Pakistani officials have moved an injured teenage rights activist to the city of Rawalpindi for further treatment after she was shot in the head in the northwestern Swat Valley.
Al Jazeera’s Hameedullah Khan, reporting from Pakistan, said on Thursday that Malala Yousafzai, a 14-year-old schoolgirl campaigning for girls’ education, was in a critical condition. According to doctors, the next 24 hours were very crucial for her survival.
“Her condition is not yet out of danger despite improvement. She is being shifted to Rawalpindi,” Masood Kausar, the governor of the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, told reporters.
The military confirmed that Malala had arrived in Rawalpindi, and was receiving post-surgery care there.
Earlier, one of her doctors, Mumtaz Khan, said that Yousafzai had improved since the bullet was removed in an operation on Wednesday but she was still seriously ill.
“She has been put on a ventilator for two days. The bullet has affected some part of the brain, but there is a 70 per cent chance that she will survive,” he said.
Mehmoodul Hasan, one of Malala’s relatives, said the family had been told doctors were sending her medical reports abroad for advice.
The Pakistani government has offered a Rs10 million ($105,000) bounty for the capture of the Pakistani Taliban assailants who shot her.
Yousafzai was attacked on her way home from school in Mingora, the main town of Swat Valley.
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She was with her classmates in a school van when unidentified men stopped the vehicle, asking if it belonged to Yousafzai’s school.
One of the gunmen then asked: “Where is Malala?”
As she was identified, the assailant reportedly drew a pistol and shot her in the head and neck. Two other girls on the bus were also wounded. They were treated for their injuries at a nearby hospital.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also known as the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack.
Ehsanullah Ehsan, a Pakistani Taliban spokesperson, said the group had repeatedly warned Yousafzai to stop speaking out against them.
“She is a Western-minded girl. She always speaks against us,” he said by telephone from an undisclosed location.
“We will target anyone who speaks against the Taliban.”
Prayers for recovery
Interior Minister Rehman Malik has promised to catch the gunmen. He appealed to Pakistanis to pray for Malala’s recovery on Friday, when Muslims say their main weekly prayers at mosques.
In northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province where the attack took place, government spokesman Mian Iftikhar Hussain said that civil servants and schools would observe a one-minute silence on Friday to remember acts of terrorism.
Officers in Swat say dozens of people were rounded up after the attack but no one has been charged.
Prayers have been offered across the country for Yousafzai’s recovery since the attack, and students at a demonstration in support of her said that she “is like our sister”.
“We pray for her earliest recovery and well-being,” said 14-year-old Shamaila, who goes to the same school as Yousafzai.
“We also pray that other students can benefit from Malala’s enlightening views.”
Classmate Brekhna Rahim said Yousafzai “wished to have enough money and build schools in every village for girls in Swat”.
The entire Swat Valley was in shock over the shooting, she said, glued to their televisions and crying as they watched the endlessly repeated scenes of her being stretchered to hospital.
Hussain, the provincial information minister, told Al Jazeera that “every child in [Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa] is under threat”, but the provincial government “doesn’t have the resources” to provide them all with security.
“Schools can be provided security and we’re looking into it. We’re all on target, we are and we will have to face these threats bravely. We’ll definitely provide security to Malala and their family as they are still on the target list,” he said.
The Taliban said it was not only “allowed” to target young girls, but it was “obligatory” when such a person “leads a campaign against Islam and sharia”.
The group also criticised media coverage of the shooting, saying: “After this incident, [the] media poured out all of its smelly propaganda against Taliban mujahideen with their poisonous tongues
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” […] will the blind media pay any attention to the hundreds of respectful sisters whom are in the secret detention centres of ISI [Pakistan’s spy agency] and suffering by their captivity?”
Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and Raja Pervez Ashraf, prime minister, both strongly condemned the attack on Yousafzai, as did Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general; Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state; and other world leaders.
Pakistan’s national airline has placed an air ambulance on standby to take Yousafzai abroad for treatment if needed, government sources said, but medics are wary of lengthy travel times given her unstable condition.
Officials have rushed to issue her a passport.
Private schools in Swat Valley shut their doors in protest on Wednesday, though government schools were opened as per usual.
The local chapter of the TTP, led by Maulana Fazlullah, controlled much of Swat from 2007 to 2009, but were driven out by an army offensive in July 2009.
Local reports indicate, however, that the group was only driven into the surrounding areas, rather than being wiped out, and it has since staged a resurgence.