Standing up for Malala

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Paris lights up for Pakistan’s daughter with a major goal

Nearly all the mainstream newspapers in Pakistan carried a wire image of President Asif Zardari meeting global peace icon and education activist Malala Yousafzai on the front pages of their Sunday editions.

Yet the irony was stark: this was the first time the president was meeting the girl whose abominable shooting by the Taliban brought Pakistan’s existential fight with extremism into the kind of sharp international focus no diplomatic enterprise previously could.

Furthermore, the president was meeting Malala not on home soil and in the immediate aftermath of an episode that so shocked, angered and eventually, drenched Pakistan in sorrow that it could not have been missed for the world.

Reportedly, the first interaction — a telephone call made by the president to Malala’s father Ziauddin — took place was on the third day of the incident. By then, the president had been superseded by the army chief, who flew into Peshawar (more about that later) and Imran Khan. Sending Rehman Malik — it is not clear if it was his own initiative — was not enough.

At a time of national grieving, a visit from the president whose office is a symbol of the federation, would have made a significant statement. Instead, the missed opportunity only highlighted an apparent disregard for someone’s life who now is conveniently celebrated thanks to global recognition of her enduring courage in the face of adversity.

Nevertheless, the redemption is fine. The president is leading Pakistan at a global event — Stand up for Malala: Girls’ right to education — in Paris today which is co-hosted by UNESCO, where a slew of international figures and representatives of important educational organizations, foundations, INGOs as well as academicians, donors and religious figures are attending.

The broader framework would centre around the Education For All (EFA) initiative, which seeks universalization of education with a special emphasis on girls education — this would aim at bringing into the net some 61 million children (most of them girls) who want to pursue education but are deprived thanks to circumstances beyond their control.

The president is also expected to announce seed money for an international fund to this end.

All of this welcome development is in sharp contrast to how Malala was treated at home — contrary to a calibrated hype of a caring hand after she came to dominate the international media.

While the awam were genuinely shocked at the brazen attack, the same could not be said of the leadership end of the spectrum.

Within days of the tragedy, it was becoming difficult to make out which was more shocking — the refusal of the key political and religious parties/groups to even name Taliban in their sometimes convoluted condemnation or the tragedy itself.

Outfits like the Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam even resorted to obfuscation — the former refusing to believe Taliban were behind the outrageous act (despite the militia’s pointed ownership), and the latter, which has a deep connect with the Taliban, audaciously alleging the attack was a ploy to “target religious scholars”.

As a result, a malicious campaign was unleashed to distort the narrative. Far from acknowledging the incredible courage shown by a 15-year-old in the face of a monstrous militia, someone like Samia Raheel Qazi, the daughter of former Jamaat-e-Islami chief Qazi Hussain Ahmed, began circulating images of Malala with patently false messages and twisted logic.

One particular image showed the Swat girl talking to Richard Holbrooke, the late former U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. This was passed off by Samia as a meeting with “U.S. military authorities”.

The lie was subsequently, nailed by discerning observers with video footage of the event, where the only comment made by Malala, in fact, was a plea for the U.S. “to invest in the education of girls in the war-torn valley”.

Not really a stickler for verified information, a considerable chunk of the cyber population fell hook, line and sinker for the distorted narrative, which was deliberately linked with the lesser mourned deaths resulting from U.S. drone attacks over the years.

Even as cyber rounds and TV debates were hogging the limelight, few questioned why the army appeared to take full control of Malala’s treatment with the federal government conspicuous by its absence.

It did not cut much ice to suggest the provincial Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government was alive to the developing situation because there was national symbolism attached with Malala’s fate.

From being initially, treated at a military hospital in Peshawar to being shifted to another such facility in the garrison town of Rawalpindi was one thing, but the public relations wing of the army, ISPR, issuing health bulletins was a first for even hardened cynics.

Reports later purported to suggest the Generalissimo wasn’t mighty pleased at how his lower ranks had “caught a flying arrow” in assuming charge of Malala’s treatment, which forced him to fly out the very next day to be the first high profile figure to inquire after Malala in classic ‘statement mold’.

The decision to send Malala abroad also had “repercussion fears” riding over it even though for public consumption the last bulletin was reporting “steady progress”. The military was worried that in the event of the worst possible fate, it may be held responsible.

Contrary to the popular notion — perpetuated by the religious parties in the wake of the Malala episode — at no stage did the military consider an operation in North Waziristan against the militants.

The writer is Editor, Pique Magazine. He may be reached at [email protected]

6 COMMENTS

  1. malala paris show attended by zardari !!!! and week in pics show pakistani young boy garbage picking for food !!!!!! in islamabad !!!!!!!!!!!! and malala and father now world vips — father now united nations advisor on education !!!!! any education for pakistan boy garbage picking for food ???????????? MAY CURSES OF ALLAH BE UPON PAKISTAN KAAFIRS .. BASIC FOOD FOR PAKISTANI BOY .. NOT ZARDARI FEASTING AND DAUGHTER AND MALALAL FATHER FEASTING IN PARIS !!!!!!!!!!!

    WHERE IS THAT FOULMOUTH SCUMBG BASTA*D CALLING HIMSELF DESISOB*I*T*C*H********. GO FEED A LONELY HOMELESS MUSLIM PAKISTANI BOY U DESI*k*n*j*a*r

  2. President Zardari never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity–to show his concern for his country—be it the floods in Pakistan,the murder of Saleem Taseer and now Malala. Actions in Pakistan should speak louder than words abroad. He is good at the latter.

  3. Author looks quite ignorant of ground realities.In the 1980s a huge education program was launched in those areas of FATA, AND KPK under the UN programs where now every where crops of terrorism has been spread There now military operations and drone attacks are regularly being taken place.All these education programs were meant for two purposes first to give opportunity to Afghan displaced people , secondly for developing KPK people who were know n in the world as drug and arms traffickers.As per rough estimation since 1980s to 911 year almost 350 schools were built and working in these areas.Dama dolla was first raided area in this war on terror and first so called terrorist was found there and then start of destruction of these schools were started with the announcement of this war on terror.So history proved that under the shield of UN programs, US and Pakistan army spread their terrorism cells in whole areas.Now the workers of UN mostly form Pukhtoon spoken backgrounds were shunned that how they were utilized to spread this false game of education in the area which is still showing extreme backwardness in education sector.So one shouldn't hear to this sound of west where they look more concern about our development.They all are arm makers/Suppliers and want to spread arms culture on the name of stopping terrorism.

  4. malala paris show attended by zardari !!!! and week in pics show pakistani young boy garbage picking for food !!!!!! in islamabad !!!!!!!!!!!! and malala and father now world vips — father now united nations advisor on education !!!!! any education for pakistan boy garbage picking for food ???????????? MAY CURSES OF ALLAH BE UPON PAKISTAN KAAFIRS .. BASIC FOOD FOR PAKISTANI BOY .. NOT ZARDARI FEASTING AND DAUGHTER AND MALALAL FATHER FEASTING IN PARIS !!!!!!!!!!!

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