Islamabad: People across Pakistan today reacted with grief and revulsion to an attempt by the local Taliban to assassinate a teenage rights activist, with Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar saying that the incident should serve as a "wake up call" for the country.
Fourteen-year-old Malala Yousuzai, who was honoured with the first National Peace Award for her bold campaign against the atrocities of the Taliban in Swat, was in an intensive care unit in a military hospital in Peshawar after doctors removed a bullet that was lodged close to her spine.
In Islamabad, the National Assembly or lower house of parliament suspended its usual business to discuss the brazen attack on the teenager.
Amidst emotional scenes during a debate, Foreign Minister Khar described the attack as a "wake-up call" for Pakistan.
"This is a wake-up call for the nation. It demands from us to stand united against the curse of terrorism," Khar said.
The incident symbolised the "clash of two mindsets; the one striving for peace, development, education and peaceful co-existence, and the other desiring to keep the nation in the dark and in the cruel clutches of ignorance and barbarianism", she added.
Khar criticised those trying to justify the attack on Malala and called on people to discourage such forces.
"If we fail to unite against the curse of terrorism, unfortunately, there will be no hope for the country. Today we need national integrity above everything," she said.
Across the country, children and ordinary people held special prayers for Malala`s recovery.
In Karachi, students of a government-run school named after Malala expressed shock at the attempt of her life yesterday but said they would double their efforts to achieve the goals set by Malala, including education for all girls.
In Swat, where the army conducted a massive operation in 2009 to flush out the Taliban, all private educational institutions were closed to protest the attack.
A steady stream of people made their way to Malala`s home in Mingora, the main town in Swat, to offer their support to her parents and relatives.