Pakistani girl in Britain for care after shooting
ISLAMABAD — When the time came to choose medical treatment for Malala Yousufzai, the 14-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl who defied the Taliban and then was gunned down by them, her family and doctors faced a world of possibilities after a global outpouring of advice and offers of assistance.
Whatever they chose, a medical jet from the United Arab Emirates was waiting to take her to hospitals abroad. Pakistani and U.S. officials had talked about arranging treatment for her at the giant U.S. military hospital at Landstuhl, Germany.
A well-developed offer came from former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Mark E. Kelly, who had gone through their own treatment ordeal after she was shot in the head last year. They had gone as far as to line up a noted neurosurgeon and had even arranged a transportation option of their own to the United States — with a television celebrity offering to quietly foot the fuel bill.
Those were among dozens of offers from across the world. But when the time came to fly the wounded schoolgirl out of Pakistan, in the early hours of Monday, a deal from Britain to accept Malala at a specialized hospital in Birmingham proved hard to beat.
Worried that the Taliban would fulfill their promise to take a second shot at the teenage activist, the dawn run from the military hospital in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, to the airport was shrouded in secrecy, said Rehman Malik, Pakistan’s interior minister.
“I directed the airport staff to remain incognito, because there was an alert, threats from the Taliban that they would kill her,” he said. “We were very careful.”
When the Emirati jet carrying her and a team of doctors landed in Birmingham on Monday afternoon, most agreed that the decision made both medical and diplomatic sense.
Britain and Pakistan have a long history stretching back to British rule on the subcontinent; doctors at the hospital, the Queen Elizabeth II Memorial Center, have treated hundreds of British soldiers wounded in fighting against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan.
“We do, unfortunately, have a considerable expertise in treating that sort of bullet injury,” Dr. David Rosser, the hospital’s medical director, told reporters.
Pakistani, British and U.S. officials took pains Monday to emphasize that the final decision about Malala’s treatment had been based on medical grounds above all else.
“We never saw this in a political light,” one senior U.S. official said on the condition of anonymity. “This was a humanitarian story, not a political one.”
Yet there was little doubt that each of the possibilities, especially given the diplomatic tensions between Pakistan and America, carried their own political risks.
Initially, Pakistani officials had approached the U.S. Embassy for help, officials from both countries said.