Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  -  Contact Us
    Volume 11 |Issue 45| November 16, 2012 |


 Cover Story
 Vox Pop
 A Roman Column
 Human Rights
 Star Diary
 Book Review
 Write to Mita

   SWM Home

Human Rights


Shayera Moula

"Education for girls is one of the best strategies for protecting girls against child marriage,” declared Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this year on International Day for the Girl, which was on October 11.

Two days earlier, the Talibans had made their own message pretty loud and clear as well when they triggered two shots at the 15 year old education activist Malala Yousafzai in her town, the Swat District of Pakistan.

Honestly, actions always spoke louder than words. They also definitely made more news. Who really knew Malala (around the world) before some bullets made their way through her? Actions make headlines. Her action, Taliban's reactions followed by Taliban's action and our reactions; a world in order really.

As for actions regarding the shooting? Most likely army-based ones in North Waziristan. According to Asif Ezdi, former member of the Pakistan Foreign Service, who writes "In an editorial, the New York Times called upon the army chief to back up his words of condemnation of the attack with action. It is no secret that the 'action' that Washington has been demanding is that the army should launch a military offensive in North Waziristan against extremists who are entrenched there."

While showcasing an innocent life, many other commentators have also pushed forth the Pakistani government to use the shooting of Malala as a means to drawing attention for army action in North Waziristan. "This argument might have had some merit if lack of public support had been the main argument against the operation, or if those who tried to kill Malala had come from that region." But neither is true, Ezdi explains.

Pakistani flood affected victims carry photographs of child activist Malala Yousafzai to mark the "Malala Day" in Karachi. Photo: AFP

As for Malala, she is slowly recovering, physically. Let's not even debate the psychological warfare that will trouble and haunt her for the rest of her life, let alone the spotlight with all the media harassment she will try dodging for as long as she is important to the international news; a sector too busy celebrating the decay in political and security issues of others.

As we watch Malala's every move now, after she, in all sense of the word, survived death, one can't fail to think: Did not BBC and the New York Times, along with other NGOs, and practically everyone else in the valley, for once realise that this girl is marching towards a dead end?

Did BBC never consider the risk involved when this pre-teen girl was asked to blog her lifestyle under the rule of the Taliban? It's one thing when a father allows his 11-year-old girl in the school competition. It's totally another when parents have okayed the world to see their baby cry for plea against local monsters. This too at a time when Taliban militants were actually taking over the Swat valley, banning music, girls' education, music and women from going shopping.

You can't surely believe that The New York Times, while filming the documentary "Class Dismissed" centring Malala, were not aware that this girl was obviously too young to understand what she was really fighting against, that she was naturally feeling important but might not have essentially grasped the flip side of being a hero – building powerful murderers that is.

As they followed her, which the world is doing now, she had messages such as the following:

"Only 11 students attended the class out of 27. The number decreased because of Taleban's edict. My three friends have shifted to Peshawar, Lahore and Rawalpindi with their families after this edict.

On my way from school to home I heard a man saying 'I will kill you.' I hastened my pace and after a while I looked back if the man was still coming behind me. But to my utter relief he was talking on his mobile and must have been threatening someone else over the phone."
— Malala Yousafzai, 3 January 2009 BBC blog

It was apparently never too clear whether her father first suggested about her writing for the BBC, but it must have been very clear that everyone reading her blogs knew the damage of the area, that this information could have meant something if she was removed from the scene much earlier, educated and well-informed and sent back to stand strong as an intellectual adult with security and financial stability. What? We seriously expected a child soldier to fight a grand army? What was BBC doing with all the information they received over the past years? Letting the world know that the lives of many are at risk here. And?

The world may plan to help Malala now, after her body has been bruised, after a near death experience, and after making sure that everyone has learnt of her tragedy first. This way we can do the victory dance at full swing once she fully recovers.

But before the party starts, it has been informed that those who attacked Malala were actually sent from the other side of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and not North Waziristan. So then, can we first find out where they are being harboured and cultivated? It must be the first rule of thumb for the Afghan intelligence, if not the worried US military.

The second step, then, should be to march banners highlighting the rights for girls in Swat and everywhere else around the world.

Cliché as it may be, if you want to treat the disease, address the symptoms!

A week ago alone, Militants destroyed four schools – two on Wednesday in Mohmand tribal district and two more in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, according to a national daily in Pakistan.

Many also believe that certain moves have been made by the government to "create a situation" where elections can be postponed and Zardari could be re-elected as president for another five-years.

So, while that happens on the political scale, and we will allow the global leaders to fix that, since all they want to do is fix each other and their nations, let us please make sure that Malala is not incubated into a situation where she has no freedom anywhere.

For those who remember Kim Phuc, the girl running in the famous photo during the Vietnam War, her tragedy initially lead her towards medical studies, but then she contributed her whole life to addressing the press, and was in fact taken away from her education and set as a propaganda symbol by the communist government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

Malala has already become a symbol for girl's education, for boldness and freedom of women's choice. But she is not a puppet, so we must let her heal first before we make a theory of her every move.

For the 49.5 million illiterate adults in Pakistan, where two-thirds of them are female, and for a further 200 million girls around the world that remain illiterate despite attending schools, we know that Malala's story can lead to her becoming a spokesperson for the "education for all" dream. However, let us not forget that she is primarily a human being under severe physical and psychological pain. So let us not dictate her life for her.

Naturally, she will not be returning home any time soon. Evidentially, she should keep fighting for better education. But she should have her space and her demands. My fear is that she will be bubbled by supposed "intelligent monitors" in her life from now onwards, who will advise her on how to temper with the world carefully for their own political purposes.

My fear is that at the end of it all, after 15 more years, she may want to be a stay-at-home mother and have a small family on the outskirts of some cosmopolitan country, and she may not get it.

At a very tender age, adults have pushed and pulled invisible strings around her towards life threatening agendas. But we wouldn't want her to always feel so unsafe. If the Talibans have pulled a trigger to stop her from going to school, let's not point other kinds of weapons that tell her to keep fighting her enemies, i.e. worldwide leaders failing to keep their respective nations under control on most issues.

Her father has boldly declared that she will once again rise to what she was fighting for. She is a young hero and there is no doubt she deserves to be able to fight for her dreams. But if this is the case, let her be the judge of it. All by herself.

Shayera Moula is Sub-Editor, Editorials and Op-Ed of The Daily Star.


Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2012