Malala Yousafzai is not the problem, We are

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Malala Yousafzai back at school

It has been four years since Pakistani army retook the control of the valley of Swat and ousted the TTP militants. It has been four years since an 11-year old kid, Malala Yousafzai, rose to fame when her diary of life under TTP rule in Swat was published by BBC. It has been four years, and yet, no one really knows what Malala has achieved with her “education activism”.

You follow the news and read blog posts after blog posts full of praise for Malala and think that she really is a national hero, that she has done more for the country than we could ever do, that she is a courageous little girl who stood up to TTP and spoke against them, that she is a brave warrior fighting for female education and women’s rights in the land of savages and barbarism, the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. But come back to the real world and you have to ask yourself, “What HAS she done for female education in KPK?” The answer is: nothing. There are no facts or figures to support the claim that she and she alone has brought countless kids to school and has revolutionized the face of Swat valley.

The truth is that the TTP rule brought all life in Swat to halt, not just girl-only schools, and as soon as the army took over, that ceased to be the case. Life in Swat has returned to normal, and in Malala’s own words “the army is trying to rebuild good quality schools”. In other words, there is no female education problem in Swat. All the praise she has received is mere rhetoric
which seems to be working for majority of the people as they now believe in a cause which simply doesn’t exist.

The real education problem lies in the rural areas of the country where the literacy rate falls to 48% for both males and females as compared to the national literacy rate of 57%. The low literacy rate is caused by either the dominance of feudal mindset in these tribes or by the fact that rural families can’t afford to get their kids in to school. It is not caused by TTP’s mission to impose their so-called “shariah”. If we further look in to the literacy rate, females comprise 45% of the 57% literate population of the country. Overall literacy rates at all levels and among both genders in the country have improved a lot and they continue to rise, with no help at all from Malala.

Another major education problem in the country is the lack of a uniform nation-wide curriculum of good quality and the failure to nurture the thinking abilities of students in the current system. This problem has been addressed nowhere in Malala Yousafzai’s “education activism”.

Now this post is not against Malala, she is not a CIA agent and her getting shot in the face is not a conspiracy. This post is against her blind followers and fans who refuse to accept the truth even when it is right in front of them. It is surprising that the “educated” people of this country fail to realize that they are being played for fools by the local and international news media, and that they would rather turn against the people who do not support Malala rather than searching for facts. This clearly demonstrates the fact that the current education system simply doesn’t work as it fails to teach the students how to think for themselves. We are the same ignorant people with tribal mindsets under the layers of honorary titles and degrees.

It is sad that she was singled out and shot in the face, and I am glad that she recovered completely from the accident, that is something worth praising. But she was neither brave nor a courageous girl who stood in the way of the TTP and eventually got shot, it is not like she and her friends had a choice of giving up their cause or get killed. Her only fault seems to be her immense worldwide popularity and continuous appearance in the news media instead of her non-existent “education activism”. Her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, has to be blamed here too, for pushing her to pretend to be an “activist”. In one of her earliest interviews, she had clearly stated that it was her father who wanted her to be a politician even though she didn’t like politics. Even her UN speech seems to be written by someone else, most probably her father.

She has been criticized for not talking about the US drone attacks in FATA that have destroyed as many futures as TTP, maybe even more. But it is not her fault, she is too young to realize the political situation of the country, and her father (being a liberal-minded Pakistani and a social activist) wouldn’t have a problem with drone attacks to urge her to speak about the issue.

The real problem then does not lie with Malala Yousafzai, it lies with us and her blind followers who seem to be running in the wrong direction to a non-existent destination. The social networking websites and blogs are full of praise for this young girl and criticism and insult for those who don’t support her. One word against Malala or her fans and you suddenly become a jealous pro-taliban misogynist. One word against Malala and you become the problem with the country and the obstacle standing in its progress. One word against her and you become a spineless coward who has never done anything for the country who just sits in his comfy home to criticize anything good happening in Pakistan.

Well I am sorry I cannot imagine a different world and commit to and fight for a non-existent cause. I am sorry I cannot change the world because I was not thrown into spotlight when I was just a kid. I am sorry I did not get featured in countless interviews, articles, documentaries and I am sorry I did not get to meet important personalities from both Pakistan and US so that I could become important enough to be heard. Most of all I am sorry that I tend to think for myself rather than blindly following a cause just because most of the people follow it like a flock of sheep.

It is not Malala who needs to address the drone attacks, it is us. We need to open our eyes and see the real picture and fight for the real causes such as peace, the poor quality and uniformity of our education system and rising against the influence of the news media. We need to realize that Malala is not a leader, she is just a kid, and she is no different from the innocent kids and adults that get killed by either drone attacks or terrorists. We need to sympathize with all these people, and not just Malala. We need to raise our voice against all injustices; we need to fight for all the victims, not just one. And if we can’t do that, then it is better to remain silent than to become a hypocrite and be selective in our sympathy.
God bless Pakistan.

