October 15, 2012


[The mercy flight produced a sigh of relief of sorts among Pakistanis who have kept an anxious national vigil for Ms. Yousafzai since she was shot by a militant gunman as she returned from school in Mingora, the main town in the northwestern Swat Valley, last Tuesday.]
Malala Yousafzai, 14,Image credit: The Guardian
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – The Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot by the Taliban last week for advocating girls’ education has been flown to Britain for emergency specialist care, the Pakistani military said on Monday.
Malala Yousafzai, 14, left an air base in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, where she was being treated for head wounds in a military hospital, on an air ambulance sent from the United Arab Emirates.
In a statement, the military said she would receive immediate treatment for her skull, which was fractured after a bullet passed through her head, as well as “long-term rehabilitation including intensive neuro rehabilitation.”
The British Foreign Office declined to name the hospital where Ms. Yousafzai would be treated, citing patient confidentiality, but the foreign secretary, William Hague, described it as a specialist facility operated by the state-funded National Health Service. Pakistan said it would pay for her treatment.
A Pakistani military intensive care specialist accompanied her on the flight, which by midmorning Monday had stopped in the United Arab Emirates for refueling en route to Britain.
The mercy flight produced a sigh of relief of sorts among Pakistanis who have kept an anxious national vigil for Ms. Yousafzai since she was shot by a militant gunman as she returned from school in Mingora, the main town in the northwestern Swat Valley, last Tuesday.
The daughter of a schoolmaster, Ms. Yousafzai had become known for her eloquent and impassioned advocacy of education and children’s rights in the face of Taliban threats, which made her a potent symbol of resistance to the militant’s extremist ideology.
Worries over her fate have dominated Pakistan in the past week. Front-page headlines have carried updates of her medical treatment, school children held prayer services and candlelit vigils, and the political system has united to condemn to the Taliban with an unusual vehemence and unity.
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of the port of Karachi on Sunday for a solidarity march organized by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, the city’s dominant political party.
Ms. Yousafzai’s fate has also excited much international concern. President Obama, the Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu and the pop singer Madonna were among the public figures to take up her cause.
Several governments, including the United States, had offered to provide emergency treatment for Ms. Yousafzai or to fly her abroad. A senior American official said there had been four “serious” offers of help from the United States, including one from a doctor who had treated Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona congresswoman who was shot and seriously wounded in the head in January 2011.
But in the end Ms. Yousafzai, went to Britain, which has close diplomatic ties with Pakistan. Last week British specialists flew into Rawalpindi to consult with the military doctors treating her.
While Ms. Yousafzai’s condition remains fragile, the military said that in recent days she had shown some signs of improvement. She was sent abroad on Monday while “ her condition was optimal and before any unforeseen complications had set in,” the military said.
Ms. Yousafzai sprang to public attention in 2009 at a time when the Taliban had seized control of the Swat Valley, a picturesque area near the Afghan border. Despite Taliban orders that all girls should quit school, she continued to secretly attend classes, writing about the experience in an anonymous blog for the British Broadcasting Corporation.
Ms. Yousafzai later featured prominently in reports by The New York Times and other media outlets. After the Taliban were largely driven from Swat by a military operation in mid-2009, she emerged as a prominent campaigner in her own right.
Her advocacy was encouraged by father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, an educator who is a senior community leader in Swat and has also been outspoken against Islamist militants. Local Taliban militants have threatened to kill him in recent days.
It was not immediately clear if he had accompanied Ms. Yousafzai aboard the air ambulance on Monday.
A wave of public criticism over the shooting has stung the Pakistan Taliban, which over the weekend issued threats against the local and western media. Some western media organizations based in Islamabad have temporarily closed their offices as a precautionary measure.
The Pakistani government has publicly named the militant believed to have carried out the shooting as Ataullah, and offered over $100,000 for his capture. The Police in Swat rounded up more than 100 people since the shooting but formally arrested just four. The putative assassin remains at large.
@ The New York Times


[“Thirty-five years is a heavy sentence to bear, longer than is served by most murderers,” Mr. Coetzee wrote. “Mali has paid the penalty for not being fortunate enough to be born human. Now is the time to release her.”]

