Malala Yousafzai has taken one more step in her very long and difficult journey. Separated from her family for now, the 14-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl arrived today at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Britain’s primary receiving facility for military casualties returning from overseas. Doctors say she still has not regained consciousness since being shot in the head by a Pakistani Taliban gunman who forced his way into a van full of schoolgirls, asked for her by name, and opened fire.
The attack has provoked unprecedented levels of public outrage, both in Pakistan and Afghanistan—even among people who have in the past sympathized with the militants. “First of all, attempting to kill a 14-year-old girl is a low act,” says Mullah Yahya, who was a high-ranking Afghan Information Ministry official back in the 1990s, when Mullah Mohammed Omar’s regime was in power. “Second, claiming responsibility for it is a sign that the [Pakistani] Taliban are not aware of the media’s importance. I have seen more anger against the religious elements in the past week than in all my 40 years of life.” Pakistan’s interior minister, Rehman Malik, says the government has posted a $1 million bounty on Ehsanullah Ehsan, the Pakistani Taliban spokesman who claimed responsibility for the shooting.
So how are the Pakistani Taliban responding to so much public condemnation? By declaring war on individual journalists and the media, of course. “For days and days, coverage of the Malala case has shown clearly that the Pakistani and international media are biased,” says a Pakistani Taliban commander in South Waziristan. “The Taliban cannot tolerate biased media.” The commander, who calls himself Jihad Yar, argues that death threats against the press are justified: he says “99 percent” of the reporters on the story are only using the shooting as an excuse to attack the Taliban.
Jihad Yar does not apologize for the attempt to assassinate the girl, who was passionately opposed to the militants’ efforts to close girls’ schools. “We have no regrets about what happened to Malala,” he says. “She was going to become a symbol of Western ideas, and the decision to eliminate her was correct.” There’s proof, he says: video footage of her meeting America’s ambassador to Pakistan. “If she was not important for the West’s agenda, why would a U.S. ambassador meet her?” In the next breath, the commander insists that “Malala’s case is not important. The Taliban will not spare journalists who focus on this one girl and never talk about dozens of girls who have been killed by U.S. drones in tribal areas and Afghanistan.”
Read more here.