At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Malala Yousufzai, who was shot and wounded by the Taliban for her efforts on behalf of girls’ education in Swat, was cited by multiple well-known individuals as an inspirational figure to children worldwide. Among those toasting her influence were former British prime minister and current UN special education envoy Gordon Brown as well as Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt. It is heartening to see how Malala’s message has spread and is a tribute to her courage and bravery. Few adults would be willing to risk their lives to fight for freedom, let alone teenagers. Even now, Malala has refused to give up her fight, although no one would blame her for doing so after being targeted for assassination.
The one thing that should be clear is that Malala’s global celebrity status is a reflection only of her immense character and fortitude; it is not something we as a country should take pride in. When Malala was fighting her lonely battle in Swat, we did nothing to help her. Even the military operation that was eventually carried out against the Taliban was done so grudgingly. Before that, the ANP, which counts itself as a liberal party, was prepared to sign the Nizam-e-Adal with the Taliban. That Malala is still alive today is mainly due to luck, not the efforts of the state.
We may have read Malala’s heartbreaking diaries describing life under Taliban rule but we have not learned any lesson from them. There are countless other Malalas in the tribal areas, who have to put up with the same brutality, yet we still talk of peace deals and accepting the reality of the Taliban. There are those who still cling to the belief that Malala must have been targeted by Western spy agencies or that the attack was a fake one. Then there are others who accept the reality of the attack but do not want to do anything to punish the perpetrators. We may call Malala a hero, but the truth is that we as a country do not deserve her.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 27th, 2013.