Pakistan prays for 'critical' child activist
AFP, Friday 12 Oct 2012
Pakistanis at mosques across the country pray for a 14-year old girl shot in the head by Pakistan; doctors say she is in critical condition

Pakistanis at mosques across the country prayed Friday for the recovery of a schoolgirl shot in the head by the Taliban as doctors said the next two days were critical.

The shooting of 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai who campaigned for the right to an education has been denounced worldwide and by the Pakistani authorities, who have offered a reward of more than $100,000 for the capture of her attackers.

Ahmad Shah, police station chief in the northwestern town of Mingora where she was shot, has said nearly 200 people were detained over the shooting, including the bus driver and a school watchman, but most had been released.

The attack has sickened Pakistan, where Malala won international prominence with a blog for the BBC that highlighting atrocities under the Taliban who terrorised the Swat valley from 2007 until a 2009 army offensive.

Activists say the shooting should be a wake-up call to whose who advocate appeasement with the Taliban, but analysts suspect there will be no seismic shift in a country that has sponsored radical Islam for decades.

Schools opened with prayers for Malala on Friday and special prayers at mosques across the country for her speedy recovery at the country's top military hospital in the city of Rawalpindi, where she is still on a ventilator.

Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf visited Malala, paying tribute to her and two friends who were also wounded when a gunman boarded their school bus on Tuesday and opened fire.

"It was not a crime against an individual but a crime against humanity and an attack on our national and social values," he told reporters, pledging renewed vigour in Pakistan's struggle with Islamist militancy.

"We have sacrificed, both in terms of man and material, be it our valiant armed forces, innocent civilians, children or security forces. We have to unite and stand together to uproot this menace to save our children," he said.

After a special mass at a Catholic Church in Islamabad, Father Rahmat Michael Hakim told AFP that he had called on politicians to promote education "because there can be no peace and development in the country without education".

Two generations of young men have been schooled at extremist madrassas in Pakistan in hatred of America and India, jihad and intolerance towards women.

In Karachi, Pakistan's biggest city, thousands of worshippers cupped their hands towards heavens in supplication for Malala's health.

"May Allah bestow her with His blessings and grant her a long life," said Ikram-ul-Mustafa Aazmi, chief prayer leader at the city's prominent Memon Mosque.

He condemned the attack, but did not mention the Taliban, calling on the government to protect all those striving for peace and education.

"No Muslim scholar or preacher is against education. On the contrary we educate our daughters as our sons," he said in reference to Malala's struggle for an education under the Taliban, who destroyed hundreds of girls schools.

Military spokesman Major General Asim Saleem Bajwa said the next 36 to 48 hours would be critical.

"Today is the sacred day of Friday and the entire nation is praying for her health. I pray to Allah that He bestows her with good health very soon."

Bajwa said two foreign doctors were being consulted, but that for the moment no decision had been made on sending her abroad for further treatment.