Malala Day in a wasteland of women’s rights

Published: November 11, 2012
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In Pakistan, women’s rights that are ensured under Islam are being violated. PHOTO: RASHID AJMERI/FILE

In Pakistan, women’s rights that are ensured under Islam are being violated. PHOTO: RASHID AJMERI/FILE

The world observed Malala Day to highlight the struggle of a little girl of Swat for education. The UN has applied the example of this little girl to the world crisis of women’s status in various societies. In the UK, there is a popular demand that Malala Yousufzai be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Malala was targeted by the Taliban after years of campaigning done by her against the Taliban policy of destroying girls’ schools in regions of the country where the writ of the state is weak.

In Pakistan, views about what Malala achieved in the face of the Taliban tyranny, are tragically divided. The religious parties are suspicious of the events surrounding her wounding and subsequent transfer to the UK for treatment, with JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman going as far as to say that the whole incident was a ‘drama’. Other religious parties and groups such as the PTI did condemn the attack but could not resist linking it with drone strikes, ostensibly to portray the Taliban’s diminished responsibility. Political parties and the army support Malala and her cause of girls’ education. The crisis in Pak-Afghan relations has tempted Pakistan’s interior minister to make ambiguous statements that seek to explain the Malala incident as a conspiracy hatched by the Afghan intelligence and the US military command.

The main culprit is the warlord of Swat, Maulana Fazlullah, who was defeated by the army in 2009, after the people of Pakistan were incensed by a video showing his gunmen flogging women in the valley. The army moved some 2.5 million people out of the region and sent in 80,000 troops to clear Swat of militants. But Fazlullah and his commanders escaped across the border into Kunar province, in northeastern Afghanistan. Kunar is under the control of al Qaeda affiliates, the Afghan Taliban and other groups from Central Asia, the Caucasus, China and Europe. Fazlullah has relaunched his movement and is trying to make a comeback in Swat.

Malala’s plight has given rise to the demand for a military operation in North Waziristan because Fazlullah’s deeds were being owned by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. But military action in North Waziristan can only be undertaken with corresponding anti-militant steps by the US and Afghan military across the border. There are reports that the Afghan intelligence is not restraining Fazlullah because of the perception that for the past 12 years, Pakistan has been allowing the Afghan Taliban to launch strikes into Afghanistan against the US and Afghan forces before retreating into Pakistan.

Pakistan’s other crisis is the approximation of the thinking of a section of its population with the agenda of the Taliban terrorists. Looking at the intense anti-American feelings at the popular level, Pakistan’s political parties are reluctant to take an aggressively pro-Malala stance, in particular, and girls’ education and women’s rights in general. The education sector has been in steady decline, while girls’ education is largely neglected outside the big cities. The irony is that girls’ primary schooling in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Swat had always been better organised than in the rest of the country. The Taliban have literally cut the grounds from under it.

In Sindh, Hindu girls are coming under pressure from kidnappings and forcible conversions. Unable to stem this trend, the government is now looking the other way as sections of the Hindu community migrate to India. In the rest of the country, women’s rights that are ensured under Islam, especially the right of choice in marriage, are being violated. Runaway marriages are busted and lawfully married couples killed. Even after the passage of Protection of Women legislation by parliament — although with pointed watering down of some effective aspects — maltreatment of women has increased. The attack on Malala has meant many things for Pakistan. It has highlighted the deprivation of the rights of women and the growing extremism in Pakistan, which expresses itself in neglect and ill-treatment of women. The burden of the concept of ghairat (honour) is carried on the shoulders of Pakistan’s neglected half of the population.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 12th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (8)

  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Nov 11, 2012 - 11:55PM

    PTI is jealous of Malala. It’s jealous because she has attained more fame and respect than Taliban Khan. PTI leader went to hospital to hijack her popularity but failed to realize that his ideology is completely different from Malala. Since that day PTI supporters have started campaign against her.

