Pakistan’s Malala or Not?
by Aanya F Niaz
Published in the Huffington Post, 17 October 2013.
There’s so much fussy fuss around Malala. I’m not talking about the good-natured kind, or the saving kind, but rather Pakistanis themselves bashing the Western world for stepping in and turning themselves into heroes. There is no doubt her trials and tribulations have been of immense tragedy; shooting a young girl in her head for her education rights is just blatantly wrong. But what’s missing is this piece: Why isn’t the Pakistani government or even leadership taking a stance and speaking out for her as much as the West is? Yes, it’s the typical let’s save the native girl from her harrowing reality of being surrounded by illiterate and destructive men; let’s sway her away to the UK and provide her with the security and access to education she deserves. But perhaps it has to do with how, us, Pakistanis, have not been able to provide that platform to her and the other Malalas that exist not only in the Swat Valley, but even in urban cities of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Palestine and the list goes on.
I recognize it is difficult for us to be labeled as “backward” and most of all, as victims of a society that strips women of their basic rights by media and subsequently by many a nations, however, if someone has offered to save a case and shed light upon a most devastating reality, why are we punishing them and not ourselves — when it was us, we, the Pakistanis, who, again, failed to provide her with the security she deserves? This doesn’t mean every time tragedy strikes, we await the arrival of the Grand White Savior to sway her off her feet in a helicopter, landing on a most serene helipad and offering her a bed of roses. Rather, is it not time to stop victimizing ourselves further and take her story to stand for something that is larger than our self-pitying mentalities? Rather than bashing the “developed” world’s efforts, albeit nuanced in its’ hospitality, perhaps we can turn this into an opportunity to point towards the million other Malalas and ask the UN, the elected peace-keeping force, and the Western world, to finally invest in something other than plain-yogurt foreign aid? Why can’t we build a platform from Malala’s journey — her media appraisal and the accolades she has been awarded for her bravery, courage and most of all, beautifully articulate and bold statements? She is just a 16-year-old speaking up after being shot down for a mighty cause for our very own homeland.
For once, let’s not stab ourselves in the foot and via due diligence, summon enough evidence and strategy to have the right to say to the world: You found one Malala, we have thousands more with potential to change the paradigm of education in Pakistan. And we the people, of Pakistan, will impress upon our leadership the very humane necessity of education in order to prosper.
See, the glass can’t always be half-empty; even in a twisted, morose, yet rapidly modernizing Pakistan. The two dramatically different worlds that exist in Pakistan — that of the upper-middle class, less than 2 percent of the population, and that of the rest of the 184 million peoples — can come together to recognize the world’s efforts (again, with their own prerogatives) as a way for us to press forward, and hold our leadership accountable. We’ll only continue to waste time by blaming the ‘outsiders’ who pretend to know our nation, belittling their efforts and unabashedly targeting them for turning into gold whereas we immerse with the sand; rather, it’s high-time we teach the “saviors” that we, too, have the capabilities and resources to save our peoples’ lives.
After all, Jon Stewart wants to adopt the stunning young mind, and here we are, wasting away the media hype, energy and opportunity to rise up to the occasion and make a difference we’re blaming them for making.