By Floyd Whaley

MANILA — The chief veterinarian of the Manila Zoo looked uncomfortable as the graying, tattered elephant snaked her trunk through the rusty bars of her enclosure.
“We really need to remove those bars,” said Dr. Donald Manalastas, who oversees care of the animals in the zoo. “Interest groups like to take pictures of the bars and use them for their fund-raising purposes.”
Mali, thought by zoo officials to be the only elephant in the Philippines, has spent nearly all of her life in captivity since she was donated by the Sri Lankan government 35 years ago at the age of 3. Some of that time has been spent behind bars in a small pen, though she also has about 1,000 square meters, or nearly 11,000 square feet, of open-air, concrete-floored enclosures that contain sand and water.
For most of the last three decades, she has been the star attraction for the Manila schoolchildren, families and occasional tourists who venture into the small, poorly financed zoo. But in the last year, Mali has taken on international fame.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals opened a campaign to have her released from the zoo and sent to an elephant sanctuary in northern Thailand. The effort has included bikini-clad protesters and attracted support from international notables.
The British pop star Steven Patrick Morrissey, known as Morrissey, joined the cause in May with a letter to the Philippine president, Benigno S. Aquino III.
“I ask that you send Mali to a sanctuary where she would have room to roam and be able to be among other members of her own species,” Mr. Morrissey wrote. “Her life consists of extreme loneliness, boredom and isolation in an area that is a fraction of the size of her natural habitat.”
Two months later, the writer J.M. Coetzee, who was awarded the 2003 Nobel Prize in Literature, weighed in.
“Thirty-five years is a heavy sentence to bear, longer than is served by most murderers,” Mr. Coetzee wrote. “Mali has paid the penalty for not being fortunate enough to be born human. Now is the time to release her.”
Dr. Manalastas has little patience for the opinions of Nobel laureates and British rockers regarding Mali’s treatment.
“We have these celebrities saying things, but they haven’t seen Mali. They have never been here,” said the veterinarian. “They don’t know how we are taking care of her. They are just listening to PETA.”
The zoo opposes the transfer of Mali to an elephant sanctuary because of her advanced age and fears that she would not survive the sedation and stress associated with transporting her to Thailand. It is also not clear that she would be able to assimilate with other elephants once she arrived, Dr. Manalastas said.
“We have asked them, ‘Can you assure us 100 percent that she will survive the trip?”’ he said. “I believe that she considers us her family. Mali feels safe with us.”
Ashley Fruno, a senior campaigner with PETA Asia, disputed the assertion that Mali might die in transit.
“We’re spending a lot of our time dispelling myths about Mali’s proposed transport,” Ms. Fruno said. “Because they don’t have an elephant expert in the country, most people don’t realize how routine it is to transport elephants.”
On May 29, Dr. Mel Richardson, a California-based veterinarian with extensive experience caring for elephants, visited the Manila Zoo at the urging of PETA. In his report, posted on the PETA Web site, he referred to Mali as a “good-natured elephant” and wrote: “Mali’s body condition was relatively good, although she is slightly overweight.”
The principal concerns that Dr. Richardson raised were that Mali’s enclosure is too small and inadequate for her needs, and that she suffers from potentially serious untreated foot problems related to years spent on concrete and that she is alone.
“Female Asian elephants are never alone in the wild. Never!” Dr. Richardson wrote in an e-mail interview. “From birth to death they live in a family of other females and young males.”
In his report, Dr. Richardson noted that 18 zoos around the world had closed or were planning to close their elephant exhibits after concluding that the animals could not be properly cared for in captivity. Those include the Detroit Zoo, the Greater Vancouver Zoo and the San Francisco Zoo, which together have placed 14 elephants in two U.S. elephant sanctuaries. He recommended that Mali be moved to a sanctuary by an organization with expertise in transporting elephants.
“While the Manila Zoo does the best it can with what funds it has, it just isn’t sufficient, and in the case of elephants, good intentions are not good enough,” Dr. Richardson wrote.
Dr. Manalastas said he respected the opinion of Dr. Richardson but said that the zoo was focused not on moving Mali but rather on improving her enclosure and care. He noted that the zoo is a government-run public service organization that charges an admission fee of just 40 pesos, or $1. So he dismissed suggestions that the zoo was exploiting Mali to generate revenue or for any other reason.
“We don’t make money off Mali,” he said. “We are looking out for her interests. She has been with us for 35 years, and she has lived to an old age. We must be doing something right.”