Fourteen-year-old Malala Yousufzai, who was awarded the National Peace Prize, was shot and wounded by unidentified gunmen in Swat. This was not a random drive-by shooting; the perpetrators specifically asked for Malala to be identified before they shot her. Although she is reported to be out of danger, the incident raises a lot of questions about the continued existence of the Taliban in Swat. According to reports, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan have claimed responsibility for the attack. In fact, Malala was added to a Taliban hit list in 2011. Malala rose to prominence when she penned a series of articles for the BBC, describing life for a girl in Taliban-controlled Swat, where she was forced to sit at home, unable to attend school. Furthermore, in March of this year, the TTP publicly threatened her saying this was done because she was among those advocating a “secular government” in Swat. Her story captured the imagination of a country where the Taliban threat had seemed distant and unreal.
Today, Swat is no longer under the control of the Taliban but they obviously still maintain a presence there. Malala would be a target not only for her writings but also because her father is a part of the local anti-Taliban jirga. This incident should ram home the reality that the enemy is still alive and remains as brutal as ever.
Earlier, we had more or less acquiesced to Taliban control of Swat and their demand to impose Sharia. However, what followed was a brutal and bloodied suppression of those who tried to stand up to the Taliban, in which hundreds of Swatis were literally butchered, their misery only ending when the military launched an operation in 2009.
This sad incident also leads to questions regarding the use of entering into talks or deals with militants, who seem to be ever ready to target innocent citizens.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 10th, 2012.