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  • azadpashtun
    Nov 12, 2012 - 12:02PM

    Let the Taliban attacks on education (which are horrible) not become an excuse for the government for the very absence of schools, closure due to staff shortage or ghost schools. More than 3 million children are out of school only in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The KP government has been able to rebuilt only 400 schools out of the 2000 destroyed by floods and militants. This is in addition to the absence of schools in many parts of the province.

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  • Uza Syed
    Nov 12, 2012 - 4:41PM

    Sir, just one ‘Malala Day’ and a ‘Nobel Prize for Malala’ won’t do. We have not are not making any progress As long as such news regularly in our national press and s long as there is no public outcry on such incidents as listed here under, we haven’t made any progress toward ‘women rights’ or even respect.

    “Jirga declares 13 girls vani in Dera Bugti” —– The decisi­on was taken to settle murder-relate­d confli­ct betwee­n Bagira­ni and Shahwa­ni tribes. — Published: October 8, 2012

    “Tribal (in)justice: 9-year-old girl given in Vani to settle dispute” —- Police arrest four member­s of Pancha­yat, accord­ing to offici­al.—– Published: November 10, 2012

    “Panchayat (in)justice: Man arrested for kidnap of three girls” —— Daught­ers still missin­g, mother says she was inform­ed that one of her daught­ers would be killed.

    “Crime against women: Women paraded naked” —– Nusrat Bibi has appeal­ed to the chief minist­er to order her daught­er’s recove­ry and action agains­t the kidnap­pers.—– Published: November 9, 2012

    “‘Honour’ crime: Two women killed, body found in canal” —- Suspec­t had sister of helpin­g his wife elope. ——- Published: November 12, 2012

    “A man in Gujranwala killed his five-year-old daughter as an act of revenge because he had wanted to marry for the third time,” Express News reported.

    “Crime: Woman axed to death ” — Police arrest­ed the victim’s three brothe­r-in-laws. —–
    Published: November 10, 2012

    “Man in Gujranwala kills 5-year-old daughter to take revenge from wives” —– Gulzar Ahmed had wanted to marry for third time, first and second wife got ‘potent­ial’ third marrie­d to someon­e… — Published: November 12, 2012

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  • zeeshan sheikh
    Nov 12, 2012 - 8:56PM

    Why media is not talking about 6 student of madrasa killed by terrorists in Karachi. Oh wait they were sunni muslims, were studying religion and weren’t supported by USA

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  • Abdurrehman
    Nov 12, 2012 - 10:24PM

    @zeeshan Malala was killed terrorist TALIBAN , not by sectarian , while Madraasaha were not killed by USA they were killed by their fellow MUSLIM brothers , its religeous extremism , militancy , who is killing our innocent cetizens .

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  • Cautious
    Nov 12, 2012 - 10:39PM

    After reading this article someone needs to explain just what makes you different than the Taliban? Yeah your not in favor of beheading but I would argue that if you shave off a few extremes your pretty much the same. If so – the prospects for women in your country or even joining the modern World are bleak.

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  • Derrick Prouse
    Nov 12, 2012 - 11:07PM

    I agree with the comment that stated that “one Malala day is not enough.” The world can’t afford to have her story isolated as a “rare occurrence” but rather a “global issue” that needs sustained support to create lasting change. Malala and her school mates didn’t risk their lives just for girls in their village, but the girls in their country. If Malala completely recovers, I expect that she will take to the global stage to call for change. We all need to be willing to give support, give funds, attend a rally, whatever it takes. If young girls can risk their lives, why can’t we as adults?

    I read this article about her and it gave me a lot of hope link text. Malala isn’t a “one time protester.” So she doesn’t deserve a simple “Malala day.”

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  • Alaf Khan
    Nov 13, 2012 - 2:55AM

    I was stunned by Mr Gordon Brown’s statement that RICKSHAWS PLYING ON THE STREETS OF ISLAMABAD CARRIED PORTRAITS OF MALALA. Would the visiting dignitary care to take his blindfold off ? Islamabad is the only town in Pakistan that has no rickshaws at all.

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