Ziauddin Yousafzai, spokesperson for the Swat Valley Peace Council, never thought his 14-year-old daughter Malala would be a target for the Pakistani Taliban.
“I was thinking that it’s me who always stood against these people and have strongly condemned their bomb blasts, suicide attacks and killing of innocent civilians on every forum”, Yousafzai told Al Jazeera from his daughter’s bedside.
Malala, who first came to public attention at the age of 11 for speaking out against a ban on girls’ education, was shot in the neck and head by Taliban gunmen on her way home from school last week.
Over a cup of coffee, Ziauddin expressed his gratitude for prayers for his daughter’s swift recovery.
“She is not only my daughter … she is the daughter of Pakistan and I am only the caretaker.”
Ziauddin considers himself blessed by God for having a daughter who has been prayed for not only by other Muslims, but also Christians, Hindus and Sikhs.
For Ziauddin, this is a sign that “everyone who came to know about Malala’s incident has prayed for her life … When I see little children praying for Malala’s life it gives me renewed strength and hope that Malala, the nation’s daughter, will recover soon… and one day she will be going back to school to accomplish her dreams for humanity”.
Among Malala’s many well-wishers was Raja Pervez Ashraf, prime minister of Pakistan, who visited the hospital to assure her parents that they are not alone in this tragic time and that “the whole nation stands with them”.
‘Crime against humanity’
“Today we have gathered here to pay tribute to the bravery and courage of Malala Yousafzai. The nation stands united in condemning the brutality and degradation of those who perpetrated this crime and the poisoned mindset that seeks to destroy the soul of our nation. The attack on Malala is not a crime against the individual. It is a crime against humanity. An attack on our moral and social values.”
Speaking to media the prime minister went on to say: “The extremists attacked Malala because they were scared of the power of her vision. She had a simple message – the rights for the girls to be educated”.
Ashraf called Malala a true Pakistani who is the real face of the nation.
“We will not allow anyone to destroy the face of Pakistan. We pledge that we will not allow the future of our children to be in danger by the militant mindset.”
Of Malala’s treatment, Ashraf assured the public that she “is under the best possible care”, but that “the next 48 hours are important”.
Malala, who is currently on a ventilator, was flown by an air-ambulance from Combined Military Hospital (CMH) Peshawar to the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC), a health unit of CMH Rawalpindi on Thursday.
A national prayer day for Malala was observed across the country on Friday. From morning school assemblies to the Friday prayer services, Malala was on everyone’s minds. It wasn’t just local gatherings though, provincial and national assemblies and even Pakistani television honoured Malala.
Friday also saw reports that the key suspects in Tuesday’s shooting were arrested in northwestern Pakistan.
Kamran Rehman, district administrative officer in the Swat Valley said police are actively pursuing the shooters, but so far only three arrests have been made.
Though he cannot be certain of the suspect’s roles in the shooting until a full investigation has been conducted, Rehman did say they were between the ages of 17 and 23.
One suspect has also been arrested in Rawalpindi, not far from the hospital where Malala is currently being treated.
A military official speaking on condition of anonymity told Al Jazeera that the suspect tried to enter the hospital on Thursday night claiming to be the girl’s father.