Should Malala get a Nobel Prize?

Published: December 12, 2012
The writer is an independent social scientist and author of Military Inc.

The writer is an independent social scientist and author of Military Inc.

The government seems to have moved a resolution in Parliament to declare Malala Yousufzai as daughter of the nation. Pakistan’s top dignitaries have also visited the UK, in recent days, to meet the young girl heroine whose name has also been proposed for the Nobel Peace Prize. Given the attention she has received lately from all over the world as appreciation for standing up for her right to education and that of other girls, there is also a possibility that she may even be seriously considered for the award. However, I am tempted to ask the question if it is a good idea in the first place.

I would also like to make it clear that I have endorsed her nomination with an open heart and my objection has got nothing to do with her but how we as a state and government, or even a society, tend to react to winning an award. There is a high probability that once we, as a state, bag the Nobel through Malala, our entire focus will shift on the prize rather than the problem behind it. The award will be another trophy to add to the Oscar received earlier on a documentary Saving Face by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy on acid victims that is being used for the ‘softening’ of Pakistan’s image around the world.

The country, its policymakers and its people in general, have become very sensitive to the bad image business. However, a problem arises with the instinct to correct or soften the image through cosmetic rather than real change. For instance, the Foreign Office decided to parade the Oscar before foreign diplomats while hiding the burnt faces from the presentation, stating that this would be bad for the country’s image. This approach may be right from a marketing perspective but this also indicates an extremely short-term and myopic view of things. Pakistan cannot be properly reimaged until it is truly reimagined.

It is also a fact that the government brought some immediate changes to the law after the Oscar award by amending the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). The addition to Sections 332 and 336 ensures that if proven guilty in an act of doing internal bodily harm through acid throwing, a convict would pay one million rupees as fine and also experience life sentence. However, there are huge road blocks in the form of implementation of the law. Women continue to suffer mainly because the judicial system has not developed any extra sympathy for an acid-burn victim, just like in the case of victims of terrorism. More than just the law, such victims need a sympathetic system that helps implement the law. Our natural tendency is now to remember the Oscar rather than the story behind it.

Our reaction to Malala Yousufzai’s shooting is not very different either. The world seems to recognise the young girl’s bravery and various international leaders have expressed their commitment to investing in girls’ education or education in general in Pakistan. But there is yet a bigger problem of the Taliban roaming around in the country in different shapes and forms and killing young children or older people. The government could show its commitment by at least a token gesture of not wasting funds on visits by senior dignitaries to the UK and diverting those resources for security or education or in actions badly needed to correct the problem.

Are we even inclined to look away from the possible Nobel that we may get due to the bravery of a young child and start seriously concentrating on tragedies that continue to happen even after the Malala incident? Not too long ago, another 12 year-old-girl, Mehzar Zehra, was shot and wounded in Karachi, which is the largest cosmopolitan city of the country and far away from the tribal areas. However, the Taliban run their operations freely and have systematically targeted former members of the Swat peace committee who have been hiding or living away in Karachi in hope for some peace.

Does it really matter if the president, his children, the interior minister and an entire train of ministers do not go for a photo-op with just one under-treatment girl and instead focus on correcting the system that has continued to produce more Malalas? What will it take for us to remember that we suffer from a deeper malaise and softening of image requires a surgical approach towards the problem of militancy and jihadism in this country?

The government should rather focus on four critical areas if it really wants people to think differently about Pakistan: fighting militants and their ideology as well; zero tolerance towards use of illegal force by any religious or non-religious forces; improving the judicial and policing system and bringing qualitative change in education to wean out those biases that generate radicalism, which, in turn produces killers touting as jihadis.

Can we ever get rid of these killers of young girls if segments of the state or its certain agencies continue to support jihadism in one form or the other? These non-state actors have proved extremely expensive and this is time that the state focused on trashing its earlier policy in action and not just in words. Similarly, there is no action against people, groups, parties that use violence in their discourse. Interestingly, no one has seriously revisited deweaponisation that was cosmetically pursued during the first few years of the Pervez Musharraf government.

