A SENIOR Pakistan Taleban figure has written to Malala Yousafzai explaining why she was shot and expressing his personal shock at the attack on her outside a school last October.
Adnan Rasheed is one of Pakistan’s most notorious terrorists and is also known for his taste for expansive use of English.
In the letter, he insisted Malala had not been attacked for her campaign for girls’ education but for “smearing” the Taleban and described how he had wanted to warn her of the consequences of speaking out 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 was well-known in her home town of Mingora, the main town in the Swat region, for her local campaign to help more girls into school and had written a diary for the BBC. Then the area was overrun by the Tehreek-e-Taleban Pakistan (TTP). Consequently, the then 15-year-old was singled out from her school friends on a bus home before being shot twice and left for dead.
She has spent the past nine months undergoing multiple operations and recovering in the UK. During that time she has become an international symbol for girls’ education, which observers say has irked the Taleban, desperate for publicity.
Last Friday – dubbed Malala Day – she addressed the United Nations in New York, and said: “One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution.”
The attention and a wave of revulsion at the attack has provoked soul searching within the TTP. In the immediate aftermath, it released a string of lengthy press releases trying to justify the shooting.
In the latest letter, passed to a local journalist, Rasheed wrote: “Taleban believe 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.
“You said that pen is mightier than sword, so they attacked you for your sword not for your books or school.”
He added that she was responsible for pushing western propaganda and that the TTP had not blown up schools. Rasheed said he was writing in a personal capacity.
The terror leader was in the Pakistan Air Force before being imprisoned for a failed plot to kill president Pervez Musharraf but escaped in a mass jail-break last year. His letter is careful to massage Pakistani sensibilities, referencing US drone strikes and trying to tap into suspicion at western-led vaccination drives.
Rasheed insisted the Taleban were not opposed to education, just an education system that would turn Pakistanis into slaves and against Islam.
And he also asked whether Malala would have received as much attention if she had been hurt in a US drone strike. “I ask you, if you were shot by Americans in a drone attack, would [the] 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 to the borderlands with Afghanistan.
“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,” he wrote.
Former prime minister Gordon Brown, now a UN special envoy on education, criticised Rasheed. He said: “Nobody will believe a word the Taleban say about the right of girls like Malala to go to school until they stop burning down schools and stop massacring pupils.”
Documentary plan revealed
Malala Yousafzai and her struggle for girls’ education is to be the subject of a documentary film.
Davis Guggenheim, who won an Oscar for the 2006 environmental documentary An Inconvenient Truth, with former US vice-president Al Gore, will direct the documentary set for release late next year. It will follow Malala as she campaigns, said producers Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald, who produced the 2007 Afghan drama, The Kite Runner. “There are few stories as compelling, urgent or important as the real-life struggle of Malala and her father Ziauddin on behalf of education for children,” Mr Parkes said. It will be funded by Image Nation Abu Dhabi, part of state-owned Abu Dhabi Media, based in the United Arab Emirates.