An activist holds a picture of Malala Yousafzai in Islamabad on Saturday. (AFP)
Rawalpindi, Oct. 13: The police said today that they had made several arrests in connection with the Taliban’s shooting of Malala Yousafzai, a 14-year-old education activist who was critically injured, but militant commanders in northwestern Pakistan reiterated their intention to kill the schoolgirl or her father.
Sirajuddin Ahmad, the spokesman for the Taliban in the Swat Valley, said that Yousafzai became a target because she had been “brainwashed” into making anti-Taliban statements by her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai.
“We warned him several times to stop his daughter from using dirty language against us, but he didn’t listen and forced us to take this extreme step,” he said.
Both father and daughter remain on the Taliban’s list of intended victims, he said.
Yousafzai continued to be on ventilator at the military hospital in Rawalpindi, though doctors treating her said her vital signs were normal and her condition was satisfactory.
The interior minister, Rehman Malik, said the authorities had identified the two gunmen behind the shooting, but they had not been captured. Police officials in the Swat Valley, where the attack took place, said that they had rounded up about 70 people for questioning, including employees of Yousafzai’s school and the bus driver, and that some of them had been formally arrested.
Afzal Khan Afridi, the Mingora police chief, declined to specify the number of people arrested or what role they were suspected of playing in the shooting, saying he said he did not want to endanger the investigation.
A 15-year-old girl who was wounded alongside Yousafzai described how easily the Taliban had been able to attack the school bus. “A young man in his early 20s approached the bus and asked for Malala,” the girl, Kainat Riaz, said in an interview at her family’s home in Swat. “Then he started firing.”
The fate of Yousafzai, who has become a symbol of defiance of the Taliban’s extremist ideology, has gripped Pakistan. Television stations have provided intensive coverage of her medical treatment.
A senior Jamaat-e-Islami official accompanied Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf to the hospital. So did the parliamentary leader of the secular MQM.