Watching Malala speak always brings tears to my eyes, not only because of the personal ordeal she and her family have endured, but because such a bright, eloquent, courageous and determined 16-year old is a source of immense pride for me as a Pakistani. And yet it saddens me gravely to know that Pakistan has lost her just as Pakistan has lost so many of its best and brightest.
There are some who leave Pakistan for education or work that is unavailable domestically. Others leave because they are not able to make ends meet. Still others leave because they find it difficult to run businesses without electricity. And then there are those, like Malala, who leave because Pakistan cannot provide them basic security. And while none can be faulted for leaving, Malala left because she had no option. She, a mere 16-year old with a message of peace and universal education, is not welcome in this Naya Talibanised Pakistan.
While an individual like Malala could have been truly instrumental in bringing real grassroots positive and desperately needed change to Pakistan, it is our tragedy that because we cannot ensure her basic safety, she will be celebrated abroad but only ever be a source of pitiful contention at home. There are those who will be simply envious because the young Malala can rapture an audience of foreign dignitaries the way they never can. As an example, let me reproduce Shehbaz Sharif's tweet about Malala's speech at the United Nations: @CMShehbaz wrote, "Good speech by Malala. Could have been better -seemed to be written for global consumption (and tried to please everyone at home and abroad)." Really, Chief Minister? Couldn't you have done better?
Malala can now only ever be a source of pitiful contention at home
Though after criticism on twitter the tweet was deleted, Malala had already hinted at her detractors in her speech. "They are afraid of women. The power of the voice of women frightens them...because they are afraid of the equality that we will bring into our society," she said. It is this fear, this insecurity that leads many to malign Malala on social media. Others manifest their envy by downplaying Malala's significance, by making false equivalences of Malala's story with those who have died in drone strikes. In one of her tweets, Shireen Mazari of PTI argued that the UN had lost credibility because it did not pay attention to child victims of drone strikes as it did to Malala.
Anyone who equates children who die in drone strikes with children who have been specifically targeted by the Taliban seems to have missed the point entirely. Though loss of a child's life is always deeply saddening and regrettable, children dying as collateral damage in a war zone is markedly different from children dying because they were personally targeted for going to school, as in Malala's case. I don't know of any case where a drone strike went out of its way to kill a child, as Malala's shooter did. Moreover, according to a 26th June 2012 report by Rina Saeed Khan for The Guardian, the Taliban destroyed 400 of the 1576 schools in Swat (70% of them girls' schools) and about 800 schools in all of the northwest of Pakistan. These numbers were approximately corroborated in a Dawn report on 8th September 2012. How many schools exactly have the drone strikes destroyed? How many schoolgirls and boys have been targeted by drone strikes? What is stopping our media from bringing these child victims of drone strikes or their families on television? If in fact there are stories out there of children being targeted by drones then why wait for the UN to highlight them? Or is it simply a case of playing politics and pleasing a right-wing "base"?
The Taliban destroyed 400 of the 1576 schools in Swat (70% were girls' schools)
Speaking of politics, there was a tweet by Aseefa Zardari which did impress me. "Proud of Malala Yousafzai and touched she is wearing the scarf/dupatta we gifted to her that was my mother's." Malala too mentioned the dupatta in her speech. This was a touching gesture by Benazir's children to part with an item of clothing their deceased mother had worn and to gift it to Malala. However, a 14th July 2013 report in the Express Tribune stated that though President Zardari made a donation of $10 million for a global initiative in the name of Malala to educate all girls by 2015, his government had failed to open more than 6,000 "ghost schools" in Sindh alone. A report in Dawn on 11th February 2013 explained that in ghost schools, "funds and teachers' salaries are disbursed as the buildings remain abandoned or even occupied by animals". Dawn's report of 8th September 2012 stated that Pakistan has the world's second highest rate of out-of-school children (25 million) and estimated the number of ghost schools in Pakistan at 30,000, which points to the very acute problem of incompetence and corruption in the public sector, resulting in a huge drain on meager state resources collected from a few unfortunate taxpayers. So while it is laudable that parties like PPP and ANP empathize with Malala and defend her from vicious attacks by the rightists on social media, it is painfully upsetting that they too were untrue to her message of universal education and failed to deliver on that front when they had the chance.
The writer is a London-based lawyer and tweets @ayeshaijazkhan
Comments (4 comments)
Mala....and her speech??amazing .May be written by an English writer not by her and her father.
Posted: Wednesday, September 04, 2013 by SADDAM WAZIR
from Peshawar Pakistan
I believe those fixated with criticising Malala are distracted from the message at hand while the message is a clear one which is simply and purely for the benefit of the country - Pakistan. The media frenzy around Malala can be offputting to those who can see through the publicity stunt world politics really is (myself included), but it shouldn't distract us from the message that Malala voices that which is clearly shared by all of us who are educated - i.e.education is important. On top of that she is also another example of displaying to us the power a girl/an individual can have in the world today.
Posted: Monday, July 22, 2013 by Nafies
Just like you Madam, watching Malala speak at the UN brought tears to my eyes too. Sitting here in Mumbai, I too try to keep an eye on progress of this child, who Allah plucked out of the jaws of death miraculously. I find it tragic that we fail to see Allah's hand, which is so evident to me, in this unfolding story.
I wonder if it is still too early for us to come out of the seventh century.
Posted: Sunday, July 21, 2013 by wonderer
Malala has what it takes (the courage) to stand up and speak and the nation ( with confused priorities ) should acknowledge her strength. The western world has been quick to pounce on opportunity and are somewhat using her as a tool to fulfill their goals (esp. Gordon Brown after supporting the Iraq war - a cardinal sin ). Make no mistake, Malala has bigger balls than the entire Pakistani politicians, rulers and the so called leaders combined. Sadly, most of Pakistanis are hushed/silent probably due to western world involvement.
Posted: Sunday, July 21, 2013 by Jawed Saleem