Thursday, December 11, 2014

Daily Times Editorial Dec 12, 2014

Celebrating Malala Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi received their joint Nobel Prize in Oslo on Wednesday in honour of their work for children’s rights after two days of celebrations in a ceremony at the City Hall watched by millions around the world. Malala is the youngest Nobel laureate by far. She was shot in the head at point blank range by the Taliban in 2012 in her native Swat after conducting a campaign for education for girls. The attack almost killed her. She miraculously survived after critical surgery and treatment in Birmingham, UK, where she has continued to live since with her family. Satyarthi was honoured for his contribution in freeing children in his native India from slave labour. Some 83,000 children have been rescued by him over the years, often in violent confrontations with the perpetrators of such abhorrent practices. Although the modest Satyarthi said he felt overshadowed by Malala, he also revealed in his address that he considered her his daughter and Malala reciprocated the sentiment by saying that Kailash was now her second father. Such sentiments underlined the linking symbolism of a17-year-old girl from Pakistan and a 60-year-old man from India sharing the prize. Malala said she had hoped the prime ministers of the two countries would respond to her call to attend the ceremony and was disappointed that they did not respond. In fact, the federal government of the PML-N and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial PTI government were criticised in a civil society celebration of the Nobel Prize in Peshawar for not owning Malala. In their respective speeches at the ceremony, the two laureates reiterated their message of hope. Malala argued for building schools not tanks, and Satyarthi asserted that the shackles of slavery could never be stronger than the quest for freedom. While Pakistan can justly be proud of this daughter of Swat, it is amazing our capacity for distorting things through the lens of conspiracy theories. Thus some misguided people have been criticising and castigating Malala for being a western agent and part of a conspiracy to malign Pakistan and Islam. How can we take such drivel seriously or even engage with its authors at any rational level? Contrary to such extremist ravings, Malala has put Pakistan on the world map with her courage, vision and exemplary advocacy of the cause of education, first and foremost girls’ education. It is not enough that we have wiped out the very memory of Pakistan’s first Nobel laureate, Dr Abdus Salam merely because he was an Ahmedi. Now some amongst us are engaged in seeing western conspiracies under every bed and behind every bush. Such paranoia needs serious professional help. In Malala’s words, the Nobel Prize shows Pakistan in a completely different light from what most people all over the world may associate the country with: intolerance, extremism and terrorism. It shows that Pakistanis want peace and progress like all other peoples of the world. Perhaps few people deserve it more or are more afflicted by their distance from it due to the activities of antediluvian forces in our society. What sets Malala, the ‘Gul Makai of Swat’ as she was described in her secret BBC blog with which she first launched her campaign for girls’ right to education aged just 11, is that although she is a victim of the Taliban’s reactionary worldview, she refused to be reduced to just a victim. Instead, she chose to speak up again as soon as she was able to and has in the process become an iconic figure worldwide. With the Nobel Prize in her grasp, no doubt Malala will proceed to greater heights and achievements in the future. Pakistanis should shed their blinkers and celebrate this brave daughter of the country who stands firmly for the best in our society, all too often hidden or blighted by the obscurantist forces that afflict us.

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