The Taliban's attempted murder of a 14-year-old girl simply because she campaigned for the right of Pakistani girls to go to school is extreme even by that group's barbaric, medieval standards.
Malala Yousufzai, a young activist who defied the Taliban by pursuing an education and encouraging other girls to do so, was shot Tuesday in the head and neck by an assailant as she sat in a school bus in Mingora, a town in the Swat Valley.
She was airlifted to Islamabad, where doctors worked feverishly to save her. After taking credit for its attempted killing of a child, the Taliban faction Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan said Malala would be targeted again if she survived. It was a chilling preview of what Pakistan can expect if such zealots ever come to power. The death cult said that Malala was on its hit list because she was "secular" and "promoted Western culture."
Most Pakistanis are repulsed by the actions of a group that is bent on undermining their strides into the modern world. Yet the Taliban have been tolerated in Pakistan because they are considered a bulwark against neighboring India and U.S.-occupied Afghanistan.
As Malala fights to survive, Pakistan must begin the painful soul-searching it has put off for too long. What kind of player does a country with a Third World economy and nuclear weapons want to be in the world community? Will seventh-century-minded zealots who see no need to educate girls win the argument?
Malala Yousufzai is the symbol that the Pakistan Taliban hate, but she is not alone. There are hundreds of thousands of Pakistani girls, if not millions, who are inspired by her example of bravery. Women and girls in Pakistan -- and the men who support them -- must refuse to be silenced by thugs who would deny them a right so basic as education.