A Nobel prize for Malala

Published: November 16, 2012
The writer hosts a show called “Capital Circuit” for News One

The writer hosts a show called “Capital Circuit” for News One

“For heaven’s sake! Give Malala’s story a rest. We all have daughters and we all make compromises for them. Don’t you know her name is being used to plan an attack on North Waziristan?” These were the lines I had to endure from a colleague, who was incensed by the media’s continuous focus on the little girl, attacked by the Taliban. In his outrage, he was not even ready to listen to me as I tried to tell him that I had just returned from a rather important meeting where I was told that there were no plans for any operation in North Waziristan.

This response was not new to me. I have continuously seen educated, seasoned people giving in to conspiracy theories just because they do not want to believe that our own people can do this to us. Engaging with these friends becomes impossible, thanks to the likes of Interior Minister Rehman Malik, who never loses an opportunity to peddle unsubstantiated conspiracy theories and Imran Khan, who teaches his supporters to blame the US for all ills in this country.

It is the denial of this sort that forces us to ignore the sacrifices of our valiant soldiers, policemen and political leaders exposed to terrorism. Have you not wondered why it is so easy for a newscaster to use the word ‘shaheed’ (martyred) when narrating a story about people killed by the Israeli or Indian forces and difficult to call our own soldiers anything but ‘jan bahaq’ (killed) when martyred by the terrorists?

Malala Yousufzai’s story is important. Not just because it exposes the Taliban for the vandals they are, but because of the courage a 15-year-old girl can show when confronted by an armed gunman committed to denying her the right to education. Only in a weird world can one resent the attention being given to such heroism. Unfortunately, we Pakistanis live in the very same weird world.

While growing up, I always wondered why we have such a dearth of national heroes. Consider this: our national poet died years before Pakistan was created, never used the country’s name in his poetry and wrote an anthem for a country that we fought all major wars with. While many countries have pictures of more than one leader on their currency notes, ours carry only the picture of the Quaid-e-Azam, who died only a year after the creation of Pakistan. Don’t get me wrong. Of course, these leaders have every right to be there. But our national journey certainly does not end there.

The trouble is that Pakistani nationalism has become a dogma in itself and we do not want to update it with every passing development. Our state and some of its deeper parts do not want to meddle with the sacrosanct notion that the only existential threat to us comes from India and only those who fight it can be our heroes. To this day, we don’t have the exact details of the Kargil war but our soldiers who perished there have been awarded the Nishan-e-Haider, but those who have written tales of great valour in the fight against terror have been offered none.

It is time to put an end to all this denial. While we remain confused about our enemies, our heroes are going to dust. It is time to celebrate the best for who they are: shining beacons of hope. Let us start by nominating Malala for the Nobel peace prize and by acknowledging her as a true national hero.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 17th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (14)

  • gp65
    Nov 16, 2012 - 11:44PM

    I am a big admirer of Malala but a Nobel prize for peace? But then if Obama can get it in the middle of 2 wars…


  • MSS
    Nov 17, 2012 - 12:06AM

    Mr Pitafi is absolutely correct about the misuse of the word ‘shaheed’. In Pakistan, anybody killed in circumstances that fuel nationalism is called ‘shaheed’. In reality the word is reserved for those who have a choice of not putting themselves in harm’s way but actually take great risks for the benefit of others (nation) and die. People killed routinely in the line of their duty or just shot at by renegades should not be called martyrs. In wars, there is a tendency for both sides to use this word excessively even when the deaths occur without there being any fighting for example as a result of bad weather. All soldiers who die in conflict or as a result of accidents cannot be called martyrs either. Otherwise general Zia-ul-haq was also a martyr. In my view ZAB was not a shaheed but was the victim of a political assasination though PPP never tire of proclaiming him a ‘shaheed’. Malala is not even dead. The picture is even worse when the reason for war is ideological. Bhagat Singh was a martyr because he refused the chance to escape from prison so that the country could benefit. There are many other examples in all nations, races and ideologies.
    Malala is a brave girl and deserves praise for her stand. But to suggest a Nobel price for her is bordering on stupidity and ignorance.


  • sabi
    Nov 17, 2012 - 12:15AM

    Let us start by nominating Malala for the Nobel peace prize and by acknowledging her as a true national hero.
    No- let us announct first a comprehensive and final battle against terrorism of all kind based on right wing mindset and convey a message to the world that in the end Malala mindset will prevail in Pakistan.


