As the teenage peace activist Malala Yousufzai recovers in a Rawalpindi hospital, foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar told Christiane Amanpour on CNN that Tuesday’s shooting was a “wake up call” and could present a “turning point” in the war between two futures for Pakistan.
Khar, who was speaking to the veteran journalist via video link from Islamabad said that the attack had left her personally and the government “disgusted.”
She added that it was a wake up call for not only for the people of Pakistan but to people all over the world that “we have a clear and present danger in terms of people who choose to use violence as a means to follow whatever their agenda and to what extent they would go.”
The foreign minister went on to add that this young girl from Swat has managed to clear the fog of war about the Taliban and presented the two clear options for the public in Pakistan. “She has put it as a black and white question. She has put it as either you are with the future that she represents or the future they [Taliban] are trying to impose.”
Khar expressed confidence in the way Pakistanis had rejected the Taliban’s justification for the attack and that barring the issue of drones which split the society, the people were unequivocal in fighting the militant mindset.
“There is absolutely no doubt in any Pakistani’s mind that this is a force, this is a mindset that is a challenge for Pakistan’s future. This is a mindset that we need to fight with all our will and we endanger ourselves more if we don’t fight it today.”
Arresting the perpetrators
When Amanpour asked whether any of the attackers have been arrested, Khar said that “they [law enforcement] have made many arrests.”
“I just came out of a cabinet briefing where they said they have made many arrests and they will get them,”she assured.
Khar went on to explain that a number of groups operated under the umbrella of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the group which has claimed responsibility for the attack on Malala. “Earlier there was a group intending to attack her, and they were taken in before they were able to attack [Malala] and that this was a newer group that emerged,”she said of the attackers.
“We are told by the interior ministry that they are confident they will be able to get to the people, the perpetrators,” Khar said, adding that the bigger challenge was the “mindset that has been imposed on Pakistan for the past 30 years.”
Another military operation in Swat?
When Amanpour asked whether another military operation would be carried out in Swat to clear it of militants, Khar reasoned that military operations are conducted according to requirements of that particular area, at that particular time. “So the timing of that is of course going to be determined and whether it is required in the form that you are mentioning.”
Khar though reminded Amanpour that a military operation was carried out two years ago after which militants had been successfully driven out of the valley. However, these militants then found refuge in the Kunar and Nooristan provinces of Afghanistan.
“For the last two years Pakistan has on the diplomatic, political and every level has been asking both the Afghan government and ISAF forces over there [Afghanistan] not to take the matter seriously and not let them have safe havens inside Kunar and Nooristan. That they have the ability to strike back at us in Swat and at this girl also,” she said.
However, those efforts, Khar lamented, were lost in the quicksand of blame games. “[Attack] is a clear indication that what we need to do is look at this as a challenge to all of us collectively rather than spend time as we have unfortunately in the past as a blame game into who is doing what.”