Dear Malala: this is why we shot you
A senior figure in the Pakistan Taliban has written an extraordinary letter to Malala Yousafzai setting out the reasons why she was shot, coming close to expressing regret.
In the four-page document, Adnan Rasheed described his shock at hearing the 15-year old had been shot last year.
He claimed he had wanted to warn her against criticising the Taliban because of his “brotherly” feelings towards someone from his own Yousafzai tribe.
“When you were attacked it was shocking for me. I wished it would never happened and I had advised you before,” he wrote.
Malala has spent the past nine months in Britain recovering from her injuries.
She was shot twice by masked gunmen who singled her out among her friends on a school bus in the town of Mingora, Swat.
Since then she has become a symbol of the campaign to help more girls into school.
Last week, she addressed the United Nations in a speech that received global attention, where she declared: “One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution.”
Her story has provoked soul searching within the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Commanders sent out a slew of press releases in the aftermath of the shooting to justify why they had attacked a young girl as public opinion hardened against them.
In the latest letter, first passed to a local journalist, Rasheed insisted Malala was not shot because of her campaign for education.
“Taliban believe that you were intentionally writing against them and running a smearing campaign to malign their efforts to establish Islamic system in Swat and your writings were provocative,” he wrote.
“You have said in your speech yesterday that pen is mightier than sword, so they attacked you for your sword not for your books or school.”
The letter writer is one of Pakistan’s most notorious terrorists. He was in the Pakistan Air Force before being imprisoned for a plot to kill Pervez Musharraf but escaped in a mass jail break last year.
Now he has a taste for flowery prose, quoting Bertrand Russell on science and referencing Sir TB Macaulay, who played a major role in introducing the English language to Indian schools in the 19th century.
“Why they want to make all human beings English? Because Englishmen are the staunch supporters and slaves of Jews,” he wrote.
Rasheed insisted the Taliban were not opposed to education, just an education system that would turn Pakistanis into slaves and had no room for Islam.
He also asked whether Malala would have received as much attention if she had been hurt in a CIA drone strike.
“I ask you and be honest in reply, if you were shot by Americans in a drone attack, would world have ever heard updates on your medical status? Would you be called ‘daughter of the nation? Would the media make a fuss about you?”
The letter ends with an invitation to return and embrace the culture of her Pashtun population, which lives along the border with Afghanistan.
“At the end I advise you to come back home, adopt the Islamic and Pashtun culture, join any female Islamic madrassa near your home town, study and learn the book of Allah, use your pen for Islam and plight of Muslim ummah and reveal the conspiracy of tiny elite who want to enslave the whole humanity for their evil agendas in the name of new world order.”
Saleem Mehsud, the journalist who obtained the letter, said the TTP wanted to set the record straight on their reasons for shooting her.
“They watched her speak at the UN and this is their reaction,” he said. “They wanted to get it out to as many people as possible.”