I have often wondered when my fascination with the Middle Eastern community started. And I’m not sure how it started either. It is something that I have thought of in length, over time, in vain. I remember reading The Kite Runner when I was around 14 and being so moved by that book I was that I rushed home and googled Afganisthan (which, until then, was a country I had given little thought to, except maybe as a land of gorgeous men and women), trying to make sense of its chaotic political scenario. One thing led to another and next thing I know, I was delving into the ideology of the Taliban, struggling to comprehend how they justify the murder of tens of thousands of people in the name of God (not to mentions the numerous terror attacks ). For a 14-year-old, this was pretty heavy stuff. I recall reading the Declaration of War issued by the Taliban elucidating the reason behind 9/11 and thinking, the naive kid I was, why all this fuss when you could just solve this like adults. Surely, the people educated enough to actually produce the 3-4 pages of such a complicated document, with its absurd terms and exaggerated (or so I thought) threats would be sensible enough to respond to reason?
And I remember musing to myself, very smugly “What if they refuse to respond to your threats in ways you dictate? What if the women (to whom most of their “reforms” were directed) of your country wake up one day and realise what utter bullshit you have been feeding them in the name of a sacred religion and decide to take a stand against you? What are you gonna do, just shoot each and every one of them?
Little did I imagine that this rhetorical question would actually be answered in booming affirmative. Yes, that is exactly what we plan to do. And they did too – with Malala. Malala Yousafzai.
The 14-year-old school kid who was shot in her head for speaking up against the educational confines imposed by the Taliban on the girls schools in the Swat Valley. Reading through her dairy for BBC, I was struck by how innocently (but persistently) she sticks to her issue. She was 12 years then. Her persistency paid off, and the school reopened amidst continuous shelling and skirmishes between the Taliban and military. At the same time, Malala managed to catch the attention of the world with a documentary on life at Swat in the middle of its political unrest and her pledge to become a politician to save her country from its “so many crises”. This was followed by numerous accolades lauding her dedication and initiative. With more and more school kids being tuned into her mission, a good percentage of which was the previously-oppressed-school-girls, the Taliban could no longer refrain from acting. And they did. Two shots – once in the head and once in the neck. And that would have been that.
Except that the reaction that this inhuman act triggered, not just in Pakistan, but around the world was of humongous proportion compared to the norms. Taliban, for once, could not hog the limelight as it usually does. Even in her close-to-death condition, Malala’s loyalty to her cause is highlighted rather than Taliban’s brutal attempt at silencing its non-abiders. I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said that the entire world is on its knees, praying for her to pull through this. Alive and kicking.
Of course, the shooting is just the tip of the iceberg. This is not the first time this has happened. Malala is not the first person to feel the heat of standing up against the TTP. And the blame cannot be comfortably confined to one shoulder. The interference of America and their continuous aerial attack (reportedly always targeted at Taliban fighters) have left a number of national people maimed, dead and scarred for life, a large chunk of which are innocent children who just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. But I’m yet to see any of those kids being catapulted to limelight or the world renouncing their silent support to America or at least issuing a statement “condemning such heinous acts”. Of course, it can be argued that America is fighting for a bigger cause and there is bound to be some “collateral damage” or even better, you can always save the day by bringing up the 9/11 & the slaughter of the sons & daughters of America. To go on about one of the most debated (and criticised) of world events is not my intention and nor do I pretend to be proficient enough to go into it. All I’m trying to drive in is that regardless of the issues haunting Pakistan and the Swat, regardless of the brutal crimes that Pakistan has been witness to in the past, let us not let the attention shift from Malala. Let us not let the crooked intelligent TTP manage to shift focus from the matter at hand and walk away with yet another opportunity which might mark the first of the many baby steps for the liberation of Pakistan. (Again, that might be my naivety speaking up.)
Either ways, it is amazing to watch the press and people of Pakistan (again I emphasize on the female population) being atypically outspoken in their condemnation of Taliban. Pakistan, they seem to say, is weary of all the atrocities you have inflicted upon us. We are tired of you manipulating our youth in the name of God and twisting the words of Holy Quran. We are tired of being accused of being a terrorist-haven, of being the synonym of violence and terrorism. And so time is ripe for us to deal with the mess that you have dished out to us and our children. And deal, we will.
Meanwhile, I can’t help feeling humbled by that teenage girl, who is looking forward to a good many years of physiotherapy and treatments not to mention the danger of being “marked” by the Taliban for the rest of her life, on whose honour UN declared November 10th as ‘Malala Day’.
Way to go girl!