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Pakistan: People Offer Prayers for Malala Yousufzai

Teenage rights activist Malala Yousufzai today continued to be on ventilator at a military hospital after being shot in the head by Taliban militants though doctors treating her said her vital signs were normal and her condition was satisfactory.

Rallying behind Malala, people across Pakistan offered special prayers for her speedy recover.

"Malala is still on ventilator...According to the doctors, her condition is satisfactory and her vitals (signs are) normal," chief military spokesman Maj Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa told a news briefing in Rawalpindi this evening.

The doctors reduced her sedation so that neurosurgeons could make a "better clinical assessment".

Malala responded to stimulus and moved her hands and feet slightly, which Bajwa described as a sign of "good progress".

No decision has been made by the panel of doctors about removing her from the ventilator or sending her abroad for treatment, Bajwa said in response to questions from reporters.

He said authorities had made preparations for all contingencies.

"The panel of doctors is reviewing her condition round the clock but no decision has been made as yet to send her abroad," he said.

Earlier in the day, the military had said 14-year-old Malala's vital organs are "intact and working properly".

She is being treated at the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology in Rawalpindi, where a special team, comprising specialists from abroad and civilian hospitals and senior doctors of the Pakistan Army, is keeping a vigil on her health round the clock.

Malala was airlifted from a military hospital in Peshawar to Rawalpindi on Thursday after doctors removed a bullet lodged near her spine.

She was shot along with two other girls during an attack by militants on Tuesday in Mingora, the main town in the former Taliban stronghold of Swat.

Geo News channel quoted its sources as saying that the swelling in Malala's head had subsided and that she had responded to painful stimulus.

However, her ability to move her limbs continued to be limited though this could be a side effect of medication, the sources were quoted as saying.

People across Pakistan, especially schoolchildren, continued to offer special prayers for Malala's recovery. Protests were also organised in several towns and cities.

In the northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, lawyers boycotted all courts to protest the attack on Malala. The protest was organised by the provincial bar council. Lawyers held meeting to condemn the incident and prayed for Malala.

A similar protest was organised by lawyers' organisations in Lahore, the capital of the most populous Punjab province.

Lawyers hoisted black flags at court complexes and wore black bands to condemn the attack.

In Karachi, Sindh Education Minister Pir Mazhar-ul-Haq said a school named after Malala would be upgraded to higher secondary level to honour the teenager's dream of education for all girls.

He made the announcement when he joined students at the school to pray for Malala.

Hundreds of students joined a protest organised by the Balochistan Private School Foundation outside the Quetta Press Club this morning and condemned the attack on Malala Yousufzai and her schoolmates.

The students carried posters of Malala and banners inscribed with slogans denouncing the attack.

Teachers who addressed the gathering said the attack was against the teachings of Islam.

In another development, President Asif Ali Zardari directed authorities to provide free medical care to Shazia Ramzan and Kainat Ahmed, the two other girls injured in the attack on Malala.

Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said Zardari enquired about the health of the two girls, who were travelling with Malala in a school van when it was attacked by militants.

Zardari said the quest for knowledge of these children, despite threats, had "illumined the path for all".

He added that the girls "represented the true face of Pakistan, were a national asset and had raised collective national consciousness against the barbarism of militants and extremists".

Reports from Peshawar said Shazia's condition had improved significantly though she continued to be in a military hospital.

Kainat, who is at home recovering from a bullet wound, told reporters that she would continue her education and fulfil her parents' dream of becoming a doctor.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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