In a curious letter written to Malala Yousafzai days after her speech to the UN, Taliban leader Adnan Rashid — a former air force officer accused of involvement in a plot to kill ex-president Musharraf — has invited her to return to the country, end her “smear” campaign against the Taliban and continue her education at “any madrassa” for girls near her home area. Rashid has also suggested in his letter that Malala use her pen to promote the cause of the Muslim ummah, rather than a system of colonial education devised by the British.
The invitation issued to Malala, through the letter distributed to the media mainly in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, does not seem very tempting. For one, it completely ignores the fact that the Taliban have over the past months threatened Malala on more than one occasion, warning that she will be shot again if she comes home. In such circumstances, the teenager is hardly likely to make herself a target once more after so narrowly escaping death. Indeed the letter, the authenticity of which has been confirmed by the senior Taliban leadership,also raises issues as to what right that group has to intervene in the lives of individuals by advising them which institutions to attend and how to act. The fact that they continue to do so is not comforting. While Rashid states the shooting of Malala was an “individual” act, the fact is that the organisation has claimed responsibility for it and as such, the claim that it was the act of one man is hard to believe.
The letter, which has not as yet been personally received by Malala, also stresses she was targeted not for promoting education for girls but for vilifying the Taliban. This is a highly debatable point. Since the Taliban were the force that, notably till the summer of 2009, challenged female education in Swat by attacking schools and then banning it all together, the two issues are hard to separate. The key point also is that the Taliban continue to perceive Malala as a threat. She then deserves credit for taking them on, while any question of a return for the teenager is clearly unthinkable while they remain active on the ground.