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Pakistani girl shot by Taliban making progress

  • Pakistani students in Lahore pray for the recovery of Yousufzai.

BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom: A 14-year-old Pakistani girl shot in the head by the Taliban is making progress in a British hospital, doctors said Tuesday, as police turned away visitors claiming to be relatives.

Malala Yousufzai was in a stable condition on her first full day in Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham after being flown to the city in central England in an air ambulance.

The hospital’s medical director David Rosser said she had had a “comfortable night.”

“We are very pleased with the progress she’s made so far,” he told reporters. “She is showing every sign of being every bit as strong as we’ve been led to believe.

“Malala will need reconstructive surgery and we have international experts in that field.”

He said doctors at the highly specialized hospital – where British service personnel wounded in Afghanistan are treated – were beginning to plan for the complex procedures but they would not be carried out in the coming days.

Yousufzai has been assessed by clinicians from the neurosurgery, imaging, trauma and therapy departments, though “very specialist teams” who may become involved further down the line are yet to perform detailed assessments on her injuries, Rosser added.

Yousufzai was shot on a school bus in the former Taliban stronghold of the Swat valley last Tuesday as a punishment for campaigning for the right to an education, in an attack which outraged the world.

The teenager had a bullet removed from her skull last week.

Given that she was targeted for assassination by a Taliban gunman, security measures are in place at the hospital.

Rosser said there had been some “irritating incidents” overnight in which people “claiming to be members of Yousufzai’s family – which we don’t believe to be true” had turned up.

A West Midlands Police spokesman said two “well-wishers” were questioned by officers who took their details and turned them away.

“No arrests were made and at no point was there any threat to Malala,” he said.

Rosser added: “We think it’s probably people being over-curious. They didn’t get very far.”

Birmingham has a 100,000-strong ethnic Pakistani community – a tenth of the city’s population.

Yousufzai came to prominence with a blog for the BBC highlighting atrocities under the Taliban, the hard-line Islamists who terrorized the Swat Valley from 2007 until an army offensive in 2009.

The attack has been denounced worldwide, including in Pakistan, which is meeting the costs of her treatment. Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari said Tuesday that the shooting was an attack on all girls in the country – and on civilization itself.

“The Taliban attack on the 14-year-old girl, who from the age of 11 was involved in the struggle for education for girls, is an attack on all girls in Pakistan, an attack on education, and on all civilized people,” Zardari said at an economic summit in the Azerbaijani capital Baku.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the attack was designed to frighten and intimidate any young woman brave enough to follow her example, and to warn parents to keep their daughters out of school.

“But their cowardly act has achieved the opposite effect. There has been a wave of public revulsion in Pakistan and around the world,” he wrote in the London Evening Standard newspaper. “For the attack on Malala has been an attack on Pakistan itself. Her plight symbolizes the struggle for the future of Pakistan: Between the forces of democracy and those of violent extremism.”

Pakistan has offered more than $100,000 for the capture of her attackers.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 17, 2012, on page 10.
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