A Pakistani schoolgirl shot in the head by the Taliban for campaigning for the right to education was being flown to Britain on Monday for specialist, long-term care, the military said.
Malala Yousafzai, 14, who was shot in the former Taliban stronghold of the Swat valley last Tuesday, was being sent abroad at a time when her condition is “optimal and before any unforeseen complications had set in,” it said.
Malala was being transported in a specialist air ambulance from the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan said an army intensive care specialist was accompanying her.
“Pakistan has arranged with the UAE for a specially equipped air ambulance to transfer Malala to the UK,” it said in a statement after the United Arab Emirates had told Pakistan it was ready to send the plane.
A report from AP on Monday said that the United Arab Emirates initially made plans to help fly Malala via an air ambulance in case she needs treatment abroad. The UAE even made arrangements to bring the girl at three hospitals in Dubai and Abu Dhabi if the plan pushed through. Visas of the ambulance crew were also being finalized.
The shooting has been denounced worldwide and by Pakistan, which has said it will do everything possible to ensure that Malala makes a recovery, paying for her treatment, and offering more than $100,000 for the capture of her attackers.
The cold-blooded murder attempt has sickened Pakistan, where Malala came to prominence with a blog for the BBC highlighting atrocities under the Taliban, who terrorized the Swat valley from 2007 until a 2009 army offensive.
Activists say the shooting should be a wake-up call to those who advocate appeasement with the Taliban. But analysts suspect there will be no significant change in a country that has sponsored radical Islam for decades.
Malala was first airlifted from Swat to a military hospital in the northwestern city of Peshawar, then to the country’s top military hospital in Rawalpindi, where doctors on Sunday removed her ventilator for a “successful” short trial.
The army said that a panel of Pakistani doctors and international experts now agreed that Malala needs “prolonged care to fully recover from the physical and psychological effects of trauma that she has received”.
It is also expected that in due time damaged bones in her skull will need to be repaired or replaced, and that she will need “long-term rehabilitation, including intensive neuro-rehabilitation.”
Pakistan has not disclosed the name or location of the center where Malala will be treated, but said it had the “capability to provide integrated care to children who have sustained severe injury.”
The army said all expenses; including Malala’s air ambulance flight and treatment abroad will be borne by the government of Pakistan.
Malala’s family was consulted and their wishes also taken into consideration, the army said, defending the care she had received so far.
“The view of the international experts was that the neurosurgery performed in Peshawar was exactly right and indeed saved her life,” the army said.
It also said the decision to transfer her to the specialized pediatric intensive care unit at the Armed Forces of Institute of Cardiology in Rawalpindi was “correct and timely,” where her condition had stabilized.