Malala's school in Swat still fearful
Pupils in Swat Valley forced to stay silent on UN occasion recognising girl wounded by Talban
As Pakistan marked "Malala Day" yesterday on a global day of support for the teenager shot by the Taliban for promoting girls' education, security fears in her home town meant her schoolmates could not honour her in public.
Taliban hitmen shot Malala Yousafzai on her school bus a month ago in Mingora in northwestern Pakistan's Swat Valley in a cold-blooded murder attempt for the "crime" of campaigning for girls' rights to go to school.
However, the 15-year-old survived, and her courage has won the hearts of millions around the world, prompting the United Nations to declare yesterday a "global day of action" for her.
People around the world were expected to hold demonstrations honouring Malala and calling for the 32 million girls worldwide who are denied education to be allowed to go to school.
Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf saluted Malala's courage and urged his countrymen to stand against the extremist mindset that led to her attack.
"The outpouring of sympathy for Malala and abhorrence over the cowardly act demonstrate the determination of the Pakistani society not to allow a handful of radicalised elements to dictate their agenda," he said.
But in Mingora, the threat of further reprisals casts a fearful shadow, and students at Malala's Khushal Public School were forced to honour her in private.
"We held a special prayer for Malala today in our school assembly and also lit candles," school principal Mariam Khalid said. "We did not organise any open event because our school and its students still face a security threat."
Though their bid to kill Malala failed, the Taliban have said they will attack any woman who stands against them, and fears are so great that Khalid said even speaking to the media could put students' lives in danger.
Malala rose to prominence with a blog for the BBC charting life in Swat under the Taliban, whose bloody two-year reign of terror supposedly came to an end with an army operation in 2009.
Despite the dangers, some children in Mingora were determined to speak out and pledged to follow Malala's brave example.
"Malala is a good friend of mine. She is brave and has honour and whoever attacked her did a terrible thing," said Asma Khan, 12, a student in Saroosh Academy, close to Malala's school.
"After the attack on her and her injuries, we have now more courage to study and now we will fulfil her mission to spread education everywhere."
Nearly 100,000 people have signed an online petition calling for Malala to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and on Friday UN special education envoy Gordon Brown handed a separate million-strong petition in support of Malala to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.