If news travels fast from Islamabad to the hallowed portals of Oxford University, Malala Yousafzai’s robust defence of women’s education ought to be greeted with unqualified praise. Last Wednesday’s grandstanding in her honour was only in the fitness of things. Her brief return to Pakistan after close to six years is in itself testament to her personality. She was exceptionally intrepid at age 14 when she was shot at by the Taliban in “beautiful Swat”. The fine print of her tearful presentation at the Prime Minister House in Islamabad was pretty obvious.
The past six years, harrowing and yet embellished with the Nobel Peace prize and entry to Oxford’s under-graduate college ~ an exciting opportunity in itself ~ have steeled her resolve, pre-eminently to ensure the education of women in Pakistan. Short of being explicit, she has conveyed a pregnant message to the military and the civilian establishments, specifically to countenance effectively the militants, ever so determined to mortally thwart the agenda that Malala has pursued since her days in school.
Swat and its vicinity in the Af-Pak region remain ever so vulnerable. Indeed, it is a cruel irony that the powder-keg that is Swat has influenced the tragedy of Malala. The place has over time been plagued by “terrorism and extremism”, and now showcases the “many difficulties that women and girls face in our society, and how we can fight against those challenges”.
For Pakistan, the unpalatable fact must be that successive civilian dispensations and the brass at Rawalpindi GHQ have failed and failed miserably to confront the militant fundamentalists… whose inbuilt aversion to the education of women and girls is reminiscent of the backwardness of 18th century India, not to forget sati and the bar on widow re-marriage. And then the enormity of her tragedy that must resonate as much in the portals of power as in the militant hubs of Swat ~ “And then being attacked, leaving my country… Everything was happening in itself”. Thus was she able to underline the effeteness of the establishment. The political label is inconsequential in the overall construct.
It is hard not to wonder whether she affected an oblique swipe at the contemporary establishment when she referred to the country’s future generations as the “biggest resources we have”. Her words at the Prime Minister’s official residence are a faint echo of the stout presentations of the doughty social activist, Asma Jahangir, who passed away recently. Likewise, Malala is riveted to the welfare of women and girls ~ “We need to invest in the education of kids.
I hope we can all join in this mission for the betterment of Pakistan so that our future generation can receive the right education and women can stand on their own two feet and earn for themselves.. That’s the future we want to see.” Will they? By her own admission, it is “literally a dream”. Pakistan doesn’t have an answer.