Attack on Malala Yousafzai unites Pakistan in war on terror
The Taliban attack on Malala Yousafzai has badly exposed the militants and weaned away any sympathisers, at least for the time being, as it has united Pakistan in universal condemnation of the Taliban and the threat they pose to the state and to society, observers said.
Malala -- a 15-year-old peace activist in Swat who campaigned for the right for girls to get an education -- and two schoolmates were shot and injured in an October 9th attack on their school bus in Mingora. Authorities transferred Malala to a British hospital for rehabilitation.
"Across-the-board condemnation of the attack on this teenage girl is unprecedented," Awami National Party parliamentarian Pir Haider Ali Shah said. "The level of unity shown by the Pakistani nation over the incident is equal to the one observed when a massive earthquake hit northern regions of the country in 2005."
Until the attack on Malala, the battle with militants in Pakistan had killed about 40,000 people and caused billions of dollars in losses, but the country's political and religious circles remained divided on defining the Taliban as a real threat.
ATTACK SPURS TALK OF ANTI-MILITANT ACTION IN N. WAZIRISTAN
Reading the public's mood, the government and military have also started openly talking of new offensives in areas like North Waziristan, suspected of housing hideouts of the Haqqani Network.
The government "would definitely consider" military operation in North Waziristan Agency, Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said October 12. The Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee met recently to review the security situation.
"It was reiterated that the resolve to fight the menace of terrorism will be kindled and armed forces of Pakistan are ready to render any sacrifice therein," an Inter-Services Public Relations statement issued after the meeting said.
That statement triggered speculation that the armed forces could be preparing for a crackdown on militants.
"We wish to bring home a simple message. We refuse to bow before terror," Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani said after visiting Malala in a hospital. "We will fight, regardless of the cost, and we will prevail, Inshallah."
It is time to unite and stand up against propagators of such a barbaric mindset and their sympathisers, he added. Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar also issued a firm statement echoing government resolve to get tough on militancy and not tolerate it further.
"Today, for us, it could be possibly a turning point" in terms of determining how far the Taliban will go to carry out their agenda, Khar said in a media interview. "Malala has put it as a black-and-white question. She has put it as either you are with the future that she represents or the future they [Taliban] are trying to impose."
OPINIONS DIFFER ON LIKELIHOOD OF MILITARY ACTION
This is the first time that the country's political and security leaders seem to be on the same page regarding the threat from the Taliban, though decisive action might be put off.
This is an election season and the decision to launch another offensive is difficult because it puts residents through tough times, Muhammad Amir Rana, senior defence analyst and editor of a security journal, told Central Asia Online.
But senior journalist Anwar Ali predicted a high likelihood of tough action against the militants.
"I think the military was waiting for such an occasion, putting [it] in a stronger position against the militants," Ali said, adding that the attack on Malala has pulled the rug from underneath the Taliban.
Now they stand isolated and nobody dares to sympathise with them, creating an ideal time for the government to strike, he added.
Ali likened the situation to the 2008 Swat militant public flogging of a teenage girl that prompted a swift military reaction.
"The video [of the flogging] appeared in December 2008, and by January 2009 there was a massive operation against militants with a heavy force," Ali said. "So, you cannot rule out tough action anytime, anywhere."