A SENIOR Pakistani Taliban leader has said he was “shocked” by his group’s near-fatal attack on schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai last October.
The Taliban was universally condemned after gunmen shot Malala in the head.
In a letter to Malala, Adnan Rasheed stops short of apologising but says he wished the attack “had never happened”.
He also claims the shooting was not in response to Malala’s campaign for girls’ education, but because she ran an anti-Taliban “smear campaign”.
Malala - who is considered a contender for the Nobel Peace Prize - is credited with bringing the education issue to global attention.
Speaking at UN headquarters in New York last Friday, she said that books and pens scared extremists. She also urged education for all, including “for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all the terrorists”.
Correspondents say Rasheed’s letter was an apparent attempt to attract media attention with a view to counter the impact of Malala’s speech at the UN.
A copy of the letter was obtained by various news organisations.
Writing in his “personal capacity”, Rasheed said he felt “brotherly” emotions towards Malala because they belong to the “same Yousufzai tribe”.
However, he refuses to say the attack was wrong, saying the judgement on whether it was correct or not should be left to God.
Rasheed says he first heard of Malala’s work when he was in prison.
He says he wished he had been able to “advise” her before the attack, which he describes as an “accident”.
Rasheed finishes by telling Malala to “come back home, adopt the Islamic and Pashtun culture and join any female Islamic madrassa, use your pen... and reveal the conspiracy of the tiny elite who want to enslave the whole of humanity”.
Malala’s family said in a statement that they were aware of the letter but had not received it directly and had no wish to comment on it.
After the shooting, Malala was flown from Pakistan to the UK for treatment, and now lives in Birmingham, England.
Her speech on her 16th birthday at UN headquarters in New York was her first public address since last October’s attack.
Malala said she was fighting for the rights of women because “they are the ones who suffer the most”.
A quarter of young women around the world have not completed primary school.