Why is Only Malala Remembered for the Nobel Peace Prize?

Why was Malala Yousafzai awarded the Nobel Peace Prize when other Pakistanis have risked their lives against extremists and terrorists?

Netherlands Malala Honored

Malala Yousafzai awarded the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. Credit: AP/Peter Dejong.

HARIPUR, Pakistan — A Pakistani teenager named Aitzaz Hassan sacrificed his life to stop a suicide bomber, and saved hundreds of students’ lives. His heroic story has been widely ignored by Western media though his sacrifice was for the common students of a militancy-hit area in Pakistan’s northwest in January 2014.

Hassan, 15, a student in Hangu district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province did not become an international hero after tackling a suicide bomber who came to attack his school. Hassan died in the hospital after the bomber blew himself up at the school gates. No one else was wounded or killed in the incident.

After Malala Yousafzai received the Nobel Peace Prize, some have questioned, “Why Malala?”

There are many people like Hassan and Yousafzai in Pakistan’s northern areas that are plagued by insurgency. Hundreds have been crushed by the Taliban and no one knows them today while thousands have been deprived of their basic rights in the same province. Yet Malala is the only international symbol. Why is this so?

Such questions are raised by common Pakistanis particularly the ones belonging to northern areas. Many have fought while too many are fighting the Taliban oppressive regime but why is their sacrifice never remembered?

Hassan was younger than Malala and he saved 2,000 students after giving his own life.  Hassan stood against the Taliban and gave his life for the sake of education. Although the Pakistani government declared him a national hero for saving “hundreds” of lives through his bravery, was that enough for him? Why didn’t international media call him a hero?

Meanwhile the number of “ghost schools” is rising in Khyber province where children wish to read and study. The primary reason for the increase in ghost schools is not the Taliban or religious extremism for whom Malala was awarded but it is the result of parliamentarians who want to undertake quick development in their constituencies without the consultation of the education department.

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According to officials of the provincial education department, once the federal government doles out development funds to legislators, within no time school and college buildings rise up only to act as spaces – not imparting any knowledge.

Sidra Khan is a freelance researcher and writer based in Haripur district of Pakistan. She has done her post graduation in Mass Communication.