18 Jul 2013

Taliban leader accuses schoolgirl of smear campaign

8:19 am on 18 July 2013

A Taliban leader in Pakistan has sent a letter to a 16-year-old schoolgirl expressing shock that she was shot last year, but accuses her of running an anti-Taliban "smear campaign".

Taliban gunmen shot Malala Yousefzai in the head in her home town of Swat, in the country's north-west, last October. She had been campaigning for the right of girls to go to school.

In his letter, Adnan Rasheed stops short of apologising but says he wished the attack had never happened, the BBC reports. He refuses to condemn the attack, saying the judgement on whether it was correct or not should be left to God.

Mr Rasheed is a former non-commissioned officer of the Pakistan Air Force who was sentenced to death for his role in a 2003 attempt on the life of former military ruler, Pervez Musharraf.

He claims the shooting of Ms Yousefzai was not in response to the campaign for girls' education but because she ran an anti-Taliban "smear campaign". He says he wished he had been able to "advise" her before the attack, which he describes as an "accident".

Ms Yousafzai is credited with bringing the education issue to global attention and is considered a contender for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking at UN headquarters in New York last Friday, she said books and pens scared extremists. She urged education for all, including "for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all the terrorists".