The shooting of 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai on a school bus in the scenic Swat valley has been denounced worldwide and by the Pakistani authorities, who have offered a reward of more than $US100,000 ($A98,188) for the gunmen.
Two of her school friends were also injured. There are mounting questions about how the attack could have happened and how the perpetrators simply walked away in an area with a visible police and army presence.
“Doctors have told us her condition is improving,” said Mehmoodul Hasan, one of Malala’s relatives at the military hospital in the northwestern city of Peshawar where she is being treated.
“She has been given sedatives for the next 24 hours and after that doctors will examine her and tell us about her condition,” Hasan said on Thursday.
Malala gained international prominence after highlighting Taliban atrocities in Swat with a blog for the BBC three years ago, when the Islamist militants burned girls’ schools and terrorised the valley before the army intervened.
Then aged just 11, her struggle resonated with tens of thousands of girls denied an education by Islamist militants across northwest Pakistan, where the government has been fighting local Taliban since 2007.
On Wednesday doctors successfully removed a bullet lodged near her shoulder, where it came to rest after entering her head.
Preparations had been made to fly her abroad, but a military source said she was too ill to travel. U.S State Department Spokesman Carney said US forces were ready to offer transport and treatment to the teenager if needed.
The Pakistani provincial government announced a 10 million rupee (about $A102, 115) reward for information leading to the capture of Malala’s attackers.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik has promised to catch the gunmen. Officers in Swat say dozens of people were rounded up after the attack but no one has been charged.
Local residents say four businessmen and outspoken anti-militancy advocates have been shot in Swat in recent months, raising fears about a valley which Pakistan has been trying to restore as a tourist destination.
Mingora police station chief Ahmad Shah said that nearly 200 people had been detained, including the bus driver and a school watchman, in connection with Malala’s shooting but that most had been released.
“Police were on alert already, but after this latest incident we are now carrying out nightly search operations on a daily basis to prevent such incidents,” he added.
From Pakistani Media:
As the nation waited with bated breath through most of Tuesday, doctors treating peace icon Malala Yousafzai announced on Wednesday that her condition was ‘satisfactory’ following a three-and-a-half-hour surgery.
The operation, which took place at a military hospital in Peshawar, was successful in extracting the bullet from her body. The 14-year-old child activist from Swat was airlifted to the hospital after initially receiving treatment at Saidu Sharif Hospital.
A senior doctor who was part of the team that operated on Malala said on condition of anonymity that “earlier, she was under observation and her condition was stable; however, later I got a call from the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in the middle of night saying the patient’s condition was deteriorating, which forced us to go for surgery around 2 am.”
“Her condition is satisfactory following the surgery,” he added. However, he parried a question about shifting Malala abroad for treatment, saying he was not in a position to comment on this.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik who paid a visit to CMH told reporters at the Peshawar airport that Malala’s condition was out of danger and that a decision to send her abroad for treatment has been postponed.
“She is gradually recovering,” Malik said, adding that doctors have put her under observation for 48 hours.
He said that security personnel would be assigned to ensure Malala’s safety. In addition, passports for her and her family have been prepared ‘in case of an emergency’. An airport official also said “A PIA plane which reached Peshawar earlier on Wednesday is on standby, and all necessary medical facilities have been provided on this plane,” in case she needs to be flown out in an emergency.
Contrary to a statement made by the provincial authorities, Malik claimed that Malala’s attackers had been identified, adding: “We will not let them escape.”