  • Bala
    Nov 17, 2012 - 12:53AM

    Malala at best can be gven braver award, she does not qualify for Nobel prize..the criteria is the person must have worked to avoid war, reduce standing armies, conduct peace congress.

    Obama did START treaty with Russia, so he deserves it (even though its hard to accept it still)

    You cannot simply give an award to a girl just because she was shot in the head. She was brave but she did nothing for world peace ..she will qualify for several awards but nobel peace prize is not one of them. Please think rationally before attacking me … as Indian troll, anti-pakistani etc.


  • karma
    Nov 17, 2012 - 10:04AM


    That’s exactly my sentiment. Nobel Peace prize criteria seems a bit fuzzy. And Malala perhaps has a long way to go. But, I believe she being awared a big prize or recognition is a big snub to the snobs in Af-Pak.


  • Nov 17, 2012 - 11:31AM

    Well the answer to the Author’s question is simple.

    Did you question the Terrorists when they were attacking India in the 1990s and early 2000s in Kashmir and elsewhere? You are now questioning them and caricaturing them when they are attacking Pakistan, and you are angry, like India was back then.

    The answer to the above question will give you a sort of closure, I hope. An uncomfortable closure, but an answer nonetheless.


  • faheema
    Nov 17, 2012 - 11:56AM

    Excellent, kudos to Mr Pitafi for painting true picture of our collective mindset that leaves no room to criticize Talibans and their apologists.


  • Nasir M.Tahir
    Nov 17, 2012 - 1:56PM

    As per the will of Alfard Nobel Barnat the inventor of dynamite the Noble Prize was started in 1901 since then this Nobel prize has been awarded 853 times, of which 23 were to organizations This prize in give in five fields chemistry, physics, literature, medicine and peace annually.
    In the history of Pakistan the unique and first Nobel Prize holder was Dr. Abdul Salam, who won this prize in 1979 in field of Physic. The whole world acknowledges and appreciated his wisdom but we as nation never recognized or gave tribute to him for bring this honor to Pakistan. Even many of our country men feel taboo even to talk about this genius.
    I appreciate if Malala is rewarded some noble prize. But the prompt question comes in my mind and I feel agony in my heart that, this prize will be an honor for us or it will be a slap on our nation face? Because she will get this pize on the cost of our hearted and hostility we showed against her..


  • ZZQ
    Nov 17, 2012 - 3:09PM

    How much this denial cum self righteous behavior of our nation has mislead us is simply astonishing… just have a look at all the so called Anti Malala sharings on FB. People have so much strong (mislead) opinions they dont even think its bad to use abusive and shameful language against their own daughter…

    Yes, Malala deserves recognition as she’s among the few good news from Pakistan. Her courage and struggle is for the right of all our daughters. Taliban’s banned female education in Afghanistan as well and they wanna do same in Pakistan. No point in denying reality.


  • kfjf
    Nov 17, 2012 - 3:43PM


    Obama was given a prize for being a symbol for peace, just to clarify. Not for anything he’d done because he had barely joined office then.

    So. Is Malala a symbol for peace, is the question. In the War on Terror which affects the entire world today, surely she is…


  • truth
    Nov 17, 2012 - 6:06PM

    I am not against Malala but there is one person who truly deserves the noble prize and that man is Abdul Sattar Edhi….His continuous efforts for the poor and needy outshine any other effort


  • naeem khan Manhattan,Ks
    Nov 17, 2012 - 8:03PM

    Good article and something to think about, beside nominating Malala for the Nobel Peace Prize and wait for the results, we should have postage stamp in her honour right now as it is in own power to do so.


  • Hairaan
    Nov 17, 2012 - 9:37PM

    Enough of Malaism. Not get back to work please.


  • Historian 1
    Nov 17, 2012 - 11:08PM

    ‘I am not against Malala but there is one person who truly deserves the noble prize and that man is Abdul Sattar Edhi….His continuous efforts for the poor and needy outshine any other effort’

    Sorry to say but Edhi is not more than a Corpse collector. He has no charisma..he is no revolutionary or any inspiration..he has done nothing to reduce killings in karachi.


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