Abu Dhabi: A Pakistani schoolgirl shot in the head by the Taliban because she campaigned for the right to education was on Monday sent to Britain for medical treatment, the military said.
"Pakistan has arranged with the UAE for a specially equipped air ambulance to transfer Malala to the UK", it said in a statement after the UAE had told Pakistan it was ready to send a plane to evacuate her.
A UAE delegation arrived in Pakistan earlier to assess the health condition of Malala Yousufzai and also to facilitate the safe transport of the girl to a medical facility outside Pakistan.
Malala is battling for her life after she was shot by Taliban for her work in promoting girls’ education and children’s rights in the north-western Swat Valley, near the Afghan border of Pakistan.
Emirati officials have been working continuously with the Pakistani authorities as part of complete coordination between the governments of both countries to ensure that Malala gets specialised medical care.
General Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, denounced the attack on Malala as an assault not only on a helpless girl but also an attack on the right of every girl for a better future without injustice or prejudice.
“There must be a global condemnation of the perpetrators who must be brought to justice. Malala stood with courage against extremists who work to prevent girls from going to school, and it is everyone’s duty to stand by Malala who was seeking to promote the values of forgiveness and tolerance,” Shaikh Mohammad said.
Malala was flown out of Pakistan on Monday morning in a specially equipped air ambulance provided by the United Arab Emirates, said the Pakistani military, which has been treating the young girl at one of its hospitals. It’s unclear whether her family members, who could also be vulnerable to attack, accompanied her.
Video footage handed out by the military showed Malala being wheeled out of the hospital on a stretcher, covered in a white sheet and surrounded by uniformed army officers. She was placed in the back of an ambulance and driven to the airport, where she was put on a plane.
A panel of doctors recommended that Malala be shifted to a centre in the United Kingdom that has the ability to provide “integrated” care to children who have sustained severe injuries, said a military statement.
“It was agreed by the panel of Pakistani doctors and international experts that Malala will require prolonged care to fully recover from the physical and psychological effects of trauma that she has received,” the military said.
The British Foreign Office said Malala would be treated at a public hospital in the UK, but details are not being released for reasons of patient confidentiality.
“The UK stands shoulder to shoulder with Pakistan in its fight against terrorism,” said British Foreign Secretary William Hague in a statement sent to reporters. “Malala’s bravery in standing up for the right of all young girls in Pakistan to an education is an example to us all.”
Pakistani doctors at a military hospital earlier removed a bullet from Malala’s body that entered her head and headed toward her spine. The military has described her recovery as satisfactory and said she was able to move her legs and hands several days ago when her sedatives were reduced. They have not said whether she suffered any brain damage or other permanent damage.
On Monday, the military said damaged bones in Malala’s skull will need to be repaired or replaced, and she will need “intensive neuro rehabilitation”. The decision to send the girl abroad was taken in consultation with her family, and the Pakistani government will pay for her treatment.
Pakistanis have held rallies for Malala throughout the country, but most have only numbered a few hundred people. The largest show of support by far occurred on Sunday when tens of thousands of people held a demonstration in the southern party city of Karachi organised by the most powerful political party in the city, the Muttahida Quami Movement.
Malala earned the enmity of the Pakistani Taliban for publicising their behaviour 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 Swat 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.
Malala 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 honours for civilians for her bravery.
The military carried out its offensive in Swat after a video surfaced of a militant flogging a woman who had allegedly committed adultery, which helped mobilise public support against the Taliban.
Many hope the shooting of Malala will help push the military to undertake a long-awaited offensive in the Pakistani Taliban’s last main sanctuary in the country in the North Waziristan tribal area.
The police station attacked by the Taliban on Sunday night was located in the small town of Matni, some 20 kilometres south of Peshawar, said police officer Ishrat Yar. The militants were armed with heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades and assault rifles.
One of the policemen who was beheaded was a senior official who commanded several police stations in the area and was leading reinforcements against the attack, said Yar. Another 12 policemen received gunshot wounds.
The militants burned the police station and four police vehicles before they escaped, said Yar.
A Pakistani Taliban spokesman, Mohammad Afridi, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the police were targeted because they had killed several militants.
The Taliban have carried out hundreds of attacks throughout Pakistan but the attacks rarely include such a high number of militants as in the assault on the police station in Matni.
With input from WAM and agencies