ISLAMABAD — On city streets, on the airwaves and in the newspapers of a country numbed by years of bombings and assassinations, outrage against the Taliban is suddenly reaching a zenith. A 14-year-old girl lies critically wounded because she was bold enough to publicly demand an education.
It’s a moment Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership could channel into an all-out campaign against Islamic militants.
Can they seize the moment? Probably not.
Experts say there are too many obstacles.
When police nab suspected militants, convictions are rare. Police work is often sloppy, largely because investigators lack basic skills to build cases.
Tere is no indication that hard-line clerics are ready to rethink the militant mindset they have encouraged. Leaders of religious parties at parliament linked the attack to the CIA’s drone campaign in Pakistan’s tribal areas and Washington’s war against the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Yes, the shooting of Malala Yousufzai should be condemned, the clerics said, but it’s U.S. meddling that turns law-abiding Pakistanis into radicals.
“Many of the religious parties are still speaking with forked tongues,” said Ayaz Amir, a lawmaker with the PML-N party and a political commentator. “There was hardly anyone even naming the Taliban.”
Taliban attacks on reformers are nothing new. The attack on Malala, however, hit Pakistanis hard, not just because of her sex and age, but because educating girls is a basic cause.
In early 2009, the Taliban controlled much of her home area, the Swat Valley, and imposed brutal justice. Floggings were common and opponents often beheaded, their mutilated bodies hung from street posts.
The Taliban banned girls from school. More than 200 schools were destroyed. Malala contributed diary entries to a blog published by the BBC Urdu Service in which she described atrocities committed by the Taliban and laid out in stark detail how its decrees made going to school perilous.
A Pakistani military offensive in 2009 retook Swat, and Taliban fighters went into hiding.
Malala became a national figure, winning Pakistan’s first National Peace Award for Youth and a nomination for an children’s peace prize from a Dutch group.
But the Taliban did not forget. On Tuesday, she paid the price. Two gunmen climbed aboard her school bus and opened fire on Malala. A bullet pierced her temple and lodged in her neck. Two other girls were also shot; one not seriously. The other is in critical condition. Malala underwent surgery to remove the bullet. On Friday, her condition was described as critical but stable.