Malala is a Pashtun name which means ‘grief stricken’. In the battle of Maiwand in 1880, Malala of Maiwand, a young Pashtun lady, fought alongside the forces of Commander Ayub which won the battle during the Second-Anglo Afghan War. According to history, it is believed that the Afghans were losing the battle, until the young lady came into the battlefield and tore her scarf to motivate the troops. After more than a century, the region was blessed yet again with another ‘grief stricken’ that did things which her name suggests she would never be able to do; she outlived her name just like her predecessor.
Malala Yousafzai, studied at Khushal Public School owned by her father, in Mingora, Swat. She was attacked by a Tehreek – I – Taliban Pakistan (TTP) gunman for her constant criticism of Taliban, and due to her fight for education and women rights. The support she received from the international media such as the BBC, local media and national/international NGOs since 2009 has been massive and certainly brought her to the spotlight in front of the world – which consists of her supporters and her opposition i.e. making her a soft target and vulnerable for her enemies.
At the beginning of 2009, Malala was given the opportunity to write against Taliban by Abdul Hai Kakkar, a BBC reporter. At that period, the TTP was taking over Swat and were banning music, television, girls’ education and beheading those who did not bent to their rules. Several other girls from the school refused to write about Taliban since military operations were going on. In the end, the ‘grief stricken’ was left for sacrifice.
Every adult citizen should have a right to express and I am a firm believer of that. In the case of children, the parents need to take decisions responsibly. Malala and her friends were lucky to be flown into Army Hospitals and later being flown to UK; privilege ordinary citizens in the biggest cities of Pakistan are deprived of. If Army promises to deliver such services to ordinary citizens, believe me, the casualties from target killings in Karachi and drone strikes in Waziristan would spiral down to at least 50%. In countries like Pakistan where the government cannot ensure that children can go to school safely and express their views safely using children for war-reporting is nothing less than insane and a heinous crime.
In my personal opinion and that of many children’s-right experts, the British Broadcaster did a blunder and so did her father. Reports of her father being affiliated with Awami National Party (ANP), who swept the 2008 elections in Malakand Division due to the absence of Islamist parties, were a nuisance for the TTP and brought Ziauddin Yousafzai in the radar where a segment of the general public accuses him for using her daughter for political gain and mileage for ANP. He once went to the extent to take her to the Peshawar Press Club where she gave a speech titled “How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?” which was widely reported by the media.
People in Pakistan are prone to follow conspiracies and love connecting dots; even if it does not make sense. One of the ideas popular at the moment in the country was that the attack was a CIA staged drama and endorsements from leaders such as Lord Nazir (who had retracted from his statement later) and a popular leader from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Maulana Fazl ur Rehman gave rise to the conspiracy.
International and national NGOs named their schools after her, invited her to conferences, made her sing and raised funds for education on her name, knowingly or unknowingly, even right now at the time of writing this. She was exploited because at her age a child is not able to understand all facets of life and consequences of actions one takes. Therefore, she was not in the position of taking an informed decision, she should have never been forced or encouraged for this task. Plus, the people of Swat have a history of supporting development work and education. The last ‘Wali’ of Swat was renowned for constructing schools and hospitals for his people. The people of the valley do not need any capacity building in that regard and I feel completely lost when I hear donor agencies allocating funds for such drives. One such example is of the District Children’s Assembly SWAT which was funded by UNICEF for which Malala was chosen as the Chair.
The West which demands Pakistan to ‘do more’ needs to understand that it is difficult for the people of the country to trust them since the memories of partition and wars in Pashtun areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan over a period of 30 years has left a very bad taste in the mouth. The recent support from the Western Governments and especially from individuals like Gordon Brown, who voted for military action in Iraq/Afghanistan, for Malala makes ‘this suspicious nation’ even more suspicious about the happenings surrounding the little girl. Its high time leaders in Pakistan and around the world stop gaining mileage from this horrible episode and the best confidence building measure they can arrange at the moment is to allow the people of the two countries to live, peacefully, once again. Celebrating #MalalaDay, giving her space to speak at UN and nominating her for Nobel Peace Prize (less people in Pakistan consider its credibility, since the day the jury chose Obama for this coveted title) will make her more vulnerable, will cause more harm than benefit. The region has sacrificed one Malala more than a century ago and one was about to be sacrificed.
Please allow our girls and women live in peace, please.