Taleban letter urges Malala to return to Pakistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) - A senior Pakistani Taleban commander has written to Malala Yousafzai, the teenage activist shot by militants, accusing her of "smearing" them and urging her to return home and join a madrasah.

Gunmen from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) shot Malala, now 16, in the head in her hometown in Swat, in the country's north-west, where she campaigned for the right of girls to go to school, last October.

Malala made a powerful speech to the United Nations on Friday in her first public appearance since the attack that almost killed her, vowing to continue her struggle for education and not be silenced by the militants.

In an open letter released on Wednesday, Adnan Rasheed, a former air force member turned TTP cadre, said he personally wished the attack had not happened, but accused her of running a "smearing campaign" against the militants.

"It is amazing that you are shouting for education, you and the UNO (UN) is pretending that you were shot due to education, although this is not the reason ... not the education but your propaganda was the issue," he wrote.

"What you are doing now, you are using your tongue on the behest of the others."

The letter, written in English, was sent to reporters in north-west Pakistan and its authenticity confirmed to AFP by a senior Taleban cadre who is a close associate of Rasheed.

He accused Malala of seeking to promote an education system begun by the British colonialists to produce "Asians in blood but English in taste" and said students should study Islam and not what it called the "satanic or secular curriculum".

"I advise you to come back home, adopt the Islamic and Pashtun culture, join any female Islamic madrasah near your hometown, study and learn the book of Allah, use your pen for Islam and plight of Muslim ummah (community)," Rasheed wrote.

He said he had originally wanted to write to Malala to warn her against criticising the Taleban when she rose to prominence with a blog for the BBC Urdu service chronicling life under the militants' 2007-2009 rule in Swat.

Rasheed was sentenced to death over a 2003 attack on Pakistan's then military ruler General Pervez Musharraf, but escaped from custody in a mass jailbreak in April last year.