Islamabad: Teenage rights activist Malala Yousufzai, still critical after being shot in the head by the Taliban, was on Thursday airlifted to Pakistan's top army hospital in Rawalpindi for better post-surgery care as special prayers were offered across the nation for her quick recovery. Fourteen-year-old Malala, who was shot in the head by a Taliban fighter in Swat on Tuesday, was flown in a helicopter from a military hospital in Peshawar to the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.
Malala was in the intensive care unit of the Peshawar hospital where a three-hour surgery was performed on her on Wednesday to remove a bullet lodged near her spine. Chief military spokesman Maj Gen Asim Bajwa said doctors recommended that AFIC had better facilities for post-surgery care. Footage on television showed army personnel transferring Malala on a stretcher from the helicopter to an ambulance. Her head was bandaged and she was on life support system.
The ambulance was escorted by army vehicles as it drove from the helipad in Rawalpindi to the nearby hospital. Additional soldiers were deployed at the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology and all visitors were screened before being allowed into the building. TV news channels said the army had sealed off an entire floor at the hospital as part of special security measures.
A team of doctors treating Malala decided that she should be shifted to Rawalpindi after she failed to regain consciousness following the surgery. Doctors have said she is improving though her condition continues to be serious. Masood Kausar, Governor of the northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, said: "Malala is not yet out of danger despite an improvement in her condition."
The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government has announced a reward of Rs one crore for information leading to the arrest of Malala's attackers. Army neurosurgeon Col Junaid Khan, who was part of the team of doctors that treated Malala in Peshawar, told reporters that the next 10 to 15 days were "very crucial" for her recovery.
People from all walks of life held demonstrations and candlelight vigils in Lahore and other cities of Punjab province to condemn the Taliban's cowardly act of attacking Malala, who came to prominence after she spoke out for the rights of girls when the Swat Valley was controlled by the Taliban in 2008.
The protesters carried banners and placards bearing inscriptions against the cowardly attack. The banners and placards featured photos of Malala and slogans like "We all are Malalas," "Jis ka azam sab se nirala, wo hai Malala, wo hai Malala" and "We protest against cowardly attack, we condemn terrorist attack on an unarmed young girl".