Even after the call, my parents were not completely reassured. They hadn’t actually heard my voice
and were still cut off from the outside world. People who visited them were bringing conflicting
reports. One of those visitors was Major General Ghulam Qamar, head of military operations in
Swat. ‘There is good news coming from the UK,’ he told my father. ‘We are very happy our daughter
has survived.’ He said ‘our’ because now I was seen as the daughter of the nation.
The general told my father that they were carrying out door-to-door searches throughout Swat and
monitoring the borders. He said they knew that the people who had targeted me came from a gang of
twenty-two Taliban men and that they were the same gang who had attacked Zahid Khan, my father’s
friend who had been shot two months earlier.
My father said nothing but he was outraged. The army had been saying for ages that there were no
Taliban in Mingora and that they had cleared them all out. Now this general was telling him that there
had been twenty-two of them in our town for at least two months. The army had also insisted Zahid
Khan was shot in a family feud and not by the Taliban. Now they were saying I had been targeted by
the same Taliban as him. My father wanted to say, ‘You knew there were Taliban in the valley for
two months. You knew they wanted to kill my daughter and you didn’t stop them?’ But he realized it
would get him nowhere.
The general hadn’t finished. He told my father that although it was good news that I had regained
consciousness there was a problem with my eyesight. My father was confused. How could the officer
have information he didn’t?
He was worried that I would be blind. He imagined his beloved daughter, her face shining, walking around in lifelong darkness asking, ‘Aba, where am I?’ So awful was this news that he couldn’t tell my mother, even though he is usually hopeless at keeping secrets, particularly from her. Instead, he told God, ‘This is unacceptable. I will give her one of my own eyes.’
But then he was worried that at forty-three years old his own eyes might not be very good. He hardly slept that night. The next morning he asked the major in charge of security if he could borrow his phone to call Colonel Junaid. ‘I have heard that Malala can’t see,’ my father told him in distress. ‘That’s nonsense,’ he replied. ‘If she can read and write, how can she not see? Dr Fiona has kept me updated, and one of the first notes Malala wrote was to ask about you.’
Far away in Birmingham, not only could I see but I was asking for a mirror. ‘Mirror,’ I wrote in the pink diary – I wanted to see my face and hair. The nurses brought me a small white mirror which I still have. When I saw myself, I was distraught. My long hair, which I used to spend ages styling, had gone, and the left side of my head had none at all. ‘Now my hair is small,’ I wrote in the book. I thought the Taliban had cut it off. In fact the Pakistani doctors had shaved my head with no mercy. My face was distorted like someone had pulled it down on one side, and there was a scar to the side of my left eye.
‘How did this to me?’ I wrote, my letters still scrambled. ‘What happened to me?’ I also wrote ‘Stop lights’ as the bright lights were making my headache. ‘Something bad happened to you,’ said Dr Fiona. ‘Was I shot? Was my father shot?’ I wrote.
She told me that I had been shot on the school bus. She said two of my friends on the bus had also been shot, but I didn’t recognise their names. She explained that the bullet had entered through the side
of my left eye where there was a scar, travelled eighteen inches down to my left shoulder and stopped
there. It could have taken out my eye or gone into my brain.
It was a miracle I was alive. I felt nothing, maybe just a bit satisfied. ‘So they did it.’ My only regret was that I hadn’t had a chance to speak to them before they shot me. Now they’d never hear what I had to say. I didn’t even think a single bad thought about the man who shot me – I had no thoughts of revenge – I just wanted to go back to Swat. I wanted to go home.
(‘I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban’ has been published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in the UK and Little, Brown and Company in the US)