PESHAWAR: As the nation waited with bated breath through most of Tuesday, doctors treating peace icon Malala Yousafzai announced on Wednesday that her condition was ‘satisfactory’ following a three-and-a-half-hour surgery.
The operation, which took place at a military hospital in Peshawar, was successful in extracting the bullet from her body. The 14-year-old child activist from Swat was airlifted to the hospital after initially receiving treatment at Saidu Sharif Hospital.
A senior doctor who was part of the team that operated on Malala told The Express Tribune on condition of anonymity that “earlier, she was under observation and her condition was stable; however, later I got a call from the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in the middle of night saying the patient’s condition was deteriorating, which forced us to go for surgery around 2 am.”
“Her condition is satisfactory following the surgery,” he added. However, he parried a question about shifting Malala abroad for treatment, saying he was not in a position to comment on this.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik who paid a visit to CMH told reporters at the Peshawar airport that Malala’s condition was out of danger and that a decision to send her abroad for treatment has been postponed.
“She is gradually recovering,” Malik said, adding that doctors have put her under observation for 48 hours.
He said that security personnel would be assigned to ensure Malala’s safety. In addition, passports for her and her family have been prepared ‘in case of an emergency’. An airport official also said “A PIA plane which reached Peshawar earlier on Wednesday is on standby, and all necessary medical facilities have been provided on this plane,” in case she needs to be flown out in an emergency.
Contrary to a statement made by the provincial authorities, Malik claimed that Malala’s attackers had been identified, adding: “We will not let them escape.”
K-P govt initiative
While the interior minister seemed to be aware of who the culprits behind the attack were, the K-P government announced a Rs10 million reward for anyone who was able to identify the attackers. Provincial Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain told the media, “The identity of those identifying persons involved in the Malala attack will not be revealed.”
Hussain also confirmed that “There is no need, now, to take her (Malala) to any foreign country for treatment, the doctors say,” at least for the time being.
He appealed to the nation to pray for her health. “Malala has become a voice for peace which cannot be choked till Doomsday,” the emotionally charged minister said. He added that while his government believed in negotiations, the time had now come to face terrorists with unanimity of purpose.
A probe was also initiated on Wednesday into the attack. Security forces apprehended a number of people including Malala’s school teacher, the school watchman and the driver of the van which was targeted. They were taken to an undisclosed location. In all, 200 suspects have been rounded up so far, although several were released after initial interrogations.
The investigation team along with security forces visited the crime scene as well as Malala’s school to collect evidence. Security has been beefed up in the area in wake of the assassination attempt.
A student accompanying Malala in the ill-fated van, identified as Shazia, who was also shot, has been shifted to a hospital in Peshawar due to her critical condition. Shazia was shot in the leg. The injured girl’s parents are paying for her hospital expenses themselves.
Speaking to reporters at the press briefing, White House spokesperson Jay Carney said that the US has offered any necessary assistance to Malala. “As part of this offer, the US military has agreed to provide air ambulance and medical treatment at a facility suitable for her condition if it becomes necessary.” WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ABDUR RAUF IN PESHAWAR AND HAZRAT ALI IN SWAT
Published in The Express Tribune, October 11th, 2012.