Malala Yousufzai did not win the Nobel Prize. In Medieval Europe, women suspected of witchcraft were tried by a process called, ‘Trial by Ordeal’. It entailed, the suspect woman being thrown into the river, if she managed to swim her way to survival, she was undoubtedly a witch and hence promptly killed. In the alternative, if she drowned to death, she was innocent. Heaven forbid, had Malala not survived the callous attempt on her life, hopefully nobody would have called it a drama. However, her tenacity and destiny ensured that she survived and indeed thrives, she has swum ashore. It is too chilling to take the ‘Trial by Ordeal’ analogy any further. The TTP has promised to attack her again and it already makes one nauseous to think what the apologists might say to this. What we did to the great Dr Abdus Salam, our only Nobel laureate and his vandalised grave also makes for painful recollection. It would have been awesome, had she won the prize. However, she does not need it, Malala; her courage and her eloquence have already won. The question is: who has lost?
British historian Tony Judt once wrote, “By the age of 58, a country — like a man — should have achieved a certain maturity. After nearly six decades of existence we know, for good and for bad, who we are, what we have done and how we appear to others, warts and all. We acknowledge, however reluctantly and privately, our mistakes and our shortcomings. And though we still harbour the occasional illusion about ourselves and our prospects, we are wise enough to recognise that these are indeed for the most part just that: illusions. In short, we are adults.” His words written about Israel are as relevant to Pakistan, and of course, to the exceptionalism of the United States.
We refuse to grow up. It takes a mature teenage girl to once again make us aware of our own adolescent ignorance. Pakistan, the citadel of Islam, had divine force behind it, a unique country, unprecedented in the history of humankind, destined to last till Armageddon and then beyond. And because of our uniqueness, the world was out to get us. The textbooks still teach that the Hindus are ‘banyas’, stingy and conspiratorial having a secret alliance with the ‘Christian’ British. The whole Western world feels threatened by our uniqueness, our promise. All of them came together to break away East Pakistan. The Soviets, perhaps running out of Vodka, wanted to reach ‘warm waters’ in 1979, our brethren the Mujahiddins (Taliban) fought back against ‘Imperialism’ and were ‘strategic assets’ and provided ‘strategic depth’. PTV and the ISPR worked on overdrive.
We are not the first or only country to have ‘founding myths’ (although some are more dangerous than others) and marketing spins. However, we violated the first rule; we got high on the supply; perhaps drank all the warm water. Our State bought what it was supposed to sell; its own propaganda. Growing up is disillusioning and painful. Suddenly, tooth fairies do not exist and clothes don’t fit.
The class of ’79 graduated, and now runs the University, grooming the new corps on the only curriculum that they know. However, there is no Soviet Union and there is a TTP. The manual is obsolete. Our best chance of lasting till Armageddon on the present trajectory is only if we cause it to come prematurely. We began by stereotyping the ‘Kafir’, the ‘infidel’, yet once we were done with them, the urge to go on remained. So, we started at home. The ‘gallant yet volatile (and prone to violence) Pashtun’, the ‘subjugated or the feudal Sindhi’, the ‘oppressed by Sardars and slightly suspect Baloch’, the ‘Kafir Ahmadi’, the ‘heretic Shia’, and the list is a work in progress. Hence, the TTP are ‘annoyed Pashtuns’, the ‘unrest’ in Balochistan can be explained completely by ‘foreign hand and treasonous Sardars’. It all makes sense now, the world is conspiring against us as always and Malala is an imperial project, native informant created to defame us; except, it does not.
The line between xenophobia and patriotism is as blurred as the distinction between nationalism and pan-Islamism; in essence, completely porous. We are isolated, hence we hate the world, and because we hate the world, we become more isolated. George Orwell’s analogy that a man may take to drinking because he believes himself to be a failure and then fail all the more because he is a drunkard holds value.
Women were never part of the State narrative. Now at the risk of ‘stereotyping’ (why stop now), it is only the Sunni, Punjabi, Male that is part of the mainstream narrative. Independent, articulate women strike at the core of this narrative. The established practice of PTV has now permeated all entertainment channels, where the woman is either pious and mute or sly and manipulative. Shaheed Benazir was more intelligent, brave and head and shoulders above any of her contemporaries; the State never forgave her. Asma Jahangir refuses to be cowered down. Malala Yousufzai speaks with moral clarity and passion; attributes that most refuse to acknowledge because they fail to summon them in themselves. Malala like Shaheed BB is a true world leader. Malala symbolises the millions of women displaying courage and fortitude every day in Pakistan, unrecognised by the State and even more disturbingly, by the society.
