PTI’s information minister orders cancelation of Malala’s book launch saying publication is banned in Pakistan
A controversy has erupted over teenage education activist Malala Yousafzai’s bestselling book after the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government stopped a programme on it at the University of Peshawar on Tuesday.
One of the organizers of the event, the Baacha Khan Trust Educational Foundation director Dr Khadim Hussain said that the function was planned 10 days in advance to discuss the issues centred on the book titled “I am Malala.” On Monday evening, Provincial Information Minister Shah Farman asked him to cancel the function saying the book was banned. This was followed up with calls from another minister from the Jamaat e Islami who said this programme should be called off.
The Foundation along with Area Study Centre (part of the University) and Strengthening Participatory Organisation (SPO) were organising the event in which the vice chancellor of the Peshawar University was slated to be chief guest.
Dr Hussain said the Area Study Centre was told it has no mandate to hold such a book function. “We said that freedom of expression, education and conflict were the three areas of debate and it was all connected with Central Asian studies. I told them the government should also come and be part of this debate,” he said. Malala’s book was not banned either and there was no reason to call off the programme on that basis, he pointed out.
Vice Chancellor Dr Rasul Jan too cancelled his appearance and the director of campus security said he would not provide security cover. Late on Monday night, a letter from the Registrar’s office asked for the programme to be postponed indefinitely.
Dr Hussain said security threats were cited for the programme to be called off but there were many such functions on the campus. Condemning this move by the government, he said that it should clarify if it was with the people or the terrorists. PTI was hailed as liberal and a party for the youth and the government even passed a right to information law recently. “The government has violated the freedom of expression, education and association by such an act,” Dr Hussain said. This incident has exposed PTI and people can see the truth for themselves, he added.
Malala was to send a message for the programme and Dr Hussain had spoken to her just as she was writing it. She was told the event was cancelled and reacted by saying that Dr Hussain’s life was more important. “Malala was shot in this province, this is her soil and that soil should own her,” he remarked.
Shiraz Paracha, spokesperson for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister, said that there is no official ban on the book and the university was an autonomous body which could take its own decisions.
PTI chairperson Imran Khan tweeted,” I am at a loss to understand why Malala’s book launch stopped in Peshawar. PTI believes in freedom of speech/debate, not censorship of ideas.”
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and Aseefa Bhutto Zardari expressed their displeasure with the KP government.
“Pathetic of PTI gov to ban #Malala’s book. This is censorship! Where is our freedom of speech and expression?” Aseefa tweeted online.