Several papers have also been written on strengthening internal security through investing in the police and in improving the legal framework to deal with violence. We now even have a National Counterterrorism Authority and a related law which remains under water due to the competing egos of the interior minister or our several intelligence agencies. This continues to make any efforts at counter-terrorism difficult if not impossible.

Last but not the least, is changes in the educational system that experts have been demanding for a long time. Sadly, while we focus on softening images and pleasing undesirable polices in the name of electoral alliances, more lives are lost. We need solid action and not just a Nobel Prize to secure the hundreds and thousands of young girls and boys of this country.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 13th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (40)

  • Mirza
    Dec 12, 2012 - 10:38PM

    What an important Op Ed that deals with the real problems of the country. Thanks a lot for that. You wrote “judicial system has not developed any extra sympathy for an acid-burn victim, just like in the case of victims of terrorism. More than just the law, such victims need a sympathetic system that helps implement the law.”
    The judicial system is not interested in the major crimes against women and the state. The laws are useless unless implemented. But the judiciary is more interested in political cases rather than terrorism, acid throwing and high treason against the state.
    The whole world is recognizing our problems whould we ever do that? Or we too busy in collecting money after every sad event.


  • Maula Jut
    Dec 12, 2012 - 10:54PM

    Yes and no. The young girl’s courageous stand against violent obscurantists produced a global wave of admiration and calls for recognition including the Nobel award. Let’s not get distracted by what the others, especially the rulers do by their acts of commission and omission. Malala is a symbol of our residual goodness and dignity as a nation and as humans.


  • Humble Muslim
    Dec 12, 2012 - 11:27PM

    I think that Malala should get the highest Pakistani award…like Nishaan e Imtiaz. The same one given to Mr. Qadir Khan.

    If any girl needs to get a Nobel Prize, I think it should be the 11 year old from Punjab(Rabwah) who became the youngest person in the world to pass the GCE “O” level, despite being barred to appear for the exam in Pakistan.


  • Saleem
    Dec 12, 2012 - 11:30PM

    If Obama and the EU can be awarded a nobel peace prize then surely she should get one. On a serious note Abdul Sattar Edhi is far more deserving of it.


  • rukun
    Dec 13, 2012 - 12:48AM

    who will protect the people if the law and the police are busy protecting the leaders


  • Aslam
    Dec 13, 2012 - 1:04AM

    Nobel prize should go to the person who has worked for peace for a long time and has an actual impact. If we go beyond the hype, her work has not impacted real lives and has not made much contribution apart from a massive support from across the world and some petitions, some promises, some signatures. Yes Edhi deserves it a lot more, his work has changed and saved thousands of lives.Recommend

  • Its (still) Econonmy Stupid
    Dec 13, 2012 - 1:52AM

    Absolutely not! What is the rush? Nobel Prize is not fast food. Her story is not time tested. There is growing body of evidence that the whole thing is propaganda on war on terror and it is all staged.
    A Nobel Peace Prize for the Malala psyop? Why not Product Malala™?
    the Nobel prize is explicitly for someone who “shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”
    It was her abusive car salesmen-like father who chose her for that role after another girl backed out because he wanted to save his for-profit girl’s school system in SWAT and thus his elite status in the region. She didn’t write the blogs attributed to her after the fact (they were published under a pen name), they were supposedly “phoned in” to a BBC journalist who wrote them himself. And she was never shot in the head, it was staged to garner Gordon Brown’s Education First project the needed international sympathy to push beleaguered nations to fund his global for-profit school system.

    The story is actually about Malala’s daddy Ziauddin Youasfzai, a privileged man, a member of an old Pakistani elite family and class, who was about to lose his family business, educating girls separately from boys giving them a lesser education as described by their customs, so he got together with the BBC to create a modern day Pakistani hero, his daughter Malala, who could be used as an emotion-based PR campaign to reverse the agreements in SWAT and build his “girls education” empire throughout Pakistan.
    The fact is, it’s Malala’s father who holds a “traditional” view of the role of women in society. He keeps reporters from talking to Malala’s mother because it’s not her place to be answering questions and he runs schools which refuse to integrate boys and girls in school.