The venom and ignorance spewed against a child is sickening. However, it is not ahistoric. Pamphlets have turned into conspiracy theory and xenophobic Facebook pages; the local mosque’s loudspeaker now has dozens of channels to broadcast from. The message remains the same, just more widely disseminated, louder, anonymity and cyberspace allow for distance and pseudo bravado, hence more abusive, and progressively more ignorant.
To reason with this ignorance might seem like hammering on an open door. They have never reasoned themselves into their position. They rightly deserve contempt and outrage, yet that alone is not sufficient. The hateful ignorance is a continuation of an ongoing narrative, outrage alone won’t undo it. The counter narrative has to be built. Malala has provided a platform. Education in general and women’s education, in particular, is her cause, it should be ours, too. Whatever little momentum has been built cannot be squandered. Malala’s victory was never going to be complete in Oslo, it will be back home, in government primary and secondary schools, and it will take sustained and committed effort. If Malala does not conclusively win in the long run, all of us lose.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 13th, 2013.
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Malala will become the next Altaf Bhai, by giving her telephone speeches from England !
That is still a pretty stupid unfounded claim to make...after trying to bar Mai from leaving, which made Pak even look worse. Whether you support Mush or not, one should put aside false 'national pride' and accept criticisms and admit a wrong...
@Steve Monet Dallas Texas: "she is the daughter that Pakistan never had but she is a daughter the rest of us would be entirely proud to call our own"...Bingo! But, does Pakistan (as a nation, whole) care...??? Time (the toughest Judge of History) will tell us one day.
@observer: Yes, I watched the same programs and entirely agree with you. She was outstanding, nobody can accuse her of reading from a script.
"Malala like Shaheed BB is a true world leader."
What has the Poor Girl ever done to deserve such a sad and insulting comparison...
Benazit Bhutto true world hero. LOL Please don't bring Malala to the level of a corrupt and incomptetent politician.
I don't know if you realise it, but signing such documents is a direct attack on Ahmadis and their beliefs, its blatant discrimination.
No person with morals will ever agree to sign such a shameful document and discriminate against a whole community.
Apparently, the very things the saintly Malala and BB have done so.
Mahatma Gandhi started a whole non-cooperation movement when denied entry into first class compartments, reserved for whites in South Africa. Nehru preferred jail than agreeing to accept the British yolk.
I was just bringing some perspective. In Pakistan there is no person who can be accused of being impartial and non-discriminative. Including BB and Malala.
@Brute Force, What kind of ridiculous logic is that(a person is not even worth mentioning if he/she has signed the passport application with respect to ahmadis being muslims or not)?
Marvelous article! But Pakistanis and Muslims will still not wake up from their yawning slumber full of intriguing ideas. Please ban all James Bond, Mission Impossible, Sherlock Holmes, Alfred Hitchcock, and similar movies for Muslims especially Pakistanis since they have touched at very perilous point.
If Malala does not conclusively win in the long run, all of us lose.
You hit the nail on the head.
The Russians may not have run out of Vodka but exactly what were they doing in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, in 1979 thousands of miles away from Moscow?
And pray, what were Muslims doing in these lands? And in Afghanistan, the land of the Bamiyan Budhas? And in India? These lands are thousands of miles away from Mecca too? Wee they Raising Boy Scouts, or what?
And in case you did not know, in 1979 Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan were all part of the USSR which had its capital at Moscow. What is Pakistan's claim to these lands?
And if, USSR acquired all these lands through 'Imperialism', how was Pakistan acquired?
So, let us not start frothing at the gills and concentrate on the issue at hand. The issue is that the Russians had no intentions of invading Pakistan in search of warm water ports. This patent lie was invented by Zia to justify the Afghan Jihad. And Pakistan is still paying for it.
Anyone who can sign a document saying Ahmadis are non-Muslim cannot be an icon worth mentioning, forget writing columns about.
Are you saying Benazir Bhutto has not signed the Pakistani Passport Application, which says this? Or, hasn't Malala?
Mr. Saroop Ijaz:
Thanks for an wonderful article.
Ever since the day of shooting My family & I have followed Malala's recovery closely. My daughters are absolutely delighted that she not only made it through, but is even stronger than before in her championing of the cause of women (and humans in general).
