By: Nighat Kamal Aziz
The eyes of the Pakistani nation, scanning the horizon for so long for an icon, could never have imagined that it will appear in the form of a little 16-year-old girl. As she stood so confidently in front of the special session of the United Nations, with no sign of nervousness as the spotlight of the world focused on her, she made many Pakistanis proud. Clad in our national dress, speaking with clarity of expression and thought, getting a standing ovation at the end of her address, she certainly made many Pakistanis proud.
Even those who are inclined towards conspiracy theories, those sceptical of her and doubting her role, despite her point blank shooting in broad daylight, must have felt a stirring of emotion as she spoke so bravely for the rights of women and children, as she spoke of global peace, as she moved the world to tears with her address and showed the positive side of our country.
There are some who think her case has been given undue attention, while other children killed or maimed have been ignored by local and international media. But Malala has become the face of all children wronged the world over. She stands for all those who have suffered. Her recognition symbolises that the world rejects injustice to all, especially children.
She has achieved what countless older, more educated, far richer and experienced could not. She has highlighted the real message of peace in our religion. She has made the world listen.
Who would have thought that the plight of this incredible young girl will act like a catalyst? Who would have thought that she will alone, singlehandedly, show the positive side of our maligned country to the world, for once making the world speak in unison with us, recognising the sacrifices of our people. Who would have thought that this little angel, by her sheer bravery, will make her attempted assassins and their ideology appear so shamefully base and so repulsively repugnant?
She had tugged at the hearts of numerous people a few years ago when she stood on the rubble of her bombed school, shook her little fist at the Taliban and declared she would study come what may.
Hers seem to be the classic case, like David and Goliath, the war between good and evil, of justice against barbarity, of light against darkness.
Young Malala was the perfect choice for the role of an angel, to force us to openly and boldly make a choice between salvation and doom, to shake us from our slumber. The sincerity of those beautiful hazel eyes is irresistible. Anyone trying to destroy them cannot be termed as human. One wonders how they can even face themselves in the mirror.
The parents, who gave birth to and who nurtured such a spirit, despite all odds, need to be saluted. It is easy to speak of sacrifices, but few are made of the mettle to live and singlehandedly face direct threats to their lives and to that of their family members. These threats are from the forces of evil, which are out to destroy all that is beautiful and wonderful in this world.
Threats that are not empty, instead they are cold-bloodedly planned and carried out.
But, for once, the calculations of these barbarians seem to have misfired. They must not have visualised the extent of the reaction to the attempt on Malala’s life. For them, she must have been just another brick in the wall, another life to snuff out and another soul to be forgotten.
They had not realised that you cannot kill an angel.
If their intention was to scare girls away from education, the cause that Malala championed so effectively in her tender years, they seem to have failed miserably. Every girl wants to be Malala. Those who had not even heard about her before now consider her a role model. Girls of all ages, within the length and breadth of not only Pakistan, but all over the world, of all communities including Muslims, Christians and Hindus, believe in her mission and want to carry it forward.
If their purpose was to frighten people, that seems to have backfired too. If a teenage girl could take a bullet in her head for her cause, others can at least stand up, speak out and join hands against cruelty, barbarism and injustice. The gauntlet has been thrown down, the battle lines drawn.
If they wanted to win support for their cause, they have done exactly the opposite. For those who had been teetering on the precipice, unclear which ideology to side with, are now decided. There will be hard to find anyone proud to associate with those afraid of the challenge posed by young unarmed girls trying to get educated. It is shameful to follow in the footsteps of this warped ideology of the Taliban.
Taliban, how ironic to call them by that name, a name associated with learning, with education, with enlightenment.
“My purpose is to serve humanity,” Malala had said, most probably not even realising the depth of this sentence. The World Education Forum at Davos, Switzerland, this January, decided to make education available to all children of the world by 2015 under a worldwide programme called “I am Malala”.
Now her name is being recommended for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Let us for once take pride in one of our own for what Malala has achieved is no small feat.
She has achieved what heads of state and commanders of armies could not achieve. Her face has launched a thousand ships, she rules over the hearts of people beyond boundaries. In 16 years of life, she has achieved what one cannot even acquire in decades.
One candle has illuminated the world.
The writer is country project coordinator for a Pak-German welfare organisation and a freelance columnist.