    “Miracle Malala” is what she’s now being called. Almost every article mentioning her name ends up saying pretty much the exact same thing: “promote the global for-profit education movement“.

  • MSS
    Dec 13, 2012 - 2:12AM

    Praise for Malala has been universal. She deserves a lot more encouragement by the society and the government of Pakistan in the form of more girls schools and incentives for enrolment in schools. The schools should also be provided armed protection where practical. That should please Malala.
    However, a Nobel prize is awarded for some serious achievement in a field to better the lives of humans and societies. Malala has not achieved anything yet. Receiving a bullet is painful but is not an achievement. Looking for a Nobel for that child is cheapening the Nobel prize as well insulting the likes of Fleming who saved million upon millions of lives with their discoveries. Those that are even asking for a Nobel Prize for Malala must have very low expectations from their own children and the country as a whole and seem to be jumping the bandwagon hoping it would reach Stokholm.


  • MSS
    Dec 13, 2012 - 2:15AM

    “Can we ever get rid of the killers of young girls ………”.
    A Nobel for Malala will really be a Nobel for sponsors of terrorism.


  • karma
    Dec 13, 2012 - 2:28AM

    Hard hitting article as usual by one of my favorite writers.

    But, Nobel prize is given to Individuals and causes. Not to nations. A Nobel prize given to a person is not that of a nation. Same goes to Oscar.

    Pakistan all but renounced Abdus Salam, even after he won the Nobel. In case of Malala, quite a vocal section in pakistan has already rejected her, with various conspiracy theories and attributing motives to her (or her father).

    So, she getting a Nobel prize would be in spite of Pakistan – not because of it. In fact, a Nobel prize to Malala is a slap on the face of Pakistan, just as Nobel to Mother Teresa (another great person) was a slap on the face of India – it showed up how cruel & hopeless India was (still is) in treating leprosy patients.


  • Smj
    Dec 13, 2012 - 3:05AM

    “Malala Yousufzai” used to write for BBC and it was BBC who stood with her, and then the Ghairat of Pakistani media wakes up or else the Pakistani media, judiciary and state has no interest in another vicitim of taliban.

    “Mehzar Zehra” is a shia. the Pakistani media, judiciary and state has no interest in another shia vicitim of taliban.

    How many daughters needed to be shot to open our eyes?


  • sattar rind
    Dec 13, 2012 - 3:06AM

    Writers all questions are important and relevant but these questions have nothing any relevancy with the question that should Malala get Noble peace? Here is the answer: yes she should and if she getting succeeded, it would be great achievement for her for Pakistan and against Taliban… and if we not turn that great opportunity in positive manner it would our mistake and we are very experienced as nation making mistakes


  • Jim
    Dec 13, 2012 - 3:11AM

    Ha ha ha! Do you clowns even know what the Nobel Prizes are awarded for and what is the basis for consideration? What world do you people live in? Malala is a courageous girl. She deserves many accolades and recognition. But the Nobel has criteria which you folks need to read up on. Yes, Edhi might qualify, but Nobel will have to rewrite its charter to give one to Malala.


  • Acorn Guts
    Dec 13, 2012 - 3:31AM

    and then what? apart from some temporary bragging rights what else will it achieve for this nation? what did Chinnoy’s oscar give us in long term? there was much arms flailing then! what did we do to the only person so far who brought us ‘the’ Nobel prize? we stubbornly fail to address the real issues but insist on claiming undue share of glory.

    I know there will be those who wave a fist at this comment and demand that Malala’s bravery be recognised, oh please, there are more Malala’s being destroyed right under your noses at this very moment, go and save them first! Fix the real issues, you do that and you earn your prize …


  • SK5
    Dec 13, 2012 - 3:55AM

    Nobel piece prizes for both Edhi and Malala!


  • Ali Islam
    Dec 13, 2012 - 4:08AM

    Malala is media’s doll. Please ask take the views from ordinary Pakistani, what they think about it.


  • ali imran
    Dec 13, 2012 - 4:36AM

    HECK NO!!


