Shot teenage activist Malala Yousufzai’s full recovery is the absolute priority of the British government, which is determined to do all it can to champion education for women and girls in Pakistan, claimed British Foreign Minister William Hague.
Hague said this while visiting 15-year-old Malala along with Interior Minister Rehman Malik and the UAE foreign minister at the Birmingham hospital which was treating her. “The people of Pakistan have paid a high price in the form of terrorism and extremism. We will stand by all those who, like Malala, are courageously defending the rights of women in Pakistan and around the world,” added Hague.
“We are grateful to hospital authorities, especially the doctors treating Malala. As a result, she has made very good recovery in the past few days,” said Interior Minister Rehman Malik.
The British Foreign Office said the three ministers also met with Malala’s father, who was shot in the head by the Taliban earlier this month as punishment for campaigning for girls’ education in an attack that shocked the world.
Malik said Pakistan has the ‘ability to protect’ Malala when she returns back to the country. In an interview with CNN in London, Malik said that the teenage activist had been offered security thrice before her shooting, but her father had refused.
He said that Malala would be given security when she returns to Pakistan through a cordon of female officers which will surround her, and a cordon of male officers to surround the female contingent.
Pakistani police are searching for two youths suspected of shooting Malala, along with a man who they believe drove them to the scene, revealed Malik.
“The men who made the assassination attempt were two young boys,” said Malik. He said they were brought to Malala’s hometown Swat by Atta Ullah Khan, a 23-year-old man identified by police as a primary suspect.
Police said last week that they had arrested six men in connection with the shooting, but were still searching for Khan.
Question of sovereignty
In the same interview, Malik said that drone strikes were hindering Pakistan’s efforts to control terrorism. The strikes should be stopped since they violate Pakistan’s territorial sovereignty, added the minister.
Furthermore, the minister said that military operation in North Waziristan was not the solution to terrorism. “The perception that Pakistan is demanding an operation in North Waziristan is wrong,” said Malik.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 30th, 2012.