The girl child leads

Published: October 21, 2012

The writer is Distinguished Professor of Economics at Forman Christian College University and Beaconhouse National University

She just wanted to go to school. But the Taliban had announced a ban on girls’ education in Swat and were blowing up their schools (155 of them this year). Malala Yousufzai and her classmates resisted the onslaught with a quiet resolve to win the right to education. Malala had earlier written in her diary (reported by BBC Urdu online): “the night was filled with the noise of artillery fire and I woke up three times. But since there was no school I got up later at 10:00 am and afterwards, my friend came over and we discussed our homework.” The poignancy and power of such humanity moved the world, so the Taliban shot her in the head. They failed to silence her though. Most Pakistanis, for once, united with the civilised world in their outrage. Even as she lies in hospital, she gives life to the great cause she has carried on her slender frame. One of her teenaged schoolmates testified before a television camera in Mingora “ …every girl in Swat is Malala. We’ll educate ourselves. We will win. They can’t defeat us.”

The clarity and courage of the schoolgirls of Swat is in sharp contrast to the confused and weak-kneed response of the state and mainstream political parties to the Taliban-al Qaeda attack on Pakistan and its way of life. The military awaits an order from the government to enforce the law of the land in areas where the state has lost its writ. But the government dithers: it sought a consensus resolution from the National Assembly to do something ‘practical’ about those who had claimed responsibility for the targeted attack on Malala. The opposition parties significantly blocked the motion and the government meekly withdrew. However, an official bravery award was announced for Malala, which now simultaneously signifies the strength of Malala and the weakness of the government and the political parties.

Two counterposed forms of social existence have now been brought into sharp relief. Reason and a humane sensibility define a civilised society as opposed to the bigotry and brutality of the Taliban. They have flogged, stoned to death young girls in public and now, shot them as they went to school. They have beheaded a number of our soldiers and assassinated politicians. The ideology they propound is the very antithesis of religion, for religion means the re-establishment of the ligament with God: the ligament of adoration and loving care.

Who will stand up for the rule of law and the values that underpin a civilised society? The government and the political parties cower in confusion and fear, while the girl child takes the lead.

In spite of the monstrous nature of the Taliban enterprise, they have been allowed, and for a time, encouraged to spread ignorance, intolerance and violence in significant sections of Pakistan’s society. They have also achieved influence over a number of political parties as well as sections of the media. At the same time, they have penetrated Pakistan’s armed forces and demonstrated their ability to launch successful guerilla attacks against key military installations in recent years, such as the GHQ in Rawalpindi, the key Mehran Naval Base in Karachi and the strategic Kamra Airbase in Taxila. The declared objective of the Taliban is to capture the state of Pakistan. If they succeed in this, then they will establish control over our society through a reign of terror.

It is noteworthy that the successful penetration of society by the Taliban occurred because of the ambiguity of the state apparatus, which, for many years, nurtured some of the most dangerous Taliban groups as ‘strategic assets’. It is not surprising, therefore, that when these groups began to attack Pakistan, the political and military capacity to defend the country was weakened by path dependence: the inertia and resistance to redefining the principal national security threat. Thus the state has so far been unable to formulate a war strategy against the Taliban, let alone implement it with the full strength that the formidable Pakistan military possesses. Malala’s sacrifice makes clear that the time has come to unite and fight for Pakistan and its people.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 22nd,  2012.

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Reader Comments (19)

  • John F
    Oct 22, 2012 - 2:23AM

    I still don’t get it. Weren’t these so called barbarians your heroes as long as they killed innocent people in India?

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  • d
    Oct 22, 2012 - 4:00AM

    @John F:
    ofcourse thats what youd say, or anyone else far removed from our domestic issuesRecommend

  • Talha Butt
    Oct 22, 2012 - 4:40AM

    @The Kashmiri freedom fighters are not involved in any terrorist activities and are not carrying out terrorism in Pakistan.
    Terrorists in Pakistan are the fake taliban sponsored by India and Israel to destabilize Pakistan for its nuclear weapons.

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  • F
    Oct 22, 2012 - 5:20AM

    …..and a populace that refuses to follow.

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  • gp65
    Oct 22, 2012 - 6:36AM

    @Talha Butt: “@The Kashmiri freedom fighters are not involved in any terrorist activities and are not carrying out terrorism in Pakistan.
    Terrorists in Pakistan are the fake taliban sponsored by India and Israel to destabilize Pakistan for its nuclear weapons”.

    You still don’t get it do you? Anyone who kills another innocent person is a terrorist whether they kill an Indian or a Pakistani. Until you think that armed gunmen killing unarmed Indian civilians are mujahids/freedom fighters, you will be unable to confront the terrorists in your country. You can call TTP RAW and Mossad sponsored all you want and claim that no Muslim can do this but the fact is that these people were quoting from the Quran to justify shooting at Malala – not the Bhagvad Geeta or the Indian constitution.

    A problem must be well defined before you can solve it.

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  • numbersnumbers
    Oct 22, 2012 - 9:31AM

    @Talha Butt:
    Please provide some credible references to support your comment “terrorists in Pakistan are fake Taliban sponsored by India and Israel”! Otherwise we may all think you are just another TTP Apologist!!!

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  • sikandar
    Oct 22, 2012 - 10:56AM

    Sorry to say there is no solutions in sight, I am quite sure that 70% of the citizens are aware and then there is this bias, religious bias and hence the rot will eat pakistan one day. Fanatics have achieved what they aimed for but the gullible people will never recover.

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  • wonderer
    Oct 22, 2012 - 11:58AM

    I had almost given up on my expectation that Pakistan, as a united society, will welcome the rare chance Malala’s uncommonly brave sacrifice had provided for introspection. This article has revived it.

