Aircraft readied for Malala Yousufzai if treatment abroad needed

The 14-year-old girl shot by the Taliban in Pakistan is making steady progress, according to the military, but the plane is part of a contingency plan. 

Fareed Khan/AP
A Pakistani Christian woman reacts while she and others pray for the recovery of 14-year-old schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai, who was shot last Tuesday by the Taliban for speaking out in support of education for women, during a mass in a Church in Karachi, Pakistan Oct. 14. The United Arab Emirates plans to send a specialized aircraft to serve as an ambulance for Ms. Yousufzai, in case doctors decide to send her abroad for treatment, a Pakistani official said Sunday.

The United Arab Emirates plans to send a specialized aircraft to serve as an ambulance for a 14-year-old Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban in case doctors decide to send her abroad for treatment, a Pakistani official said Sunday.

The shooting of Malala Yousufzai along with two classmates while they were on their way home from school on Oct. 9 horrified people in Pakistan and internationally. She was shot for promoting girl's education and criticizing the Taliban.

The attack left Ms. Yousufzai seriously wounded and sparked calls for the Pakistani government to step up its fight against the militant group.

Visas are being finalized for the air ambulance crew and six doctors who will accompany the flight, Islamabad's Ambassador to the UAE Jamil Ahmed Khan told Pakistan's Geo TV on Sunday. Arrangements have been made to treat the girl at three hospitals in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, he said.

The UAE Embassy in Islamabad could not immediately be reached for comment.

No decision has yet been taken to send the girl abroad, but the air ambulance is part of the contingency plan, the Pakistani military said Sunday. Yousufzai is being treated in a military hospital, where doctors removed a bullet from her neck. The bullet went into her head before travelling toward her spine.

Doctors reviewed the girl's condition Sunday and are satisfied she is making slow and steady progress, the military said. They will carry out another detailed review Sunday evening.

On Saturday, the military said Yousufzai remained on a ventilator but was able to move her legs and hands after her sedatives were reduced.

Yousufzai earned the enmity of the Taliban for publicizing their behavior when they took over the northwestern Swat Valley where she lived and for speaking about the importance of education for girls.

The group first started to exert its influence in Swat in 2007 and quickly extended its reach to much of the valley by the next year. They set about imposing their will on residents by forcing men to grow beards, preventing women from going to the market, and blowing up many schools — the majority for girls.

Yousufzai wrote about these practices in a journal for the BBC under a pseudonym when she was just 11. After the Taliban were pushed out of the valley in 2009 by the Pakistani military, she became even more outspoken in advocating for girls' education. She appeared frequently in the media and was given one of the country's highest honors for civilians for her bravery.

The Pakistani Taliban said they carried out the shooting because Yousufzai was promoting "Western thinking." They said it was ordered by the leader of the Taliban movement in Swat, Maulana Fazlullah, and his deputies, who are all believed to have fled to Afghanistan after the military invaded in 2009.

Police have arrested at least three suspects in connection with the attack, but the two gunmen who carried out the shooting remain at large.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has written letters to top political and religious leaders in Pakistan denouncing the attack on Yousufzai and asking them to help battle extremism in both countries, the president's office said in a statement issued late Saturday. Karzai wrote that he views the shooting as an attack on Afghanistan's girls as well.

"It is a deplorable event that requires serious attention," Karzai wrote.

Those upset about the shooting should not be silenced, he wrote, and both Afghans and Pakistanis need to cooperate and fight with strong resolve against terrorism and extremism so that the "children of Afghanistan and Pakistan" can be saved from oppression.

Karzai has been pushing Islamabad to take more action against militant groups that he says hide out in Pakistan and then cross into Afghanistan to conduct attacks on Afghan officials and security forces and on international forces.

* Associated Press writer Deb Riechmann contributed to this report from Kabul, Afghanistan.

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