Pakistan: Malala book launch at university halted

Campus police cancelled the event due to safety concerns

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A Pakistani university intending to hold a ceremony launching a book by a teenage activist shot by the Taliban called off the event over security concerns in the country’s northwest on Tuesday, government and university officials said.

Sarfraz Khan, director of the Area Study Center of the University of Peshawar, said the ceremony was to launch Malala Yousafzai’s book “I am Malala.” But campus police told him to cancel the event due to safety concerns.

“Last night, first the provincial information minister asked me on the phone to cancel the ceremony. Then, my vice chancellor informed me that the event should be cancelled due to security reasons,” he said.

The move angered the organizers.

“We had planned the event to launch Malala’s book, but we were forced by police to cancel it,” said Khadim Hussain, an official at the Bacha Khan Trust charity, which had planned the ceremony.

He accused the provincial government of influencing the university to call off the event for political reasons.

Shah Farman Khan, the information minister in the capital of Khyber Paktunkhwa province, insisted that the university call off the event because he thought it was being organized at an “improper place.”

“The Area Study Center of the university was not a suitable place for holding this ceremony,” he told reporters in Peshawar, which has witnessed scores of gun and bomb attacks in recent years.

The 16-year-old Malala is an advocate for education who spoke out against the Taliban. She was shot in the head in October 2012 while she was going home from school in Mingora, the main city in the northwestern Swat valley where militants had a strong base at the time.

She was initially treated in Pakistan, but was later flown to a hospital in Britain, where she now lives with her family.

The girl comes from the same region that was once home to Mullah Fazlullah, the new head of Pakistani Taliban.

Fazlullah was elevated to that position after the former chief, Hakimullah Mehsud, was killed in a U.S. drone strike on Nov. 1 in the North Waziristan tribal area bordering Afghanistan. Fazlullah’s group often targets Pakistani security forces, police and government officials in the girl’s province and elsewhere in the country.

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