The South Asia Channel

Mixed reactions as world marks anniversary of Yousafzai attack

Malala: One year on  Today marks the one-year anniversary of the attack on Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani teenager who was shot in the head last October by a Taliban gunman for championing girls’ education in the country’s Swat Valley.  While Pakistani newspapers marked the anniversary with profiles of Yousafzai and the attack, the Taliban released ...

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Malala: One year on 

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the attack on Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani teenager who was shot in the head last October by a Taliban gunman for championing girls’ education in the country’s Swat Valley.  While Pakistani newspapers marked the anniversary with profiles of Yousafzai and the attack, the Taliban released a new threat against her on Monday (Dawn, ET, Post).  According to a report in the Washington Post, a top Taliban spokesman said the group will continue to look for opportunities to harm Yousafzai, who "remains an outspoken critic of efforts to impose strict Islamic law in Pakistan."  The group’s threat comes during a busy week for the Pakistani teenager, who gave her first in-depth interview since the attack on Monday, released her memoir on Tuesday, and is a leading contender to win the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday. 

While Yousafzai is being hailed as a champion of universal education by much of the world, Pakistanis are a little more ambivalent (AP).  On the one-year anniversary of her attack, placards that once marked her school have been removed and security has been increased to protect the current students.  The international acclaim, and awards, that have been given to the young Pakistani girl have caused some of her countrymen to wonder if the attack was actually staged by the West.  In a recent interview with RFE/RL, Yousafzai acknowledged this criticism but asked her opponents to consider her message before condemning her, and said: "I want people to remember that Pakistan is my country. It is like my mother and I love it dearly. Even if its people hate me, I will still love it." (RFE/RL). 

A crowd of Islamic fundamentalists dug up the grave of a Hindu man recently killed in Pakistan’s Sindh province on Tuesday, raising religious tensions in an increasingly unstable province (RFE/RL, VOA).  Bhoro Bheel, the Hindu man, recently died in a roadway accident and was buried in a Muslim graveyard on Saturday.  According to police reports, the fundamentalists dug up Bheel’s body and then dragged it through the streets of Pangrio, a southern provincial town.  Shaukat Ali Khatian, a district police chief, said the incident was initially started by clerics associated with Ahle Sunaat Wal Jamaat, an extremist group, but that other Muslims joined in.  Sindh province is home to most of Pakistan’s small Hindu community and while Hindus and Muslims have lived next to each other and shared graveyards for years, recent inroads made by the extremists have changed that dynamic.

Whereabouts unknown

Zabihullah Mujahid, an Afghan Taliban spokesman, told reporters on Wednesday that Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the group’s former second-in-command, is still being held in a Pakistani prison (AP, Dawn, ET, Pajhwok, RFE/RL, VOA).  Pakistani authorities said that Baradar had been released in mid-September, but has provided no information on his whereabouts since then.  Afghan President Hamid Karzai echoed the Taliban’s claims, saying this week that Baradar’s freedom is still restricted, and asked the Pakistani government for Baradar’s contact information.  Baradar is seen by many in Afghanistan as the key to restarting reconciliation talks between the Afghan government and the militant group. 

Human Rights Watch, an international human rights organization, called on President Karzai Wednesday to repeal recent amnesty and election laws that prevent Afghanistan’s Independent Electoral Complaints Commission from disqualifying presidential candidates responsible for past human rights abuses (Pajhwok).  The call comes days after the initial roster of Afghan presidential candidates, which includes several nominees with checkered pasts, was finalized.  Without naming anyone specifically, the group said several warlords, senior politicians, and security officials on the list had committed serious human rights abuses over the last three decades.  

In an unprecedented but almost prescient move, Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, a former Uzbek militia leader accused of human rights abuses in Afghanistan, and a current vice presidential candidates, said in a press statement on Monday that he regrets his past actions (RFE/RL).  One of the country’s most notorious former warlords, Dostum apologized to the people for his role in Afghanistan’s brutal civil war, marking the first time a former warlord directly involved in the civil war has offered an apology for his actions.  Dostum’s statement came one day after he formally filed his nomination papers to be one of former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani’s running mates in next year’s presidential election. 

At least five people were killed and three were wounded in the Gareshk district of Helmand province on Wednesday when a suicide bomber blew up his car next to a police vehicle (AP, Pajhwok).  According to Shamem Noorzai, a provincial police spokesman, said the attack, which occurred in a crowded area of the district, killed three policemen and two civilians.  Four civilians were also wounded.  Omar Zwak, a provincial spokesman, added that another attack in Helmand’s Gramsir district killed two people when the fuel truck they were driving in struck a buried roadside bomb. 

Burn

The Afghan Taliban taunted Washington over the U.S. government shutdown on Wednesday, releasing a statement accusing U.S. politicians of "sucking the blood of their own people" (AFP).  The press release went on to say that: "The American people should realize that their politicians play with their destinies as well as the destinies of other oppressed nations for the sake of their personal vested interests." The militants’ statement follows other Twitter zingers that noted Pakistan’s government had never shutdown, despite experiencing several military coups, and that Syria’s government has continued paying its government employees during its two-year civil war. 

— Bailey Cahall 

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