As an Indian, who cares little for Pakistanis, She is the first Pakistani I have come to respect and see Pakistani citizens in different light.
There is perhaps future for Pakistan, if they follow the path of Malala - that takes them to modernity, progress and democracy. Or they can choose to take the path of parochial extremists - Mediaevalism, inequality and destruction.
It may be too much for Malala alone to make this happen. All right Pakistanis should rally and support her to reclaim the liberal space to make the country a safe place.
Malala or no Malala, one thing is clear, How Propaganda and Media change things, create impact and capture our brains, lesson to learn.
Will this guy stop it with the BB fanboy-ism? Stop tainting Malala with her name.
The Taliban are not afraid of drones,,,,they are afraid of Malala Yousufzai and behind Malala are millions of Malala from the shores of America to the deserts of Africa she has inspired strong gun toting men from Texas to the gentle teacher of Portland. School children are now aware that education as they know it is not possible for children around the world. She has made the most serious politician smile and a tear of joy from the American on the street. So let us join hands and drown out the voices that tend to dismiss this young girl, she is the daughter that Pakistan never had but she is a daughter the rest of us would be entirely proud ti call out own,
BB was anything but 'true world leader'.
(1) Pakistan Media last few months created the 'Malala Mania'.
(2) Since one month, millions of stupid Pakistani with their 'faulty thinking process' dreaming a 'Nobel Peace Prize' for planet's most violent country -- Pakistan -- through village girl Malala.
(3) The absurd 'Nobel Peace Prize hungryness' gone crazy in last one week.
(4) Nobel Peace Prize dream falls flat on the face of stupid Pakistani on 10 October 2013.
(5) However, common sense not yet prevail. Even Saroop Ijaz seems lost his mind !!
"The Soviets, perhaps running out of Vodka, wanted to reach ‘warm waters’ in 1979"
In a discussion on a certain university campus in Pakistan, a student accused Hamid Gul of turning the innocent countrymen into 'kiraye ka kathil', murderer on rent.
That phrase sums up Pakistan's involvement in Afghanistan. The rest of the rubbish that Pakistan broke USSR is laughable at best and a case of schizophrenia at worst.
I am glad Saroop has written about Malala with a heartfelt passion.This indeed is a beautiful article but it lost some of its purity because Saroop dragged in,unnecessarily, BB and Asma Jehangir.Malala is a simple and straightforward story of passion and commitment inspite of the fact that obscuratantists are inventing flimsy fiction to make her controversial.BB and Asma,whatever their achievements,are controvesial on not so flimsy grounds.I am aware Saroop has every right to admire whosoever he likes.But he should not muddle up a very clean and clear narrative.
The author should hved been the one to speak before the UNO, instead of Malala, though UK efunkt Gordon Mrown did try to take some glamour from Malala. THe author forgets that Malala is a straight teenager from the Yousafzai Pashtun tribe, who are usualy very resilient and stubborn and do not easily buckle down against force. Emperor Aurangzeb had the experience with this tribe who refused to pay any revenues. Malala has not fully recovered and her ambition is Eduation! BBC has released a documentary film this evening which I find very interesting and recommend that Pakistanis will find it of interest..
@Saroop Ijaz There are some people that you just need to grab tightly by the throat, then slap them hard and shout into their face with all your lungs. Spell out the truth to and crush their false deluded world-view. You just did that.
musharraf never said women get 'raped' for visas. he said that this is often conveyed to them by NGOs who work for anti pakistan agenda to make pakistan look bad. stop the musharraf obsession nadir.
Too good Saroop Ijaz. You are one of the reasons that I visit this site. You present your stand on issues with both finesse and clarity. And most of the time you are absolutely right!
I have written extensively on Malala. Each time I write and finish, Something further comes out. She has been fighting against the dark forces of ignorance, illiteracy, prejudices and bigotry. These are hall mars of the Taliban. They want to push us into the dark ages or may be the cave age.
Malala has won the moral victorry against them She has a mission and wants to accomplish it. she has traveled on the road to Success. She wants to spread edocation for all. She launched her campaign when she was barely nine years old. Her school was blasted and blown out. She started crusade at that time. Then a tragedy befell. Taliban sent assassins after her. They shot her in the head. She sustained head and neck injuries and went through an ordeal. She has won many awards and medals for great work. She remained in the hospital
She was nominated for Noble peace prze, but she lost .Ta.ibans have issued another death threat but they do not know that the great savior has saved her and given her a new life,He would save her again.
