Taliban renews threat against Pakistani teen
ISLAMABAD — The Taliban has issued a new threat against Malala Yousafzai, the teenager who was shot in the head by one of its fighters a year ago after she refused to halt her efforts to expose the plight of schoolgirls in northwestern Pakistan.
In a telephone interview late Monday, a top Taliban spokesman said the group will continue to look for opportunities to harm the 16-year-old girl as long as she remains an outspoken critic of efforts to impose strict Islamic law in Pakistan.
The threat was made amid speculation that Yousafzai, who sought refuge in England last year, is a leading contender to win the Nobel Peace Prize when it is announced on Friday. She is already the youngest person ever nominated for the prestigious honor, and if she won, would be only the second Pakistani in history to be recognized by the Nobel Prize committee.
Yousafzai's family and friends say that winning the Nobel Peace Prize would represent a milestone for efforts to draw attention to the problems faced by women and children in Pakistan's male-dominated culture. But some Pakistanis remain skeptical of Yousafzai's motives, highlighting the broader societal split over the country's ideological future.
“Malala has been able to tell the world what is happening to Pakistan and how we are suffering,” said Kashmala Tariq, a former member of Pakistan's National Assembly and frequent critic of the government's policies toward women.
After Yousafzai defied a Taliban campaign to shutter or bomb hundreds of schools in Pakistan's remote Swat Valley, a gunman boarded her school bus on Oct. 9, 2012, and shot her and two of her classmates. Yousafzai survived after being airlifted to London for treatment and within months was one of the world's most recognized humanitarians.
In the past year, Yousafzai has spoken at the United Nations, had a charity for girls named after her, was a runner-up for Time Magazine's 2012 Person of the Year and has been honored by dozens of organizations.
“We feel proud,” said her cousin, Shahid Khan, who lives in the Swat Valley. “She has been a voice for peace, love and education.”
But with Yousafzai in the spotlight this week, including the launch of her autobiography on Tuesday, she is under a renewed threat from Taliban leaders.
In July, a senior Taliban commander wrote an open letter to the teenager, saying he regretted her shooting and asking her to return to Pakistan. On Tuesday, however, the group's spokesman suggested that she will continue to be targeted unless she gives up her “secular ideology.”