- Kainat Riaz Ahmed and Shazia Ramzan are to be honored for bravery, a minister says
- The Sitara-e- jurrat, or star of courage, is the third highest military award in Pakistan
- The girls were injured along with Malala Yousufzai in an attack on their school van
- Malala's efforts to ensure girls' rights to education have won international acclaim
Two Pakistani girls who were injured in an attack that nearly took the life of their classmate, schoolgirl activist Malala Yousufzai, are to be honored with a medal of courage, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said Saturday.
Kainat Riaz Ahmed and Shazia Ramzan were both hurt in the ambush on October 9, when armed thugs stopped their school van in the Taliban-held Swat Valley.
The medal, known as Sitara-e- jurrat, or star of courage, is the third highest military award in Pakistan and is not normally given to civilians.
The militants' target, Malala, was well-known for her efforts to encourage her fellow Pakistanis to stand up to the Taliban, who have been trying to push girls from classrooms.
The attack prompted anger against the Taliban and an outpouring of support for Malala, both in Pakistan, where thousands rallied in her name, and internationally.
Speaking to CNN from her hospital bed a week after the attack, Kainat, who was shot in the upper right arm, echoed Malala's message.
"I want to tell all the girls to continue their mission to get an education," Kainat told CNN.
"Girls' education here is more important than boys' because boys can do any sort of work. However, girls can't just do any sort of job. Girls must have respectful jobs so that they can feel secure."
And the 16-year-old said she had no regrets about defying a group that wants to stop girls from learning. "God willing, I will continue my education," she said.
On Monday, Malik visited the British hospital where Malala was flown for treatment days after she was shot in the head.
She has made good progress since her transfer, but medical staff have said she has a long road ahead to a full recovery. She is expected to undergo reconstructive surgery to her skull once she is strong enough.
Malik said he hoped Malala would recover soon and that her family would support her in this difficult time. The family is not settling in the United Kingdom but remains there while Malala is recovering, he added.
Malik said Saturday that the government was very close to catching Ihsanullah Ihsan, the spokesman for the Pakistan Taliban.
The Taliban, who claimed responsibility for the attack, issued a statement online saying that if Malala lived, they would come after her again.
Police said this week they suspect two boys of being behind the attack but did not name them. They are also seeking a man they say drove the youths to the van.
Malik identified the adult suspect as Attah Ullah Khan, 23, but he did not name the boys. Khan is a masters' chemistry student, police said.