Malala Yousafzai
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A protester holds up a photo of Malala Yousufzai at a demonstration in Islamabad on Saturday. Photo: AP

Shot Pakistan schoolgirl makes ‘steady’ progress

A Pakistani schoolgirl shot in the head by the Taliban in retaliation for her campaign for the right to education is making “slow and steady progress” in her recovery, the military said on Sunday.

The shooting of 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai has been denounced worldwide and by the Pakistani authorities, who have offered a reward of more than US$100,000 for the capture of her attackers.

She is being treated at the country’s top military hospital in Rawalpindi, the twin city of the capital Islamabad, and on Saturday she showed signs of improvement by moving her hands and feet, though she was still unconscious and on a ventilator.

“Doctors have reviewed Malala’s condition and are satisfied,” military spokesman Major General Asim Saleem Bajwa said on Sunday.

“She is making slow and steady progress which is in keeping with expectations. Recovery from this type of injury is always slow.”

Doctors are continuing to monitor Malala’s condition and will carry out a detailed examination on Sunday evening, Bajwa said.

No decision has yet been made on whether to send Malala abroad for treatment, Bajwa said.

“We are waiting for the doctors’ decision – we are ready to follow the doctors’ advice,” he said.

The cold-blooded 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 a 2009 army offensive.

Activists say the shooting should be a wake-up call to whose who advocate appeasement with the Taliban, but analysts suspect there will be no significant change in a country that has sponsored radical Islam for decades.

Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf visited Malala in hospital on Friday, paying tribute to her and two friends who were also wounded when a gunman boarded their school bus on Tuesday and opened fire.

Schools and mosques across Pakistan held special prayers for the wounded schoolgirl, who underwent surgery on Wednesday to remove a bullet from between her shoulders.

Bajwa told a news conference on Saturday that all available resources were being used to investigate the shooting, though he declined to say how many people were in custody.

Ahmad Shah, police station chief in the northwestern town of Mingora where Malala was shot has said nearly 200 people were detained over the shooting, including the bus driver and a school watchman, but most had been released.

The shooting has heightened speculation that the army may finally launch a long-rumoured offensive against the Taliban in their stronghold of North Waziristan, on the Afghan border.