BAKU: President Asif Ali Zardari said Tuesday that the shooting of 14-year-old Malala Yousufzai by the Taliban was an attack on all girls in the country and on civilisation itself.
In some of his most poignant remarks on the incident to date, Zardari vowed not to let her shooting stop the nation's drive to educate girls.
“The Taliban attack on the 14-year-old girl, who from the age of 11 was involved in the struggle for education for girls, is an attack on all girls in Pakistan, an attack on education, and on all civilised people,” Zardari said at an economic summit in the Azerbaijani capital Baku.
“The work that she led was higher before God than what terrorists do in the name of religion. We will continue her shining cause,” he said.
Malala was attacked on her school bus in the former Taliban stronghold of the Swat valley a week ago as a punishment for campaigning for the right to an education and free expression.
Zardari said that such attacks would not deter Pakistan in its search for broader social justice.
“Terrorists should not have an impact on our future. We ourselves must determine our future,” he said.
The shooting has been denounced worldwide and by Pakistan, which has said it will do everything possible to ensure Malala recovers and will meet all the costs of her treatment.
She was flown to Britain for specialist treatment at a hospital in the English city of Birmingham on Monday where doctors said she had “a chance of making a good recovery”.
Doctors in Pakistan had said Malala needed treatment for a damaged skull and “intensive neuro-rehabilitation” after being shot in the head.
The murder attempt has sickened Pakistan, where Malala came to prominence with a blog for the BBC highlighting atrocities under the Taliban, who terrorised the Swat valley from 2007 until an army offensive in 2009.
Activists say the shooting should be a wake-up call to those who advocate appeasement with the Taliban, but analysts suspect there will be no significant change.
On Sunday, around 10,000 people gathered in Karachi for a rally in support of Malala, organised by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement political party, while schools and mosques across the country have held special prayers for the 14-year-old.
But right-wing and conservative religious leaders have refrained from publicly denouncing the Taliban. They have warned the government against using the attack on Malala as a pretext for an offensive in the militant bastion of North Waziristan.
The United States has long called on Pakistan to wage an operation in the region, considered the leadership base of the Haqqani network – blamed for some of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan – as well as a Taliban stronghold.
Pakistan has offered more than $100,000 for the capture of Malala's attackers.
A senior police official has said that investigators have questioned dozens of suspects, but that the hunt for the main culprits was continuing.