@Ch. Md., Paris, TX: Yes, for Malala to be successful in bringing change she needs a lot of power. But to become chief of the Army she only needs a F.A./F.Sc; so do not bother about studying well.
Exaggeration leaves no bounds. Thanks for comparing her with BB only what any body could do to you if you compared her with Fatima of the Quiad or even more. While the truth for all of the hyper media people of your type is that Malala would be nowhere after a couple of years and she will be completely forgotten by the media and the so called liberals of Pakistan who are only exploiting the innocent girl.
Malala like 'shaheed' Benazir Bhutto is a true world leader. And you are accusing us of believing in 'founding myths'!!
The usual insane liberal non sense.
"The line between xenophobia and patriotism is as blurred as the distinction between nationalism and pan-Islamism; in essence, completely porous. We are isolated, hence we hate the world, and because we hate the world, we become more isolated."
Excellent description! Interest groups beneficiary of this isolationism dominate and control narrative in Pakistan. Dissent is not taken lightly, try looking for liberals the fast dying near to extinct Pakistani breed.
This article is a good example of it.
People who refuse to learn from history - or may be are totally ignorant about it - are destined to its repetition. The Russians may not have run out of Vodka but exactly what were they doing in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, in 1979 thousands of miles away from Moscow? How did they reach there if it was not after imperial conquest? And what were all those Great Games in Central Asia about that the British and the Russians were playing in the 19th and 20th century? There was imperial conquest in Central Asia till the beginning of second world war; if yo do not know then read about the thousands who had to migrate to Afghanistan and areas that are today of northern Pakistan. Go and ask Murat Khan who designed your Pakistan Memorial in Lahore how his family had to run for their lives from there.
The author and his fellow "neo-Paks" do not want to admit the killing, death and destruction that was brought on to Afghanistan when first Daoud Khan was brought into power by the so called leaders of the "surkh savera" in the Afghan armies, then Dauod Khan and his entire family was slaughtered by the Tarrakai and his Khalqees, followed by Hafiz Amin and Babrak Karmal and the Parchammites followed by hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers themlselve. And why did millions of Afghans had to run from their country to Iran and Pakistan? No that was all necessary in order to bring civilization to the wilderness that was Afghanistan; it had nothing to do with imperial outreach or the desire to get to the warm waters. The level of denial and self delusion is unbelievable. Any amount of rewriting of history is okay even if it is patently false. They do not even believe their own hero the Z. A. Bhutto the great leader of emancipation for the people of Pakistan when he initiated the policies to defend Pakistan and its people from the consequences of this imperial venture on the part of the Russians.
I think that the Oslo Peace Commitee is sponsored by Israel + India + USA + UK + EU (as distinct from the USA and UK) and that is why they have not given Malallala the Nobble prize. If she had been given it then it would have been a big bust to the causes of this countries against Pakistan, and that the TTP being the stakeholders would have not liked OK. This would have also denied the fact that the TTP was being helped by these countries against Pakistan. Please help save Pakistan.
I have just finished watching a programme on her on the BBC. And I also watched her UN speech and Jon Stewart interview.
The clear headed approach of this young lady is incredible.
It will take more than a bunch of neanderthals and their Red Hat cheer leader to stop her.
Just need to look at the human development indices of PPP ruled interior Sindh to realize the 'greatness' of BB
Great write up. I liked the way you took the discourse further, saying what needed to be said. As far as Malala is concerned, the Taliban cut a pathetic figure because a 16 year old defenseless girl has struck terror in the hearts of terrorists.............ironic.
Men are threatened by confident empowered women. Its like Musharaf saying that Pakistani women get raped for visas and aid from other countries. There is always an ulterior motive.
Second, people need to move on from Edhi vs Malala. Malala prominence doesnt take away anything from Edhi's accomplishments. Why are Pakistanis are we obsessed with Western recognition of the actions our fellow countrymen? Is Pakistan not big enough to have more than one person to look up towards?
It will be interesting to watch Malala, more so after her aspirations of becoming Pakistan's Prime Minister. Let us hope she remains more of a statesperson and less of a crooked politician.
I pray that Malala studies well and becomes Army Chief to get maximum power and bring upon much needed change in Pakistan.
fantastic speech...great work...keep it up!