Malala Yousafzai was just 15 years old when a gang of thugs boarded her school bus and shot her in the head in 2012. Her “crime” involved crusading for the education of young girls living under Taliban oppression. After a trial shrouded in secrecy, it appears that a Pakistani court has dealt life sentences against ten men involved in the attack.
Malala, widely known by her first name alone, survived the attack after enduring a medically-induced coma, repair of a damaged facial nerve, and removal of a skull fragment. She went on to become the youngest Nobel laureate in history, won the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, addressed the United Nations on her sixteenth birthday, had an asteroid named after her, and was hailed as the “pride of Pakistan,” by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Unfortunately, she will not be returning to Pakistan any time soon, for fear the Taliban will try to kill her again; she lives in England now. Perhaps the life sentences for her assailants will be the first step in Pakistan getting its pride back.
Malala knew she was picking a tough fight right from the start. The Taliban’s Mullah Fazlullah ordered schools for girls to be shut down after his gang took over the Swat valley where she lived. She decided to start blogging for the BBC under an alias, to provide a frank description of life under Taliban rule and campaign for the right of young women to receive an education. Eventually her identity was revealed, Mullah Fazlullah allegedly ordered her assassination, and Taliban gunmen asked for her by name when they invaded her bus.
She was 11 years old when she launched her blog and threw down against the bloodthirsty enforcers of Islamist fascism.
The BBC observes that the trial was “one of Pakistan’s most high profile court cases,” but adds there is “little information about it, and the sourcing is shaky.” The trial was held at an anti-terrorist court in Malala’s hometown, without open hearings or even a public statement of the charges. Word of the life sentences slipped out through a leak to a TV news station after lawyers refused to talk, the military canceled a press conference, and court officers pretended they didn’t even know if the trial was underway.
There are even suspicions that the ten men receiving life sentences today might not be the exact ten Taliban members who hijacked the school bus on that fateful day in 2012. The Pakistani government has been under a great deal of pressure to demonstrate progress against the Taliban. They still have a way to go before they make as much progress as Malala has.