Rawalpindi: A Pakistani schoolgirl shot in the head by the Taliban showed signs of improvement by moving her limbs Saturday, the military said, though she remains unconscious and on a ventilator.The shooting of 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai, who campaigned for the right to an education, has been denounced worldwide and by the Pakistani authorities, who have offered a reward of more than $100,000 for the capture of her attackers.
“The sedation given to Malala was reduced today so that neurosurgeons could do their clinical assessment and as a result of it Malala responded and moved her hands and feet,” military spokesman Major General Asim Saleem Bajwa said.
“It is a positive development,” Bajwa told a press conference near Army headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, close to the capital Islamabad, where Malala is being treated in a military hospital.
“As per doctors, (the) condition of Malala is stable.”
A team of specialist doctors are providing “constant care” to Malala and all “contingencies” were in place in case they decide to move her abroad for further treatment, the general said.
“It is a case of serious head injury and the progress is very slow in it.”
Two other girl students wounded with Malala were “also being taken care of at places where they can get best treatment”, he said, without elaborating.
Bajwa said that all available resources were being used to investigate the incident and some arrests had been made, but he declined to say how many people were currently in custody and how many had been let go.
Asked whether the military might now consider launching an offensive against the Taliban in their tribal area stronghold of North Waziristan, on the Afghan border, Bajwa said: “Such decisions are not taken overnight.”
A military statement earlier said: “(The) health condition of Malala continues to remain satisfactory. Her vitals are okay and she is still on ventilator.”
Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf visited Malala on Friday, paying tribute to her and two friends who were also wounded when a gunman boarded their school bus on Tuesday and opened fire.
“It was not a crime against an individual but a crime against humanity and an attack on our national and social values,” he told reporters, pledging renewed vigour in Pakistan’s struggle with Islamist militancy.
The attack has sickened Pakistan, where Malala won international prominence with a blog for the BBC that highlighted atrocities under the Taliban who terrorised the Swat valley from 2007 until a 2009 army offensive.
Activists say the shooting should be a wake-up call to whose who advocate appeasement with the Taliban, but analysts suspect there will be no seismic shift in a country that has sponsored radical Islam for decades.
Schools opened with prayers for Malala on Friday and special prayers were held at mosques across the country for her speedy recovery at the country’s top military hospital in the city of Rawalpindi.
In neighbouring Afghanistan, schools opened Saturday with special prayers for Malala, in a move officials said was to show solidarity with her.
“To show sympathy to Malala Yousafzai around 9.5 million students all over the country in 15,500 schools and education centres offered prayers for her quick recovery,” Afghan education ministry spokesman Amanullah Iman told AFP.
“The students also expressed their solidarity to their sister (Malala) because the attack on her was an attack on education,” he said.
The Defence of Pakistan Council, an Islamist alliance which earlier this year carried out major rallies across Pakistan against the resumption of NATO supply lines through the country cautioned against the attack on Malala being used as a reason to launch fresh military offensives against militants.
“We strongly condemn this attack, but it should not be used as a pretext to launch military offensive in North Waziristan,” alliance chairman Maulana Samiul Haq told a press conference in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani Kashmir.
“It would be suicidal and affect the entire country. We appeal to the military not to commit any such mistake,” Haq said.
“The world does not see or condemn killing of countless innocent girls and children in drone attacks by America, but now they are reacting to this incident,” Haq said.