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Published: Monday, 10/15/2012

Tens of thousands rally for girl shot by Taliban

Pakistani teen pushedfor education of women

Supporters of Pakistani political party Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), attend a rally to condemn the attack on 14-year-old schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai, who was shot last Tuesday by the Taliban for speaking out in support of education for women, in Karachi, Pakistan on Sunday. Supporters of Pakistani political party Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), attend a rally to condemn the attack on 14-year-old schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai, who was shot last Tuesday by the Taliban for speaking out in support of education for women, in Karachi, Pakistan on Sunday.

KARACHI, Paki­stan — Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple ral­lied in Paki­stan’s larg­est city Sun­day in the big­gest show of sup­port for a 14-year-old girl who was shot and wounded by the Tal­i­ban for pro­mot­ing girls’ ed­u­ca­tion and crit­i­ciz­ing the mil­i­tant group.

The Oct. 9 at­tack on Malala You­suf­zai as she re­turned home from school in Paki­stan’s north­west hor­ri­fied peo­ple in­side and out­side the coun­try.

De­mon­stra­tions in sup­port of Miss You­suf­zai have been fairly small com­pared with those fo­cused on is­sues such as U.S. drone at­tacks and the NATO sup­ply route to Af­ghan­istan that runs through Paki­stan.

Paki­stan’s main­stream po­lit­i­cal par­ties of­ten are more will­ing to ha­rangue the United States than di­rect their peo­ple power against Isla­mist mil­i­tants shed­ding blood across the coun­try — partly out of fear and partly be­cause they rely on Isla­mist par­ties for elec­toral sup­port.

One of the ex­cep­tions is the po­lit­i­cal party that or­ga­nized Sun­day’s rally in Karachi, the Mut­tahida Quami Move­ment. The party’s chief, Al­taf Hus­sain, crit­i­cized both Islamic and other po­lit­i­cal par­ties for fail­ing to pro­test the at­tack on Miss You­suf­zai.

He called the Tal­i­ban gun­men who shot the girl “beasts” and said it was an at­tack on “the ide­ol­ogy of Paki­stan.”

“Malala You­suf­zai is a bea­con of knowl­edge. She is the daugh­ter of the na­tion,” Mr. Hus­sain told the au­di­ence by phone from Lon­don, where he is in self-im­posed ex­ile be­cause of le­gal cases pend­ing against him in Paki­stan. His po­lit­i­cal party is stron­gest in Karachi.

Many of the dem­on­stra­tors car­ried the young girl’s pic­ture and ban­ners prais­ing her brav­ery and ex­press­ing sol­i­dar­ity.

The lead­ers of Paki­stan’s main Islamic par­ties have crit­i­cized the shoot­ing, but also have tried to re­di­rect the con­ver­sa­tion away from Tal­i­ban vi­o­lence and to­ward ci­vil­ian ca­su­al­ties from U.S. drone at­tacks.

Cyril Almeida, a col­um­nist for Paki­stan’s Dawn news­pa­per, said this type of “ob­fus­ca­tion” pre­vents Paki­stanis from see­ing “there is a con­tin­uum from the re­li­gious right to vi­o­lent Isla­mism.”

“The re­li­gious right cre­ates an en­abling en­vi­ron­ment for vi­o­lent Isla­mism to re­cruit and pros­per. And vi­o­lent Isla­mism makes state and so­ci­ety cower and in do­ing so en­hances the space for the re­li­gious right,” Mr. Almeida wrote in a col­umn Sun­day.

Miss You­suf­zai earned the en­mity of the Paki­stani Tal­i­ban for pub­li­ciz­ing their be­hav­ior when they took over the north­west­ern Swat Val­ley, where she lived, and for speak­ing about the im­por­tance of ed­u­ca­tion for girls.

The group first started to ex­ert its in­flu­ence in the Swat Val­ley in 2007 and quickly ex­tended its reach to much of the val­ley by the next year.

They set about im­pos­ing their will on res­i­dents by forc­ing men to grow beards, pre­vent­ing women from go­ing to the mar­ket, and blow­ing up many schools — the ma­jor­ity for girls.

Miss You­suf­zai wrote about these prac­tices in a jour­nal for the BBC un­der a pseu­do­nym when she was just 11.

After the Tal­i­ban were pushed out of the Swat Val­ley in 2009 by the Paki­stani mil­i­tary, she be­came even more out­spo­ken in ad­vo­cat­ing for girls’ ed­u­ca­tion. She ap­peared fre­quently in the me­dia and was given one of the coun­try's high­est hon­ors for ci­vil­ians for her brav­ery.

The Paki­stani Tal­i­ban said they car­ried out the shoot­ing be­cause Miss You­suf­zai was pro­mot­ing “Western think­ing.”

The young girl was shot in the neck and the bul­let headed to­ward her spine. Two of her class­mates were also wounded in the at­tack.

Doc­tors at a mil­i­tary hos­pi­tal op­er­ated on Miss You­suf­zai to re­move the bul­let from her neck and she was put on a ven­ti­la­tor.

Her con­di­tion im­proved some­what on Satur­day when she was able to move her legs and hands af­ter her sed­a­tives were re­duced.

On Sun­day, she was suc­cess­fully taken off the ven­ti­la­tor for a short pe­riod and later re­con­nected to avoid fa­tigue, the mil­i­tary said. Doc­tors are sat­is­fied she is mak­ing slow and steady prog­ress.

Au­thor­i­ties on Sun­day con­firmed the ar­rests of three broth­ers sus­pected of in­volve­ment in the at­tack.

More than 100 peo­ple have been de­tained for ques­tion­ing in the at­tack, though al­most all were re­leased. Po­lice took the three broth­ers into cus­tody early Satur­day.

Au­thor­i­ties do not be­lieve they were the gun­men who tried to kill Miss You­suf­zai, but they would not dis­cuss what role the men may have played.

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