PESHAWAR: A Pakistani Taliban commander has written a letter to Malala Yousafzai, the teenage girl activist shot in the head by the group, saying he wished he could have advised her against criticising the banned outfit so she wouldn’t be attacked.
The commander, Adnan Rashid, however did not apologise for the unsuccessful assassination attempt, but only he found it ”shocking” and wished it hadn’t happened.
Rashid, who is known to have has close relations with top Taliban leaders, said the letter expressed his own opinion, not that of the militant group.
Adnan Rashid was the prime convict in an attack on former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf and was freed by Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) fighters during the Bannu Jail break last year.
A former junior technician of Pakistan Air Force, Rashid was a resident of Chota Lahor area of Swabi district. He is fluent in English, Pashto and Urdu. He used to contribute to several social networking sites including Blogs and Facebook from the prison. He had joined PAF in 1997. He was around 24 when he was arrested in early 2004.
Gunmen from the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan shot Malala, now 16, in the head last October in her northwestern hometown of Swat, where she campaigned for the rights of girls to go to school.
The attack on Malala, who was 15 years old at the time, had sparked widespread international condemnation of the militant group.
Malala made a powerful speech to the UN Youth Assembly on Friday, in her first public appearance since the attempt on her life which almost killed her, vowing to continue her struggle for education and not be silenced by the militants.
In the open letter released Wednesday, Rashid said he personally wished the attack had not happened, but accused her of running a “smearing campaign” against the militants.
“It is amazing that you are shouting for education, you and the UNO (UN) is pretending that you were shot due to education, although this is not the reason … not the education but your propaganda was the issue,” Rashid wrote.
“What you are doing now, you are using your tongue on the behest of the others.”
He accused Malala of seeking to promote an education system begun by the British colonialists to produce “Asians in blood but English in taste” and said students should study Islam and not what he called “satanic or secular curriculum.”
“I advise you to come back home, adopt the Islamic and Pashtun culture, join any female Islamic madrassa near your home town, study and learn the book of Allah, use your pen for Islam and plight of Muslim ummah (community),” Rashid wrote.
He said he had originally wanted to write to Malala to warn her against criticising the Taliban when she rose to prominence with a blog for the BBC Urdu service chronicling life under the militants’ 2007-9 rule in Swat.
The Pakistani Taliban have kidnapped and shot other education activists like Malala and also have blown up hundreds of schools in Pakistan’s northwest. The Pakistani army launched a large offensive against the Taliban in Swat in the spring of 2009 and drove out many of the militants, but they have continued periodic attacks.
Rashid said the Taliban only blow up schools that Pakistani soldiers use as hideouts. Teachers and activists say this is only partly true. Some were targeted because they were used by the military, but many of the attacks were motivated by the Taliban’s opposition to girls’ education and schooling that doesn’t follow their strict interpretation of Islam, the teachers and activists say.
Rashid also justified recent attacks in Pakistan on health workers providing children with polio vaccinations, claiming the West is trying to sterilize Muslims. The Taliban have denied carrying out such attacks in the past.
The Taliban commander also criticised the UN honouring Malala as he said the world ignores civilians being killed in US drone attacks in Pakistan’s northwest. The UN is currently conducting an investigation into allegations of civilian casualties from US drone attacks.
“Nobody will believe a word the Taliban say about the right of girls like Malala to go to school until they stop burning down schools and stop massacring pupils,” said Gordon Brown, the former British prime minister and now UN Special Envoy for Global Education, who has supported Malala since she was shot