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is an overseas Pakistani who occasionally writes about religion, current affairs and cricket. He tweets @The_Mughal_EZ

Discussion17 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Just what Pakistan needs is another negative individual who cannot see the bravery of a 16 yr old girl who was strong enough to accuse the TTP for ruining girls education in swat..she is a hero to most people because she has risked her life just to acquire a quality education….something that the civilized free world regularly provides for its children…and not just religious indoctrination in madrasahs…useful education that will allow her to make a living and do good things for her family…blaming her for not changing the education system in Pakistan at 16 yrs old is unfair and unrealistic…it is something that adults should be doing for her and other girls in Pakistan…

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      Wow! I’m amazed! Did you even read the article before commenting on it?

      Certainly not, because if you did, you would know that the writer is not saying what you are accusing him of.

      So like those who not only deprive girls of education but also dignity, in a country where 4 girls were dragged from hostel and gangraped by 25 educated men just yesterday.

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      You Sire,

      Thank you for enlightening us with your billion dollar opinion. Your thoughts reflects that its you, who is living in Pakistan. Not us.

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    Excellent article! Very well balanced! Pakistanis definitely need to stop obsessing with Malala or anti-Malala issues & think about how to make the education system better & more accessible to all children in Pakistan. Malala has now become a western commodity being sold to the world as the only view of Pakistan’s education woes. It grossly misrepresents the whole picture of education issues of Pakistan. People literally think that the minute the TTP are eliminated, suddenly everyone will be educated. That is ridiculous. We need to realize the REAL problems of why education is still lacking & solve those to build a better Pakistan for all children.

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    @Emad Zafar Iqbal

    What is wrong with you?? That 16 year old is doing what she can for her country.. If you find some gaps in her campaign, then why dont you join it and try to make your suggested improvisations??? And if such a campaign does not even exist, then why dont you encourage her to start one.. 100% literacy is a dream for every country… May be you can use the opportunity to make atleast some difference..

    Comm’n man.. In the United Nations she spoke for the good of YOUR beloved country… What evil did she speak there?? You apparantly couldnt take it when she got the chance to voice concerns on drone strikes on such a fantastic platform in front of the world media..

    Either you are jealous or you have a poisoned prejudiced mindset.. God help you neighbour..

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        O yes.. I read your junk.. BTW, did you read today’s Dawn report ‘Those who deny women’??? It is for people like you…

        And you in your article said, “Even her UN speech seems to be written by someone else, most probably her father”

        And Dawn says, “For those who say that she did not write the speech herself, about a week before the speech, a journalist of the Jang and Geo jirga fame and a former Jamaati described his visit to United Kingdom in his column of July 6 in Jang newspaper. In his column, he wrote about how he visited Malala and her family at their Birmingham residence, and stated that Malala had written her UN speech herself and read it out to him. He had disagreed with several points she had raised in the speech, and asked her to remove or change them. But she refused flatly and did not change anything. But our nation of habitual non-readers cannot fathom how a 16-year-old Pashtun girl from Swat could say all these things. “

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        I guess you along with the author dont belong to the civilised sections of pakistan… Otherwise why I am seeing huge positive comments on Malala in ET and Dawn, where your fellow pakistanis praise her a lot.. But when I come to this site, every article on her is always “not so enthusiastic about Malala”.. May be you pakistanis have ‘split personality disorder’…

        Whatever man… Just in case if you dont know, here in India, she is one among the few faces from pakistan who has even inspired Indian children.. few months ago, some of the schools in southern India launched a signature campaign with the slogan “get well soon, malala” and this was sent to her as well.. I know that does not add much value, but yet she was loved by my countrymen as well.. And that is a rarity you dont see often..

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          Arundhati Roy is a famous and most acceptable Indian on the other side of the border, which is again a rarity. How far do you, her own country man, respect and regard her by the way?? How far is she the idol of the Indian women, she who has the guts to speak not only for herself but for others as well, in a country where women are silenced through rapes?

          Don’t worry, dear Indian, you don’t need to search for role models or brave women in Pakistan, you have many in your own country, too. You just need to own them!

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    finally someone who addresses the real problem here and not the ones in a pre-meditated, strategically designed UN speech.
    seriously, we need followers with brains, committing to a cause with solid roots to strive towards betterment for Pakistan or it’s all for one and for all towards an abyss of nothingness.

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    i totally agree with u emad..
    our ppl are deffinetly becomming fools in hands of such ppl.i like wat u rote…superb!!!

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