Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Malala's Attackers Arrested. Why Did It Take Two Years?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Malala's Attackers Arrested. Why Did It Take Two Years?

Article excerpt

The Pakistan Army announced today that it arrested 10 militants suspected of involvement in the shooting of Malala Yousafzai, the teenager who became a celebrity advocate for education after being shot by a Taliban gunman on her way to school.

"The group involved in the attack on Malala Yousafzai has been arrested," and will be tried in an antiterrorism court, Army spokesman Major Gen. Asim Bajwa told a press conference. He also tweeted that the men were "busted and apprehended by Security forces."

Pakistan said for two years it was searching for Ms. Yousafzai's attackers after a gunman boarded Malala's school bus in the Swat Valley on Oct. 9, 2012 and shot her in the head, also injuring two of her classmates.

Yet Pakistan's troubled justice system, public support for extremism in parts of society, and political timing caused the search to drag on.

Reports from October 2012 show that local police immediately rounded up at least 70 people for questioning - and arrested some -- before releasing them. Pakistani analyst Hasan-Askari Rizvi told the Daily Beast at the time that the release of suspects due to lack of evidence was "a routine problem in Pakistan."

"We don't have proper investigations, our prosecutors are ill- equipped to handle terrorism cases, and there is no system to protect witnesses so no one speaks up." In addition, says Rizvi, militant groups inspired by religion have support across large segments of Pakistani society. "People don't want to speak out against these people because they agree with their ideology. In those cases, many witnesses prefer to withhold evidence."I. A. Rehman, Secretary-General of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, told the Monitor at the time that he was "pleased to see the strong reaction" to the shooting, but that it "was not the first time that extremist militant groups have carried out atrocities" and he feared little would change.

Al Jazeera described the confusion of the early days of the investigation this way:

The investigation into the shooting has become shrouded in mystery, with police officials at each of the local police stations, including the one where the case was first filed, unable to furnish specifics regarding arrests or suspects. …

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