AP OF PAKISTAN, PAKISTANI OBSERVER, PAKISTANI INTERNATIONAL NEWS (Pakistan), HINDUSTAN TIMES (India), DAILY MAIL, BBC (U.K.)

Worldcrunch

PESHAWAR - A wave of national and international support was growing for Malala Yousefzai, the 14-year-old girl shot in the head by the Taliban in Pakistan's Swat province, who remained in critical condition after her latest surgery Thursday morning.

Referred to as the "daughter of the nation," Yousefzai had gained province as an anonymous blogger who recounted how Islamic radicals were preventing her from going to school.

When the Pakistani army retook the northern province of Swat, Malala’s real name became known. She was shot Monday by bearded men dressed as policemen who stopped the van in which she was riding home from school. Two other schoolgirls, Shazia and Kainat were also shot. They are being treated in Swat and spoke to reporters on Thursday, said the Pakistan International News, which titled its story “Nation Prays for Malala.”

She was transferred from Peshawar to an army cardiology unit in Rawalpindi on Thursday. She was not yet out of danger, her doctors said. "The bullet has affected some part of the brain, but there is a 70 per cent chance that she will survive,” the AFP reported her doctor Mumtaz Khan as saying Thursday.

Malala became well known as an 11-year-old blogger for the BBC’s Urdu language news service when the Taliban was controlling Swat in 2009. The fundamentalist Islamist group closed and threatened girls’ schools, as they had done during their rule in Afghanistan.

Encouraged by her father, a poet and activist who runs a school, Malala, blogging under the Pashto name Gul Makai, or cornflower, described her struggles to go to school safely. The U.K. Daily Mail reported that in spite of her and her father’s bravery and resolve to stay in Swat, a beautiful valley in northern Pakistan that was once a tourist destination, a British visa has been obtained for Malala.

Threats and Koranic quotes

In justifying their action, Tehreek-iTaliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan, in an “undisclosed location,” issued a denunciation of secular education and said that anyone who spoke against Sharia (Islamic law) would be killed, reported Pakistan Today.

The group said it did not usually attack women and children, but then cited the Koran and Muslim religious texts in which the Prophet Mohammed approved killing a woman who spoke against him, and another revered prophet, Hazrat Kizar, killed a child who “would cause a bad name” to his parents. Ehsan went on to declare that Malala was a promoter of secular education and would be attacked again if she survived.

Denunciations of the Taliban action came from around the world. United Nations Secretary General Ban-ki Moon was deeply moved and was writing a letter to Malala’s family, as well as to those of the other two girls, reported the Hindustan Times. “Like so many other people in Pakistan and around the world, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is truly outraged by this attack,” his spokesman added.

Pakistani army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, visited the hospital in Peshawar where Malala underwent a tricky operation to remove the bullet from her head. In a rare public statement, Kayani said that the terrorists have failed to grasp that Malala was more than an individual, but an icon of courage and hope for the people of her province, and the symbol of a free Pakistan that the army is fighting to preserve from terrorism, said the Pakistani Observer, an English-language newspaper there.

The Pakistan Interior Minister announced on Wednesday that the girls’ attackers had been identified and would be “brought to justice,” reported the Hindustan Times. Malala is “the daughter of the nation,” Pakistan’s Minister for Information told a television station, according to AP of Pakistan; her “only mistake” was to raise her voice against illiteracy and extremism.

The government has announced a 10 million rupee ($105,000) reward for anyone who provides information that leads to the capture of the would-be assassins, the BBC reported.

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