When the news of a gun attack on Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani girl born on July 12, 1997 became a headline news on October 9, 2012, my immediate reaction was seething anger. What monster can harm an innocent girl with the beauty of rose petals? Who would shoot a girl who has not only vowed to pursue knowledge, but have made it a mission to spread the light of education to her own people?
On the fateful day, a Taliban stepped onto a bus carrying schoolgirls and demanded to know who was Malala, and when identified, shot her in the head and neck twice, two other girls were also injured. The attack rendered Malala unconscious, she was fighting for life and her state was critical, that was a time for praying, not expressing anger.
So I joined her name in my prayers, with the name of my only daughter, for whom my prayers fill up my sub-conscious mind, every waking moments; Malala became my other daughter. Malala’s own father had said, “She is not my daughter only, she is the daughter of Pakistan.” I took my hat off to Malala’s father Ziauddin Yousafzai, who comes from the town of Mingora, in the Swat District of Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where the percentage of educated people are so small that it is better not mentioned. And I rejoined, “Yes Sir Ziauddin, your daughter is not daughter of Pakistan only, she is the daughter of the world.”
At the beginning of 2009, when Malala began to write for BBC Urdu Service, Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah issued an edict banning television, music, girls’ education, and women going out for shopping. Malala and her family had received many death threats earlier, but they knew they were following a prophet who had instructed his followers to go to China (meaning a far off land) for learning. They knew Mohammed valued education so much that there are hadiths (written instructs of the prophet) referring the prophet indicating that spending time in search of knowledge is dearer to God than spending time praying to him. That knowledge gave the Yousafzai’s strength and conviction. At the age of eleven, when most girls spend their time in playing with their friends, Malala took up activism for education. Under a pseudonym, she wrote a blog for the BBC chronicling her life under the Taliban regime, and how they attempted to take control of the valley, and stop education for the women. She became the chairperson of the District Child Assembly Swat, and she was nominated for the International Children's Peace award. Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown began a United Nations petition in Yousafzai's name, adopting the slogan, “I am Malala” with the demand that all children worldwide be in school by the end of 2015. Brown said that he would hand the petition to Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari the next month.
To understand Malala better, we need to understand her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, who is a poet, school owner and an educational activist himself. He runs a chain of schools, Khushal Public School, named after a famous Pashtun poet, Khushal Khan Khattak. Yousafzais’ are literally the daisies in the dunk, where Taliban dominate.
What made Malala famous is her blogs, and how good is she actually? Once her father was reading to the villagers from her blog; the listeners thought that it was written by the poet Ziauddin himself and not her daughter, she is that good.
A group of fourteen women senators led by the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), Senator Dianne Feinstein, wrote to Pakistan's Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, “As the women of the US Senate, we are writing to express our outrage over the barbaric attack on fourteen-year old Malala Yousafzai and two other girls in a senseless act of violence. All of us are horrified at the brazen nature of this attack, which was carried out by Taliban militants who targeted Malala simply because she advocated for and pursued an education for herself and other girls.” They urged the Pakistan government to confront extremism and violence against its own people and bring Malawi’s attackers to justice.
The action from the senate ladies is commendable but it falls short of what is required. Ehsanullah Ehsan, the chief spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack and threatened that if Malala survives, they would target her again. The SSCI shall ask president Obama to offer asylum and protection to Malala and her family. And by accepting that request the president can redeem humanity that he had forsaken carrying out indiscriminate drone attacks in Pakistan, killing innumerable innocent civilians. In 2001 I had told a graduate class of MBA students, “If we want to defeat the Taliban, our best weapon is education. If we help spread education in Pakistan the Pakistanis themselves would take care of the Taliban.” Pakistan may be a third world country because of its economic situation, but a country that has technology to make nuclear weapon, definitely has the intelligence to choose right from wrong.
But we chose bombs over schools, and after a lost decade, our economy is devastated, we are soon to surrender our position as number one economic power house of the world. We are ready to leave Afghanistan, while the Taliban are in clear ascendancy and about to fill the vacuum—all because of our choosing a wrong policy. If Obama is elected, I hope the good since will prevail in him, and he will join the good Pakistanis in their war against the Taliban, in the right way.
Maulana is a word that connotes learned person in Islamic tradition, Maulana Fazlullah, you are no maulana, for you know not what your own prophet has said, and with your ignorance you have proved that you only give bad name to a great religion called Islam. Previously published on Technorati.