PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) – A Pakistani child activist shot in the head by the Taliban is not yet out of danger and is to be moved to the city of Rawalpindi, officials said Thursday.
The shooting of 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai on a school bus in the Swat valley 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.
Two of her school friends were also injured in the attack which was carried out as retribution for Malala’s campaign for the right to an education during a two-year Taliban insurgency in the region.
There are mounting questions about how the attack could have happened and how the perpetrators simply walked away in an area with a visible police and army presence.
Rawalpindi is home to the top hospital for Pakistan’s powerful armed forces, but asked where exactly she was going, a military official confirmed to AFP only that she was being moved and a further announcement would be made shortly.
“Her condition is not yet out of danger despite improvement. She is being shifted to Rawalpindi,” Masood Kausar, the governor of the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, told reporters.
Earlier, one of her doctors, Mumtaz Khan, told AFP Malala had improved since the bullet was removed in an operation on Wednesday but she was still seriously ill.
“She has been put on a ventilator for two days. The bullet has affected some part of the brain, but there is a 70 percent chance that she will survive,” he said.
Mehmoodul Hasan, one of Malala’s relatives, said the family had been told doctors were sending her medical reports abroad for advice.
“They are checking if better facilities are available in the UK or Dubai or any other country, then they will decide about sending her abroad, otherwise they will treat her here,” said Hasan.
US President Barack Obama, UN chief Ban Ki-moon and Pakistani leaders have expressed horror at the attack on a girl who won admiration for daring to speak out during the Taliban insurgency, which the army said it had crushed in 2009.
Obama believed the shooting was “reprehensible and disgusting and tragic”, said White House spokesman Jay Carney.
“Directing violence at children is barbaric, it’s cowardly, and our hearts go out to her and the others who were wounded as well as their families,” he said.
Malala won international prominence after highlighting Taliban atrocities in Swat with a blog for the BBC three years ago, when the Islamist militants burned girls’ schools and terrorised the valley before the army intervened.
She was just 11 then, and her struggle resonated with tens of thousands of girls denied an education by Islamist militants across northwest Pakistan, where the government has been fighting local Taliban since 2007.
Preparations had been made Wednesday to fly Malala abroad, but a military source told AFP she was too ill to travel. The White House has said US forces are ready to offer transport and treatment to the teenager if needed.
The Pakistani provincial government announced a 10 million rupee ($104,000) reward for information leading to the arrest of Malala’s attackers and Interior Minister Rehman Malik has promised to catch the gunmen.
Officers in Swat say dozens of people were rounded up after the attack but no one has been charged.
Mingora police station chief Ahmad Shah told AFP that nearly 200 people had been detained over Malala’s shooting, including the bus driver and a school watchman, but that most had been released.
Commentators have questioned whether anything will really change in Pakistan after the shooting, despite a call from the army chief General Ashfaq Kayani to further unite against militants and their “barbaric mindset”.
Many in the country blame the United States and the war in neighbouring Afghanistan for the violence. The Pakistani intelligence services have been accused of playing a double game in supporting or at least accommodating Islamist militant groups.
The Taliban, who have killed thousands of people across Pakistan in the last five years and destroyed hundreds of girls’ schools, have issued a statement saying that any female who opposes them should be killed.