Pakistanis condemn child activist′s shooting | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 10.10.2012
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Pakistanis condemn child activist's shooting

Many Pakistanis have condemned the Taliban for shooting a child activist in Swat. But some observers say that liberals are 'criminally' silent when Pakistani military kill women and children in the 'war on terror.'

Malala Yousafzai, a 14-year-old Pakistani blogger and activist, was shot by armed men on Tuesday along with three other girls in the restive northwestern Pakistani city of Swat. Taliban militants claimed the responsibility of the attack and said in a statement that Yousafzai was attacked because she was promoting "secularism" in Swat.

"She was pro-West, she was speaking against the Taliban and she was calling President Obama her ideal leader," the Pakistani Taliban's spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said in a statement. "She was young but she was promoting Western culture in Pashtun areas," he said, referring to the majority ethnic group in northwest Pakistan and southern and eastern Afghanistan. Most Taliban members are also ethnic Pashtuns.

Pakistani doctors said Wednesday that they had removed a bullet from Malala's head and the girl has been kept under intensive care. They said that they were considering sending her abroad for further treatment.

‘An ambassador of peace'

Pakistani Taliban patrol in their stronghold of Shawal in the Pakistani tribal region of South Waziristan. (Photo: Ishtiaq Mahsud, File/AP/dapd)

Taliban militants control many parts of Pakistan's tribal northwest

Yousafzai had been campaigning for the right to education for girls in Swat and was a vocal critic of the Taliban. Yousafzai won international acclaim for writing about Islamists' atrocities in Swat in a BBC Urdu service blog. Last year, she received a national peace award from the Pakistani government and was nominated for the International Children's Peace Prize by KidsRights Foundation.

“It is a cowardly attack. The government should arrest the culprits and make sure that such incidents won't take place in future. Malala was an ambassador of peace,” a relative of Yousafzai told DW in Peshawar.

The Taliban controlled of much of the Swat valley from 2007 to 2009 until the Pakistani military launched an operation against the militants in 2009 and forced them out of the area. The Islamist militants oppose girls' education and regularly attack girls' schools in many parts of the tribal northwest.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and the army chief General Ashfaq Kayani strongly condemned the attack on Yousafzai.

The United States government call the shooting "barbaric" and "cowardly."

Government's failure

Army doctors treating Malala Yousafzai EPA/ISPR HANDOUT

Doctors have treated Yousafzai and are considering sending her abroad

Pakistani writer and activist Zahida Hina told DW that the Taliban militants were "barbarians" who did not believe in humanity.

"The 14-year-old Malala posed a threat to the Taliban in the sense that she was setting an example for other girls," said Hina. "The Taliban attacked her because they wanted to tell others that if they dared to stand against them, they would also meet the same fate."

Hina criticized the governing Pakistan People's Party for failing to protect citizens but said that the main culprit was the Pakistani state, which she said believed that Islamist extremists were its "strategic assets" to maintain influence in Afghanistan.

But Mian Iftikhar Hussain, a spokesman of the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's provincial government, blamed the Afghan government and the US for not acting against the terrorists in Afghanistan. “Terrorism has come to Pakistan from Afghanistan; therefore the most important thing is that the Afghan government and the US eradicate terrorism from Afghanistan," he said.

Selective criticism?

The Taliban, however, deny they are doing anything heinous. The Pakistani Taliban's spokesman Ehsan said the Pakistani liberals and the media never spoke out against the Pakistani military when it killed and detained women in military operations. He also said that the Shariah commanded that “any female, who by any means plays a role in war against the mujahedeen, should be killed."

But Hina said that nothing justified the killing of innocent civilians.

Pakistanis Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf

Western governments criticize Pakistan for not acting against the Taliban

"It is not true that the Pakistani liberals and the civil society never protest against the civilians' deaths in the US drone strikes, or the operations conducted by the Pakistani army against the militants," said Hina. "But this is no justification for the Taliban to attack unarmed people."

Riaz Ahmed, a political activist in Karachi, told DW that although the Taliban's atrocities should be condemned, it must also be noted that the Pakistani liberals didn't care much about the people who were killed by the Pakistani military in the "war on terror."

'Conspiracy to divert attetion'

“Anything which threatens their (liberals) interests is strongly opposed by them,” said Ahmed. “Does the Pakistani media show images of drone victims the way it is showing the injured Malala's pictures carried to the hospital by Pakistani soldiers? I think the liberals' reaction is one-sided when it comes to terrorism.”

But Ahmed said that the more important thing is to analyze how the Pakistani government was dealing with this issue. "Do you think the Pakistani government cares about Malala? Even if the Taliban kill hundred Malalas, the Pakistani rulers won't be bothered. They benefit from this situation and tell the West that they are needed in Pakistan because they are fighting Islamists," said Ahmed.

Ahmed was also of the view that opposition leader Imran Khan's Sunday “peace march” against the US drone strikes had managed to attract media attention worldwide but now Yousafzai's incident had overshadowed it. "This could be a conspiracy to divert attention from the rally," said Ahmed, adding that the Taliban didn't want a peaceful solution to the conflict.

Hina, for her part, criticized ex-cricket-star-turned politician Imran Khan for refusing to condemn the Taliban categorically for shooting Yousafzai, saying that people like Khan liked to blame the US for everything.

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