PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Oct. 10 (UPI) -- A 14-year-old Pakistani girl, critically wounded after being shot in the head by the Taliban for promoting education, may go abroad for further treatment.
Malala Yosoufzai was shot by a gunman Tuesday as she traveled in her school bus in Mingora town in the scenic Swat Valley, and the incident has been widely condemned both at home and abroad as the brave girl has won much acclaim for her opposition to the Taliban's ban on education for girls in her home region.
Geo News reported Pakistan's national air carrier, PIA, had converted one of its planes into an air ambulance to fly Malala to Dubai after orders were issued to fly her out for neurosurgery. The report quoted PIA Managing Director Junaid Yunus as saying the converted plane was ready at Peshawar airport to airlift the girl as it awaited a medical board's decision as to when she would be ready to be flown out.
The report said Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik issued the order after the medical board of the Combined Military Hospital in Peshawar, where she was taken after the shooting, recommended Malala be flown aboard for treatment. Amir Haider Hoti, chief minister of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province of which Peshawar is the capital, also had suggested she get treatment abroad.
Pakistan's Dawn newspaper quoted a military official at her hospital as saying Malala's condition was critical.
Dawn said her father, Ziauddin Yousufzai, however, expressed optimism about her recovery.
Various reports said Malala's attacker, after boarding her bus, sought her out by name and fired his weapon point blank hitting her head and critically wounding her.
Pakistan's Dawn newspaper reported the banned Pakistani Taliban, known as the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, claimed responsibility for the attack.
The New York Times quoted the Taliban spokesman as saying Malala had "become a symbol of Western culture in the area; she was openly propagating it." The spokesman said Taliban militants would try to kill her again if she survived this time.
Geo News quoted other reports that said Malala suffered serious cerebro-vascular injury and that the bullet had stopped just short of her spinal cord.
Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, condemning the attack, said if Malala was not safe, no daughter in Pakistan was safe and the nation would have to fight jointly against the militant mindset, the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan reported.
Speaking in the Senate, Ashraf said, "I assure this august house that all steps would be taken to save the country from scourge of terrorism."
Dawn said Malala has won Pakistan's National Peace gallantry award for championing education for girls and has been nominated for several international peace awards. The girl, who has two brothers, wants to get into politics.
The New York Times said Malala had been active against the Taliban since the age of 11, speaking about her commitment to education. Her father had run a school in her hometown.
It was in 2009 that the Pakistani Taliban attacked the picturesque Swat but were later driven out by Pakistani forces.
The report said two other girls were also wounded when Malala was attacked in the bus.
Malala "symbolizes the brave girls of Swat," the Times said, quoting Samar Minallah, a documentary filmmaker. "She knew her voice was important, so she spoke up for the rights of children. Even adults didn't have a vision like hers."
The Times said she also had a blog where she wrote about her experiences for the BBC. Later, the Times and other media made documentaries on her.
The Washington Post reported U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland called the shooting "barbaric" and "cowardly."
Leila Zerrougui, special representative of the U.N. Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, also condemned the shooting, saying: "Education is a fundamental right for all children. The TTP must respect the right to education of all children, including girls, to go to school and live in peace."
Amnesty International condemned the shooting "in the strongest possible terms."
"This was a shocking act of violence against a 14-year-old girl who has bravely been fighting for her right to education," said Mustafa Qadri, Amnesty International Pakistan researcher, adding, "This attack highlights the extremely dangerous climate many human rights activists face in northwestern Pakistan, where female activists in particular live under constant threats from the Taliban and other militant groups."
Kids Rights Foundation, an international children's advocacy group, included Yousufzai among its nominees for the International Children's Peace Prize. She is the first Pakistani girl to be nominated.