Western culture in the area; she was openly propagating it,” a spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, told The Times. If she survives, the militants would try again to kill her, he vowed.
Malala has shown more courage in facing down the Taliban than Pakistan’s government and its military leaders. Her father, who once led a school for girls and has shown uncommon bravery in supporting his daughter’s aspirations, said she had long defied Taliban threats.
Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, envisioned a democratic and moderate Muslim nation. But extremism is engulfing the country, and too many people are enabling it or acquiescing to it. This attack was so abominable, however, that Pakistanis across the ideological spectrum reacted with outrage, starting with the president and prime minister. Even Jamaat ud Dawa, the charity wing of the militant Islamist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which waged its own violent campaigns against India, couldn’t stay silent. “Shameful, despicable, barbaric attempt,” read a message on the group’s official Twitter feed. “Curse b upon assassins and perpetrators.”
The attack was an embarrassment for the Pakistani Army, which has boasted of pushing the Taliban from Swat. The army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, visited the hospital where Malala was being treated, and, in a rare public statement, he condemned the “twisted ideology” of the “cowards” who had attacked her.
Words only have meaning if they are backed up by actions. What will he and other leaders do to bring Malala’s attackers to justice and stop their threat to ordinary citizens and the state?
In recent years, the Taliban destroyed at least 200 schools. The murderous violence against one girl was committed against the whole of Pakistani society. The Taliban cannot be allowed to win this vicious campaign against girls, learning and tolerance. Otherwise, there is no future for that nation.
Source: New York Times