Distorting Malala Yousafzai’s Image

Malala Yousafzai has by now become a celebrity the world over. Only one personality in Pakistan can match her in fame and popularity and that is the late Benazir Bhutto.

malala-yousafzaiI remember the nation wept vehemently at the murder of Benazir Bhutto and in Malala’s case we have witnessed the same sentiment across the whole nation.

We still have to recover from our scars and analyze what is going on in Pakistan and in the world regarding the assault on Malala.

The attack on Malala sent shock-waves not only across Pakistan but the entire world. Pakistani children reacted more effectively than our leaders who did not go beyond the words of condemnation. As the media hype began to recede, our ears are baffled by counter narratives on Malala’s incident. Gradually, the writers who are hands-in-gloves with the militant mindset within Pakistani society appeared in newspapers and tried to dump the momentum beneath the rubble of the drones.

A similar attempt by Ahmad Quraishi provoked me to respond. In his article “not in her name” on Oct. 17, Quraishi turned the tables at the “pro-US lobby in Pakistan.” He asserted, “Lastly, there is the pro-US lobby in Pakistan that, as expected, was hard at work to discredit the anti-CIA drone campaign and pounced on Malala’s tragic incident to use her to justify drone attacks.” One wonders how that comes… What we see the drone campaigners stridently mystify the attack on Malala by dragging the drone debate in between.

They try to make us believe that the attack on Malala owes its cause to the American presence in the region, although the attackers have squarely made the reason for attack on Malala clear. The TTP spokesman unambiguously declared that they attacked Malala because she was critical of the Taliban and had “maligned” them on media.

The spokesman further announced that Malala spoke on TV before ghair muharrem men. Quraishi further declares, “We have religious extremists in our midst but hardly any apologists for the TTP murderers.” Now tell me what to call the people who have become the de facto spokespersons of the militants and defend them with reasons the Taliban themselves do not consider necessary to expound rationale for their actions. While exhorting the writers to stop “lecturing that the Pakistanis should ‘hang their heads in shame” Quraishi implicitly alludes to an article “Shame on you, Khan” in an esteemed newspaper. This indicates why Quraishi is angry.

READ  The Philippine-Malaysian Sabah Dispute

The dilemma is that Pakistanis are forced to go bi-polar, if you are not with us you are with our enemies

If somebody fails to highlight the controversial predator missile attacks in FATA by the CIA due to lack of information, they are deemed the “pro-US lobby.”

On the other end those who make fury and fret on drones and other issues are labeled pro-extremism. Both the approaches are based on wrong assumptions but one thing Pakistani political history teaches us is that religious issues — Nizam-e-Mustafa, Jihad, Israel, infidel India etc. – have been used for political mileage lacking any genuine concern.

Likewise with the drone issue. Similar is the case of blasphemous cartoons or videos by men sitting continents away. One wonders why religious and political parties haunt ordinary people and hold congregations even in far away villages and teach them jihad against Terry Jones or Nikoula. They do it as electioneering.

I do approve what Ahmad Quraishi writes in the body of his article that Malala’s incident could have been utilized for nationwide unity, free access to education for girls but the crux of his thesis is totally misleading. Concluding his argument he writes, “But whatever we do, our military operations in Swat and Afghan border areas won’t be effective as long as the United States military and its allied forces in Afghanistan continue to turn a blind eye to terrorists who attacked Malala.”

I wonder how Swat operation and other such offensives turned ineffective because of the United States inability to rein in the Taliban in Afghanistan. Malala’s attackers are in Afghanistan. The question would be how they managed to flee amidst the intensive and long security measures in Swat during the Swat operation. Did the Americans provide them a safe passage from Swat?

Zubair Torwali is a researcher, linguist and human rights activist. Born and raised in Bahrain Swat, Pakistan, he heads the Institute for Education and Development, a civil society organization working for the conservation of cultural, lingual and natural heritage among the linguistic communities in north Pakistan. Zubair was recently awarded the Prof. Anita Ghulam Ali Award of Teachers and Education in Emergencies. Read other articles by Zubair.