By: Gulmina Bilal Ahmad
As the world encourages, endorses and adopts the effort taken on by Malala, it is sad to note that some of her own are abandoning her
On July 12, 2013, a young Pakistani took the podium at one of the most celebrated gatherings in the world and spoke for her country and its citizens, especially the youth. The scars from the attempt on her life were still visible. However, unfortunately, it seems that everyone except her own country seemed to be listening. Education might have been the main theme of her speech, but in fact, she was speaking on behalf of all the people who had been deprived of their rights to speak freely, to be treated with dignity, to have equal opportunity and to acquire education. She was not harbouring any vendetta and even put aside her personal grudge with the ones who nearly killed her. Malala Yousafzai described Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as a role model for compassion and forgiveness against those who have exploited religion to spread carnage and chaos. Then why do some Pakistani people doubt her intentions? Why is she being maligned at every media platform, especially social media? How can we invest our trust in religious zealots but are not ready to hear out a youngster who speaks on our behalf?
This trend of maligning and distrust of our national heroes is nothing new in Pakistan. People who dedicated their entire lives for the country and its citizens have been sidelined and victimised. Personalities such as Dr Abdus Salam, the only Pakistani Nobel Prize recipient, were persecuted due to their religious beliefs. Then there were those who were mistreated based on their sectarian and ethnic background. Even the likes of Abdul Sattar Edhi were accused of being foreign agents or working in line with a nefarious foreign agenda. Some of them left with mixed feelings of anger and sorrow, while others continued their efforts till the very end. So it does not come as a surprise for me when a youngster, opposing the Taliban ideology and whom the outfit also tried to permanently silence, is accused of being ‘anti-Pakistan’ and ‘anti-Islam’. It is unfortunate to observe that we have made heroes out of those who promoted violence and chaos, while discarding those who really have the interests of their country at heart.
Malala was shot in the head by Taliban assailants. She had to undergo a painful and prolonged treatment and it is not safe for her to return home. She nearly paid for the stand she took with her life, but horrifyingly, there are people who are not even ready to admit that there was an attempt to kill her, or even if there was, it was carried out by the Taliban. We are more concerned with conspiracies, which are not even there. Perhaps in her speech she should have added something for the people without common sense or a conscience. It should be noted that the militants did admit targeting Malala stating that “…even a child can be killed if she/he is propagating against Islam.” Our own government failed to register July 12 at the national level, while internationally it was declared the Malala Day. Perhaps it shows that Malala is more daring towards the Taliban militants than the entire powerful state of Pakistan. She defied them at a time when they were the de facto rulers of her hometown, and despite threats she stood firm and did not deviate from her stand. On the other hand, our leadership seems to fear the repercussions if they were to endorse any views conflicting with the extremist ideology. What started as activism for education of girls became the symbol of resistance in the face of tyranny worldwide.
As the world encourages, endorses and adopts the effort taken on by Malala, it is sad to note that some of her own are abandoning her. It is because of this abandonment of our heroes by the citizens that we have reached the sorry state of affairs at present. We are currently a state that is unable to provide the minority communities with security. Our society is polarised along religious, sectarian and ethnic lines, while there is lack of tolerance for the slightest of conflicting views. No one is safe from the wave of terrorism sweeping across the country. Pakistan is embroiled in a conflict that has taken more than 50,000 lives, but still we do not consider it as our war and blame everything on foreign interventions. We are afraid to raise our voice against what is wrong, whereas Pakistan is in dire need of individuals who can speak for us. They have dedicated their efforts towards the country and even face serious risks to their lives. These people are confronting the enemy that is present among us and are challenging the violent extremist mindset present in our society. If we cannot assist their efforts, at least we should not doubt their intentions or malign their image. People like Malala need our encouragement and support more than the praise they receive from the rest of the world.
The writer is a development consultant. She tweets at @GulminaBilal and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org