  • Dec 13, 2012 - 5:32AM

    Pakistanis only want prizes for the Mullahs destroying Pakistan from within – Malalas, girls, boys the youth of Pakistan who wish to educate themselves to make a better future for Pakistan and Pakistanis are not regarded well.

    Pakistan does not deserve Malala, it deserves only Mullah


  • NAkhtar
    Dec 13, 2012 - 8:26AM

    Dear Ayesha, what a thought provoking piece you put for the people.
    Look how these policy makers are running for getting aid in the name of MALAL, how much striving continues, isn’t shameful?
    They have forgotton to resolve the basci issues in Pakistan,but showing their face as sincere and patriotic rulers in Pakistan, What have they done in the last five years is enough to comrehend,that world should senses the Pakistani rulers intenstions.
    They are now cashing the MALALA incident, its really shameful and disgusting.


  • nadya
    Dec 13, 2012 - 9:43AM

    excellent article and advice by Dr. Ayesha. I truly endorse your way of perceiving the problem as well as the solutions to these grave issues. I hope and wish the government or the political leaders as well as the agencies are also reading this piece and use it for a better Pakistan.


  • Ali Zaid
    Dec 13, 2012 - 10:23AM

    WTH? Will this Malala fuzz ever end?
    There are 15+ reported target killings everyday in Karachi only. Those who are being targeted are also educated and tax paying citizens of Pakistan. Those who are being target killed had families to feed and children to educate but…. this evil media has made a mountain out of a molehill.
    Our society as a whole has become senseless and brainless. The public is just passenger-cars of a train whose engine is Media and Government. Wherever this media takes the public, it just follows. MULES!!!


  • The Fact
    Dec 13, 2012 - 10:26AM

    On the land (Pak) of blinds and stupid’s, among those one eyed is the king. All were pre-planned game with highly exaggerated media support.


  • Dec 13, 2012 - 10:53AM

    “Wanna be GORA ” class of Pakistan has some serious issues with Pakistan for unknown reasons . Talibans are the soft target of government and the fascist liberalism from 10 years . such mind set always used to blame religion in particular ISLAM under the cover of there fragile belief . From 10 years we are constantly listening government blaming every terrorist attack on talibans . Now main question which rise here is who is stopping government to put so called “talibans” behind the bars ? .Why they failed to give punishment to such culprits ?It actually proves the fact that whether they are government created talibans or government is deliberately hiding them to keep there belly’s full with AID .another important question which rise here is whom weapons/technology talibans are using ?? .Indeed it is also a fact that talibans are using American arms against us . if they are real talibans who are doing terrorism in pakistan ,it is justified as because of the fact that our government and people are supporting invaders in AFGHANISTAN by giving them land access and support to crush AFGHAN people .we are the ally of them .PAKISTANI people dont have to cry because there government is them selves responsible for keeping them in worst scenario .


  • Shoaib Mir
    Dec 13, 2012 - 10:54AM

    Better we do it than we don’t – with or without a Nobel! “The government should rather focus on four critical areas if it really wants people to think differently about Pakistan: [1.] fighting militants and their ideology as well; [2.] zero tolerance towards use of illegal force by any religious or non-religious forces; [3.] improving the judicial and policing system and [4.] bringing qualitative change in education to wean out those biases that generate radicalism, which, in turn produces killers touting as jihadis.”


  • shahid
    Dec 13, 2012 - 11:15AM

    Should we now expect proposals for Noble nomination (posthumous obviously) for “Taslima Solangi” also? In case we have forgotten she was the girl who was thrown to hunter dogs and killed; perpetrators of the crime have not been brought to justice till today. And what about the five girls who were buried alive in 2008? Should they also not be considered for such a nomination; perpetrators of that crime have also not been brought to justice. Incidentally minister Israrullah Zehri who justified the killing by live burial, is still a minister in the federal government and now heads a more powerful ministry! There are many others. We routinely kill hundreds of women in our country for one reason or an other; isn’t there one from amongst them who may be worthy of being nominated for a Noble prize?

