By Muhammad Tahir
ISLAMABAD, Oct. 13 (Xinhua) -- The Taliban's senseless attack on a 14-year-old schoolgirl, Malala Yousafzai, in the scenic northwestern Swat Valley on Tuesday, has united the Pakistani nation, which is rare in a nation often wracked by dissension and political wrangling.
The government led by President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Raja Pervez was joined by the political opposition, students,civil groups, the business sector and the various religious factions in condemning the cowardly and dastardly act.
Aside from saying that the government would shoulder all the medical expenses of Malala, President Zardari also told the family that a government aircraft was on standby to bring Malala for treatment abroad if the need arises.
School children all over the country offered special prayers for her early recovery. Students also staged demonstrations in the country to condemn the Taliban attack.
The assassination attempt also received worldwide condemnation along with sympathies for Malala and her family.
U.S. President Barack Obama described the incident as " barbaric" and offered to provide air ambulance services and treatment facilities.
The Army Chief, General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani, in a rare precedent,visited Malala in a military hospital in the northwestern city of Peshawar where she was first brought after she was shot.
In expressing his sympathy to Malala's father, Gen. Kayani vowed that the military will not rest until the perpetrators of the crime would be brought to justice.
People from all walks of life in Pakistan have said that the militants would never be able to justify their attack on an innocent and defenseless schoolgirl whose only "crime" was to voice her criticisms against the activities of the Taliban when they were still in control of Swat Valley until the security forces launched a major operation against them in 2009.
During the military operation, many Taliban were killed and expelled from the valley but their leader, Maulvi Fazalullah, was able to escape to Afghanistan, where he is now leading the remnants of his Swat Taliban fighters in the rugged border regions.
Malala, daughter of a principal of a private school, used to write against the extremists, using her pseudonym "Gulalai" when the Taliban used to kidnap and throw bodies of their critics in Mingora, the main city in Swat, and other parts of the valley.
No one could dare to speak or write against the Taliban in Swat. During their reign in the region before they were driven out in 2009, the Taliban closed all schools in Swat and dozens were dynamited.
After their expulsion, the Swat Taliban continued their cross- border attacks on Pakistani check points and were involved in target attacks in the Swat Valley.
The government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, of which Swat is a district, has announced 10 million rupees (105,000 U.S. dollars) reward to those who could give information on the whereabouts of Malala's attackers.
But by now the government should already have an idea as to who ordered the attack.
In fact, Taliban spokesman, Ihsanullah Ihsan, has already admitted that Malala was "targeted because of her pioneering role in preaching secularism and the so-called enlightened moderation," adding that anyone who will commit the same mistake in the future will also be targeted by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
In a statement emailed to the media, Ihsan even tried to justify the brutal attack on the innocent girl.
"We wanted to kill her as she is pro-West, speaking against Taliban.She was young but was promoting Western culture in our society," said Ihsan.
In spite of all these threats and offers for them to leave the country, her family seemed determined to stay in Pakistan.
"Whether my daughter survives or not, we shall not leave our country.We have an ideology and we are the people who love our homeland,"Malala's father, Ziauddin, a teacher and a poet, said.
Except perhaps for their rabid sympathizers, most Pakistanis do not accept the Taliban's bizarre interpretation of Islam, particularly its refusal to respect the right of women to have an education, the right that Malala has courageously and openly espoused.
If at all, the shooting of Malala has made a positive impact on the psyche of the Pakistani people. It has united a fractious nation; it has awakened the populace in condemning the abuses and brutality of the Taliban which have continued to wage a guerrilla war in the borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan.