Inside Story
Who in Pakistan should have protected Malala?
As the 14-year-old girl is shot by Taliban gunmen, we ask what does this mean for the rule of law in the country.
Last Modified: 11 Oct 2012 12:23

There has been intense public reaction in Pakistan to the shooting of Malala Yousafzai, a 14 year-old schoolgirl, by Taliban gunmen.

"I was shocked and I feel ashamed ... because we could not protect her and she was fighting a fight that should have been fought by us. We should have been on the frontline, not her... They [Malala's family] were offered this protection but they refused to take it so you cannot really put all the blame on the government ... it is a mindset that we are fighting, it is the mindset that has to be changed."

- Rubina Khalid, a senator with the ruling Pakistan People's Party

She was shot in the neck and head by the Taliban on her way home from school in the Swat Valley in the country's northwest.

Yousafzai, who was seriously injured in the attack, is unconscious while she recovers from an operation. Two other girls were also injured in the attack.

Private schools closed for the day in protest and students gathered to pray for her.

Yousafzai had come to public attention at the age of 11, when she publically criticised the Pakistani Taliban for its violent action against girls' schools in the area which was then under its control, and became the first recipient of Pakistan's National Peace Award for Youth.

The government has condemned the attack, with Asif Ali Zadari, the Pakistani president suggesting that Yousafzai should get medical treatment in Dubai. But the teenager does not have a passport and is too unstable to be moved.

There have been many instances of clashes between tribal law, custom and a democratic constitution in Pakistan.

But in claiming responsibility for this shooting the Pakistani Taliban made clear the motive was rooted in a particular interpretation of Islamic law.

"It [the attack] damages the softer image of Pakistan which Malala was representing. I think it was the duty of the government to protect her, knowing fully well that she is the holder of the International Peace Award for writing her diaries, and they failed..."

- Amjad Malik, chairman of the Association of Pakistani Lawers, UK

In an official statement, the group's spokesman Ehsan ullah Ehsan said: "The Pakistani Taliban successfully targeted Malala Yousafzai in Mingora. Although she was young and a girl and Taliban does not believe in attacking women but whomsoever leads any campaign against Islam and Shariah is ordered to be killed by Shariah. It is not merely allowed to kill such a person but it is obligatory in Islam."

Inside Story asks: So what does this mean for the rule of law in Pakistan and the role of those who are supposed to apply it?

To answer this question, presenter Mike Hanna is joined by our guests: Rubina Khalid, a senator with the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party; Amjad Malik, the chairman of the Association of Pakistani Lawyers UK, and a member of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan; and Marium Fatima Khan, the women co-ordinator for Pakistan International Human Rights Organisation.

"Malala Yousafzai is like our sister. We pray for her earliest recovery and wellbeing. We also pray that other students can benefit from Malala's enlightened views."

-- Shamaila, 14, a female student

"The terrorists fired bullets at her to suppress her voice but their attempt failed. We pray from the bottom of our hearts for her early recovery."

-- Mohammad Ali, 16, a male student



  • The teenager is reported to be in stable condition after operation
  • She was shot by Taliban fighters for demanding education for girls
  • Pakistani Taliban fighters captured the Swat Valley in 2007
  • The Taliban was driven out of the valley by Pakistani forces in 2009
  • There have been fewer attacks since the Taliban was pushed out of Swat Valley
  • Says a Taliban spokesman: "We are deadly against secular education system"


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