The interior minister of pakistan, Rehman Malik, was effusive in his praise of Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year-old schoolgirl activist who was shot by the Taliban. But, his insistence that the country’s military should not be involved in hunting down the shooters and their accomplices is misguided at best.
The Islamic extremist Taliban, who have been causing havoc in Pakistan, made it clear that Malala still has a target on her back. There can be no doubt that her life will be in danger if she returns home from a hospital in Britain where she is recovering.
That threat should be enough for the government of President Asif Ali Zardari to launch a major offense against the terrorists who not only are responsible for widespread death and destruction, but are also conducting cross-border military operations in Afghanistan. The Taliban have vowed kill as many Americans and other NATO forces before next year’s troop withdrawal, and pose a very real threat to President Hamid Karzai.
The Islamic militants governed Afghanistan until their ouster by the U.S.-led coalition forces in October 2001, a month after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America’s homeland that claimed more than 3,000 lives. The Middle Eastern killers were trained by al-Qaida in camps in Afghanistan. The Taliban had given the world’s leading terrorist, Osama bin Laden, and his followers safe haven.
The Taliban and al-Qaida were chased out of Afghanistan and set up operations in the border region with Pakistan.
Bin Laden had lived in Pakistan for six years before being killed by U.S. Navy SEALS on orders of President Barack Obama.
While terrorist activity has declined, the extremists remain a lethal force.
The shooting of Malala, an internationally renowned activist who publicly and strongly advocated education for girls, is a clear indication of the scope of the Taliban’s operation within Pakistan.
“Let me assure our international friends that such acts of cowardice will not deter us and the whole Pakistani nation stands behind Malala and her cause,” Interior Minister Malik said, following a visit this week with the girl. British Foreign Secretary William Hague accompanied him.
But CNN reports that Malik said in an interview that “a military solution is not the solution.”
Police have identified the two boys they suspect of shooting and nearly killing Malala and the man suspected of driving them to the scene of the attack, Attah Ullah Khan, 23. Authorities have not named the boys.
All three were at large at midweek, but the interior minister expressed confidence that they and others would be brought to justice.
Nonetheless, the question remains: Can the Pakistani government guarantee the safety of the girl should she return home?
The failure to launch a major offensive on Taliban strongholds will be viewed as a lack of commitment on the part of the Zardari government to rid the country of Islamic extremists.
Britain’s foreign secretary was right in noting that the people of Pakistan have “paid a high price from terrorism and extremism.”
“We will stand by all those who, like Malala, are courageously defending the rights of women in Pakistan and around the world,” he said during the hospital visit.
The callousness of the shooting and the fact that a simple schoolgirl so threatens the Taliban suggest the Islamic militants have just one goal: To turn Pakistan into a theocracy similar to Iran. Then, Sharia law will dictate the roles of men and women.
Pakistan’s possession of nuclear weapons makes the situation even more tenuous.
The Taliban must not gain power in Pakistan and regain power in Afghanistan.