LONDON: Pakistan’s interior minister and the foreign ministers of Britain and the UAE visited the English hospital treating shot Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai on Monday, Britain’s Foreign Office said.
Britain’s Foreign Office said the trio also met with the father of 15-year-old Malala, who was shot in the head by Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) gunmen earlier this month for campaigning for girls’ education in an attack that shocked the world.
She was flown from Pakistan on October 15 for treatment at a specialist hospital in Birmingham, central England, in an air ambulance provided by the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“I visited the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham today to enquire after the health of Malala and to convey messages of good health and best wishes on behalf of the government and the whole Pakistani nation,” said interior minister Rehman Malik.
“We are grateful to the hospital authorities, especially the doctors treating Malala, for taking care of her in a most professional manner. As a result, she has made very good recovery in the past few days.”
He expressed gratitude to Britain and the UAE for their support for Malala, who needs reconstructive surgery after a bullet grazed her brain, coming within centimetres of killing her.
“Malala’s incident should not be seen in isolation,” Malik said. “She is a symbol of courage and determination against the forces of extremist ideology.
“The attack on her was also meant to tarnish the true face of Pakistan and to discourage those struggling for human liberties and for the democratisation of our society.
“Let me reassure our international friends that such acts of cowardice will not deter us, and the whole Pakistani nation stands behind Malala and her cause.”
British foreign secretary William Hague said Malala’s swift recovery was Britain’s “absolute priority”.
“The people of Pakistan have paid a high price from terrorism and extremism,” he added. “We will stand by all those who, like Malala, are courageously defending the rights of women, in Pakistan and around the world.”
The UAE’s foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan said his government had provided assistance because its citizens were “appalled” by the attack on Malala’s school bus in the Swat valley, a former Pakistani Taliban stronghold.
“She is in our prayers,” he said. “Malala’s courage inspires us to reinforce our commitment to rejecting ideologies rooted in intolerance and extremism.”
The hospital said the teenager had spent a “restful” weekend surrounded by her family, who arrived in Britain last week.
“She continues to make good progress,” it said in a statement.
The hospital released a photograph at the weekend of Malala’s parents and two brothers gathered around her bedside.
Doctors say the Taliban gunman’s bullet travelled through her head and neck before lodging in her left shoulder.
Before reconstructive surgery, she must fight off an infection in the path of the bullet and recover her strength, which could take months.
Her skull will need reconstructing either by reinserting bone or using a titanium plate.
Malala has received thousands of goodwill messages from around the world.
Former British prime minister Gordon Brown, now a UN education envoy, has said he will meet Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari on November 9-10 to present him with a list of supporters worldwide for Malala’s campaign for education.
November 10 has been declared a global day of action and some 850,000 people have signed petitions backing Malala’s call for millions of girls to be allowed to attend school.
Malala rose to prominence three years ago, aged just 11, writing a blog for the BBC Urdu service describing life under the Pakistani Taliban’s hardline rule in the Swat valley in northwestern Pakistan.