Afia Siddiqui vs Malala Yousufzai

We sympathise deeply with Dr Aafia Siddiqui, despite evidence against her, but hate a 16-year-old victim of terror?

Noman Ansari July 20, 2013
The writer is a regular contributor to The Express Tribune magazine and newspaper. He tweets @Pugnate

Look at the case of Dr Afia Siddiqui, whom we support without asking any questions. Let’s ignore the forensic evidence against her, as well the bomb manufacturing documents found in her possession, because let’s admit it, in the age of Edward Snowden, nothing can be taken at face value.

Anesthesiologist Dr Amjad Mohammed Khan divorced Aafia because he found her to be violent, manipulative and on the path to terrorism.

Later, Dr Aafia is said to have married the nephew of alleged al Qaeda leader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ammar al Baluchi, a man supposedly involved in the 9/11 attacks.

Yet, whenever there is a rally organised for Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s release, we come out in droves to support her, buying into the sympathetic image our politicians feed us in order to earn votes. Admittedly, my favoured party’s leader, Imran Khan, has marketed Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s release for the PTI’s political gain. The irony is that while the Pakistani public doesn’t question the support offered to Dr Siddiqui, it levels all sorts of accusations at Malala Yousufzai. On the one hand, you have Dr Siddiqui, who hasn’t accomplished anything for the nation, and stands accused by her own ex-husband, while on the other, you have a young lady, who according to her own father, is using her fame to fight for the rights of young women worldwide.

At several points during Malala’s speech at the UN, on her sixteenth birthday, I found myself blinking away tears as Malala’s beautifully spoken words expressed defiance, compassion, sorrow and a great level of maturity. In 20 minutes, Malala helped distance the international image of both Islam and Pakistan from the radical elements.

Minutes after her historic speech, Pakistan’s social media platforms were full of comments accusing Malala of being a foreign agent who was using an orchestrated story. Disgustingly, several posts left on news links on Facebook were full of sexually explicit insults.

An immediately noticeable pattern amongst the written negativity against Malala was the atrocious wording of these diatribes, featuring the spelling and grammar skills of a child. Considering that Malala is fighting for education, it is more than a little ironic that her most vocal detractors, the Pakistani keyboard warriors, probably also need to go back to school.

Interestingly enough, Malala’s speech was almost completely ignored by the nation’s politicians, who were perhaps afraid of publicly praising such a contentious figure. But as to why the Pakistani public dislikes Malala Yousufzai, the answer may lie in the fact that the young girl, who is seemingly more confident, articulate, and literate than so many of us, sparks a level of jealousy, especially with the young and insecure male population. Her support from the mistrusted Western governments may create further animosity, satisfying the weak minds of those looking to rely on the crutch of a conspiracy theory, in order to comprehend an extraordinary story that their minds fail to accept.

There was a Pakistani lady similar to Malala, who was confident, intelligent, well spoken, had support from Western powers, and was also targeted by the Taliban. Yet, whenever Benazir Bhutto took to the streets, we followed in support. Perhaps, our love for Malala will also flow one day.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 21st, 2013.

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Ali Syedain | 10 years ago | Reply

But one's support to Siddiqui, Yousufzai or Bhutto has nothing to do with what these individuals accomplish. People first choose their politics and only then react to the public figure. If you are a right wing Islamic, you will support Dr Siddiqui eyes closed; liberals would support Yousufzai. And people supported Bhutto because she was her father's daughter, however wise or accomplished (or otherwise) she was. I think its about time Pakistani journalism admits it cottoned on to that truth a very long time ago.

Hasan Mehmood | 10 years ago | Reply @Faqir Khan: You seem to have totally gone crazy? There was no occupation force and corresponding resistant group in SWAT. As for the Taliban accepting responsibility for almost all killings, what do you want? Signed affidavits or statements recorded in presence of District Magistrate? Taliban can post videos of soldiers beheading. Surely they or their supporters have enough resources to deny such killings on line and condemn all such massacres as Western conspiracy to discredit them.
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