    Malala is no ordinary child, and her actions have unimaginable messages for the society as a whole to wake up and take notice of our meekly accepted folly. Malala, by her suffering, has provided to us, probably the last chance, for setting our house in order. If we fail to unite now to destroy our tormentors, we shall have to live as their slaves. Zarra Sochiye!

    To all those interested in understanding the significance (including religious significance) of the sacrifice of Malala, in the words of Dr. Munir Saami, I would recommend a serious viewing of the following video:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=eu8NyLeMCbc

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  • Zalim Singh
    Oct 22, 2012 - 2:06PM

    very sad. I have a daughter of the same age. I would die rather than seeing her suffer like this.

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  • Oct 22, 2012 - 2:51PM

    @wonderer:
    “….If we fail to unite now to destroy our tormentors, we shall have to live as their slaves. Zarra Sochiye!”

    The media has its own way, which makes Malala incident seem to be over-hyped. Perhaps there is some truth in it. The question that needs to be asked is whether the society has reached a tipping point? Is it the critical mass needed, that would set it in motion?
    .
    Even if it becomes the beginning of revolutionary changes in the society, what guarantees that like the Arab Spring, interested parties won’t take over and divert this momentum towards what they desire? Counting on resistance to change, IK has positioned his party slightly to the right of JI. Despite the claims, a most Pro-West niche.

    Faiz has shown resentment over false dawns.

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  • meekal a ahmed
    Oct 22, 2012 - 3:13PM

    our words are powerful but……………………

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  • yousaf
    Oct 22, 2012 - 5:39PM

    @author::Pl.do not put blame on National assembly for not having passed a resolution against an attack on Malala.Malala is in her teens and is in a better position to think clearly than the National Assembly which is still in its infancy (born and aborted several times before present one).As NA grows older ‘without any mishap’, I hope it will be able to make decisions on her own.Lets wish/pray for the better and not get disappointed……..AameenRecommend

  • wonderer
    Oct 22, 2012 - 6:04PM

    @Abid P Khan:

    Haath par haath rakh kar baithey raheney se kya ho ga?

    May be, we are too fragmented a society for any meaningful action; and our future is uncertain and unforeseeable.

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  • gp65
    Oct 22, 2012 - 7:24PM

    @wonderer: ” had almost given up on my expectation that Pakistan, as a united society, will welcome the rare chance Malala’s uncommonly brave sacrifice had provided for introspection. This article has revived it… If we fail to unite now to destroy our tormentors, we shall have to live as their slaves. Zarra Sochiye!”

    Your words moved me. I hope my judgment (that the opportunity to unite has been lost due to deliberate obfuscation) is wrong and your hope proves correct.

    @yousaf: Decisions like whether to go to war are never taken by consensus – and this is a civil war- whether you label it thus or not. The executive needs to make them. In the parliamentary system the executive is PM and his cabinet. Defacto it is Zardari and Zardari has made it clear that he will allow a vocal minority to effectively exercise a veto by insisting on a consensus. I would like to clarify that by war I do not necessarily mean an operation in NWA. I just mean an idealogical war against extremism using all tools available to the state – media, changing the textboks, contorlling what goes out of madrassas, laws related to hate speech – holistically addressing what is a highly radicalized mindset,

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  • S K Afridi
    Oct 22, 2012 - 8:11PM

    @John F:
    Taliban have never undertaken any sort of operation in India. Yes, if Pakistan fails to check their onslaught because they have sanctuaries in Afghanistan and are also getting massive support from RAW and CIA, then India may be their next target.

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  • Atyachaar
    Oct 22, 2012 - 8:51PM

    @Talha Butt

    The fact that your ancestors chose to keep the surname Butt in your name to indicate they were Hindu Pandits speaks volumes. The so called “Freedom fighters” thought it is necessary to kick out Pandits from the homes of their ancestors. It could have been you and your family in their target list.

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  • gp65
    Oct 22, 2012 - 9:14PM

    @S K Afridi: ” Yes, if Pakistan fails to check their onslaught because they have sanctuaries in Afghanistan and are also getting massive support from RAW and CIA, then India may be their next target.”

    I fail to understand your logic. You are saying on the one hand that TTP is funded by RAW. On the other hand you are saying that it will attack India after it has dealt with Pakistan. Why would a RAW funded entity attack India? Confused much? That is what happens when reliance is placed on conspiracy theories instead of the truth.

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  • Oct 24, 2012 - 2:51PM

    @wonderer:

    “@Abid P Khan:

    Haath par haath rakh kar baithey raheney se kya ho ga?

    May be, we are too fragmented a society for any meaningful action; and our future is uncertain and unforeseeable. ”
    .
    That was my question. Has the time arrived? For my taste, should have happened yesterday. I am aware of the fragmentation, religious, ethnic, geographical etc which has been exploited to desist change and will be in future too. “”Houston we have a problem”. Sounds very pessimistic, seems as if we will never get out of the present quagmire.

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  • wonderer
    Oct 24, 2012 - 6:01PM

    @Abid P Khan:

    I too feel this is the end of us, but today, while commenting somewhere else, I happen to write the following:

    I am as pessimistic as you Sir, but may be only a little less. All is not lost, yet.

    I strongly feel that Pakistan is that sort of country, or perhaps the only one, which will realize its true potential by a terrorist revolution. If you see contradiction in terms here, not your fault.

    A day will come when all Pakistanis, or all those still left standing, will rise united against religious obfuscation and terrorism and destroy their tormentors decidedly.

    Malala, that courageous and divinely beautiful Daughter of the Nation, has already shown us the way. Our army and politicians are too cowardly to stand up and be counted. Let us unite and take up the challenge.

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