Taliban gang are given life sentences for Malala attack
Published 01/05/2015 | 02:30
Ten members of the Taliban gang that shot Malala Yousafzai - the 14-year-old girl who defied their ban on girls being educated - were sentenced to life imprisonment yesterday.
Their convictions and life terms were welcomed by Ms Yousufzai's supporters, but strong doubts remain over whether the man who pulled the trigger has been brought to justice.
Ms Yousafzai - who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year for her fearless campaign for girls' education - was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen in 2012 as she left her school in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Two of her classmates were injured in the incident.
The attack was believed to have been ordered by the Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah to punish her for her high-profile campaign against the Taliban's edict, including a blog on the BBC website.
She recovered following emergency surgery in Britain and now lives in Birmingham with her family, and cannot return to Pakistan for fear of further attacks. Although her shooting provoked worldwide revulsion and great anger in Pakistan, she was also denounced by conservatives in the country as a "western stooge" whose comments had defamed Pakistan. The 10 men convicted for their roles in the attack included Israr-ur-Rehman and Izharullah, who were identified by the Pakistan Army as the two gunmen who stopped the school bus and asked which passenger was Ms Yousafzai.
One of the two men is said to have shot her, but which remains unknown.
That claim, made by General Asim Bajwa, the chief military spokesman, last September contradicted earlier statements by Rehman Malik, Pakistan's interior minister at the time of the attack, who identified a Taliban figure called Ataullah as the culprit.
Saleem Athar, a Swat Valley reporter who covered the case closely, said the army had supported Mr Malik's claim that Ataullah was Ms Yousafzai's would-be assassin. He and members of his family were reportedly arrested, but later released. However, secrecy and conflicting statements about Ms Yousafzai's assailants have fuelled continuing suspicion that the real gunman may still be at large.
"The judicial process through which these 10 were convicted has zero credibility because the information flow has been contradictory. No independent press or observers were present in the court. So how can we trust this information that those sentenced today were actually those who attacked Malala?" asked Professor Ijaz Khan, a human rights activist and academic at Peshawar University.
He believes the Pakistan army may have arrested the men to ease Western pressure, rather than because of compelling evidence against them.
The sentences were welcomed by friends of Ms Yousafzai as a "positive" development, but one which stopped some distance from the real justice they seek - for her and her family to be able to return to their home and the lives they were forced to flee.
"Malala Yousafzai cannot come back to the country. She is still under threat and until she can safely return and live among her people, real justice will not be served", said Samar Minallah, a friend of the Yousafzai family. (© Daily Telegraph, London)