'Malala arrests must lead to better protection for activists'

The arrest of Taliban militants who tried to kill teenage activist Malala Yousafzai offers an opportunity for Pakistani authorities to address their poor record in protecting human rights defenders, a leading rights group has said.

London: The arrest of Taliban militants who tried to kill teenage activist Malala Yousafzai offers an opportunity for Pakistani authorities to address their poor record in protecting human rights defenders, a leading rights group has said.

"Human rights defenders play a critical role in promoting the rights of everyone in Pakistan society," said Mustafa Qadri, Amnesty International's Pakistan Researcher.

"But human rights defenders promoting the rights of women and girls in her native Swat and across Pakistan remain especially at risk of deadly attacks and other abuse from the Taliban and other groups, not least because of the authorities' continued failure to hold the perpetrators to account," Qadri said.
Pakistan's army yesterday announced the arrest of 10 members of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) suspected of involvement in the attack on Malala.

"With the world watching, it is critical that Pakistan seizes this opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to human rights, justice and rule of law," Qadri said.

In October 2012 Malala, then 15, was shot in the head by TTP gunmen in northwestern Swat valley.

She has since recovered from the assault, which shocked the world and catapulted her to international fame for her courageous and determined fight for education rights to all children. Two of her colleagues were also injured in the attack.

Qadri said: "By her words and deeds, the brave education rights activist Malala Yousafzai proved that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword."

According to the army, the arrested militants hail from Malakand, close to Mingora, the main town of Swat where Malala was attacked.

"The arrested men must be treated humanely at all times. If there is credible, admissible evidence against them they should be brought to trial in proceedings which meet international standards of fairness and without recourse to the death penalty," Qadri said. 

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