Pakistan’s poised young heroine, Malala Yousafzai met with President Obama, and among other topics also spoke against drones, a topic she is often ‘criticised’ for ignoring. While Malala’s call for education and her lucid and heart-warming expression has moved the world, back home her countrymen remain mired in distrust and suspicion of a young girl who has proved one of the most effective ambassadors for Pakistan to date.
Malala met with the Obamas on the International Day of the Girl, and once again stressed on the need to refocus attention on education, which she correctly said was the only chance to ensure the security of future generations. Winning praise from every quarter, and recognised as a “powerful symbol of hope”, Malala Yousafzai is a national asset. It is unfortunate, that at home her message has been overshadowed by doubts expressed about her in a variety of unkind and unpleasant ways.
Instead of support, Malala has found some quarters unnecessarily hostile to her, perhaps fuelled by a conspiracy mindset, or a misplaced sense of insecurity that Malala’s ambassadorship of Pakistan paints it in a ‘bad light’. While the Taliban released a statement expressing how “delighted” they were that she lost the Nobel Prize, at home feelings were mixed; more-than-expected disappointment, and indifference, both were observed.
It is revealing what the public reaction to Malala says about the mental state of Pakistan. Honouring our heroes is a long way away, it appears we even have difficulty recognising them. This is worrying, when Malala’s story is genuine, her humility and grace in the face of overwhelming scrutiny has been without question impeccable, she has repeatedly spoken of Pakistan and the troubles it faces without trying to give up her identity as a Pakistani. Now she has even spoken out about drones. Then why is Malala discredited and Aafia owned? What is about us that makes us resistant to recognising the true victims of terrorism, and sympathetic of those who have been partial to indulging in it themselves? Pakistan needs serious soul-searching after the Malala aftermath. Our collective national response should have been one of pride in one of our own. Why it has instead emerged as paranoia, is what needs to be examined. It is this unintentional dovetailing of opinions with extremist elements that will keep us mired in this state of confusion and despair.