The Nobel Peace Prize 2014 has been jointly awarded to Kailash Satyarthi of India and Malala Yousufzai of Pakistan and this has brought immense pride and happiness to us in Pakistan. One is a global household name, the other far less well-known internationally hitherto, but no less important. Malala Yousufzai, at 17, becomes the youngest-ever winner. The award is threaded through with symbolism, being made to an Indian and a Pakistani, a Hindu and a Muslim, and made at a time when tensions between the two countries are at a peak, with daily firing across the Line of Control. It sends the strongest possible message at the time of greatest difficulty and tension to those who determine the levels of cross-border violence on both sides. The joint winners of the Nobel Peace Prize come from humble origins and both will have in all likelihood worked in ignorance of one another until today, yet both had a common agenda. They have fought against the suppression of the voices of young people, girls in particular, and struggled to promote education for all, no matter what their status, ethnic origins or faith. Rich and poor alike, all have a right to open the door to a world of knowledge and understanding.
The text of the statement made by the Nobel Prize Committee makes reference to one of the greatest of peacemakers, Mahatma Gandhi — who never won a Peace Prize despite his impeccable credentials — and speaks of the efforts of both the winners. It also points to the very different ways in which the two go about achieving their goals, with Kailash Satyarthi being very much a grassroots activist. He has led a succession of protests and demonstrations over many years, as well as contributing to the development of international conventions on children’s rights. For Malala Yousufzai, her life and its goals are still a work-in-progress, and she has much to achieve in the future — not least the completion of her own education, which is hardly likely to be helped by winning a prize as prestigious as this and the burdens that go with it. Congratulations, Malala Yousufzai, a worthy winner and a Pakistani to be proud of.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 11th, 2014.