    No, certainly not. Israrullah Zehri’s who commit these acts are from amongst us, belong to our ruling elite and so true to the time honored tradition one points out faults of others only and cry for those only who are victimized by others. And please do not worry about the hypocrisy of it all. Let us concentrate on what happened in Swat for the time being …


  • wonderer
    Dec 13, 2012 - 11:30AM

    There is, ironically, too much common sense in this brilliant piece for most Pakistanis to accept and act upon. As is clear from most of the comments so far, everything except the Nobel for Malala has been found irrelevant. Is it not tragic that eminent writers and wise people in this land-of-the-pure can do so very little to change the society?


  • Something Clever
    Dec 13, 2012 - 12:26PM

    Simple answer: No, she doesn’t meet the requirements for that specific award.
    Complicated answer: There isn’t one unless I grab a Thesaurus and try to find the most obscure and complicated words possible and use them when giving the simple answer.


  • USA's Slave
    Dec 13, 2012 - 1:34PM

    What we all want?……………………..Malala
    When we all want?……………………..Malala
    How we all want?……………………….Malala

    Infinite loop


  • Ammad Qureshi
    Dec 13, 2012 - 2:11PM

    Absolutely Not, we do not want Noble prize for her rather want the drone attacks on innocent people to be stopped immediately, I think Malala should herself say No more drone attacks in Pakistan if they considered her opinion then that would be a great achievement for her,yes I do agree that this is propaganda to show the world that we are terrorist country and they are really concerned about us.May Allah bless Pakistan.
    Ammad Qureshi


  • Canuck
    Dec 13, 2012 - 5:15PM

    Malala is synonymous with education, she is a symbol for standing against ignorance, against mullahism, against conservatism, against tyranny, hence she deserves Sitata Jurat before Nobel prize.


  • sabi
    Dec 13, 2012 - 5:34PM

    Anokha ladla (Pakistan) khil’n ko mangy chand!.


  • wonderer
    Dec 13, 2012 - 6:43PM

    There are so many commentators who are against “Nobel for Malala”. Many talk of those killed by drones or in the violent situation in Karachi. I wonder why.

    The argument seems to be, “If no Nobel for drone victims, why a Nobel for Malala?”

    I suggest the following:

    NOBEL FOR MALALA — Yes most welcome, but only if DRONE ATTACKS ARE STOPPED.

    Is this not more fair to all?


  • wonderer
    Dec 13, 2012 - 6:50PM

    For all those who oppose Nobel for Malala, I suggest they listen to Mr. Munir Saami carefully, to understand why Malala is important from Islamic point of view, over here:


  • Typical Pakistani
    Dec 13, 2012 - 8:42PM

    Very well pointed out the emotionally weak points in national behavior.
    I am sure, no Malala lover would welcome this pragmatic criticism. Many Malala lovers even do not allow their girl-in-home to go college. :(


  • Khalq e Khida
    Dec 13, 2012 - 9:34PM

    While there would be a consensus in Pakistan on Edhi’s name, this is not a competition. Malala’s simple act of defiance has been a ray of hope for many girls, more in Afghanistan than in Pakistan. Its recognition would have a similar effect.

    The Op Ed however, points to a very real problem, however, I think a Nobel prize would motivate genuine rights activists a lot, the use of it being for PR notwithstanding.


  • Taimour
    Dec 14, 2012 - 10:56AM

    You gotta be kidding ! Noble Prize for Best Acting ?


  • farid ataullah
    Dec 14, 2012 - 9:20PM

    No need to give the Nobel Prize to Malala.A better and far more deserving person is Abdus Sattar Edhi for the tremendous work he has done for suffering humanity, Strongly recommended


  • riz khan
    Dec 16, 2012 - 12:47AM

    @Ali Zaid:
    those who are target killed in karachi is because of gang war,, no spokesman come on media and vow to kill again if the victim is left… Malala is differnt,, she has a symbolic value,,


  • SAMI
    Dec 16, 2012 - 11:44PM

    Not at all. Afia Sadiqi deserves at first


  • sadiq ahmad
    Dec 17, 2012 - 10:01PM

    so to avoid the real issues being ignored by our inept leader and people you are justifying your claim that Malala should not get a Nobel. what a rational approach. we must salute you dear.


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