“Even if they come to kill me, I will tell them what they are trying to do is wrong, that education is our basic right.”

by Nida

Clip_199These words are from the well-known, young and brave activist Malala Yousafzai. She is from a remote area of Swat in Pakistan, and she advocates for the promotion of girls’ education.

In 2012, the Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah, along with his allied militants, took over the Swat Valley, banning television, music, girls’ education and women going shopping. The tyranny of the Taliban compelled Malala to highlight the difficulties faced by the girls of her area in trying to go to school. She spoke out through ‘Malala’s Diary‘ on the BBC Urdu blog.

As a result, the Taliban felt provoked by Malala’s determination as she refused to accept the Taliban’s doctrines. They tried to gun her down when she was returning home by bus with her school mates.

This despicable attack captured international attention and millions of people stood up with this new little icon of Pakistan, condemning the cowardly act by the Taliban.

Within Pakistan, this ignominious attack lead to a great mind shift among the Pakistani people in relation to the Taliban and their dictates.

On July 12 2013, Malala turned 16 and the United Nations celebrated the day as Malala Day. In support of the UN Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative, she gave her first official speech on the right to a quality education and safe environment for girls, before youth activists at the United Nations’ Headquarters in New York.

Over the past decades in Pakistan, many attacks have been carried out by orthodox forces on students, educational institutions and academic staff. A series of terrorist attacks on school buses, students, teachers, and institutions took place in Pakistan in order to create a serious fear among the youth of getting an education. Fundamentalist groups oppose education since it provides people, young generations especially, with powerful means for intellectual independence, social advancement and personal emancipation. Fundamentalists use the weapon of terrorism as a tool to stop Pakistani young people from getting a secular education, through which they can potentially develop alternative reasoning.

They have not only targeted institutions, but also individual teachers and university students. In a very recent attack on a university in June this year, fourteen female students were killed and another twenty were injured when a female suicide bomber from the religious terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi blew up herself on a bus in Quetta.

The Taliban are not only targeting schools, universities, students and staff in the northern parts of the country; they are operating all over Pakistan, as their affiliated members are scattered in different areas.

Sadly, all this is happening under the nose of Pakistan’s Army and intelligence agencies. Hence, one can understand how Osama Bin Laden managed to hide in the Abbotabad Cant area, which is only one kilometere away from the Army’s Kakul academy, with our security forces claiming that they never came to know about it.

We know this is not the end of the story. In recent years, we have seen the increase of religiously influenced legislators within public institutions and political parties, who have followed one other into a series of anti-women statements and behaviours.

According to some reports, the legislator Maulana Abdul Haleem of JUI (Fazlur Rehman) came up with a prolonged series of misogynist fatwa’s against women by declaring formal education of women to be un-Islamic. According to this man, education for a woman is against the precepts of Islam. He asked parents not to send their daughters to school and he had the courage to publicly state that families who send their daughters to school will be liable to burn in hell.

One of the Taliban leaders, Qari Muhavia, said: “We will never allow the girls of this area to go and get a Western education.”

The Taliban follow their own doctrines based on a strict interpretation of the Sharia law. If anybody goes against these laws, they assassinate them in cold blood. They justify their attacks by manipulating and reinterpreting Quranic verses in faulty ways. For them, education means secularism, which in their mindset leads to anti-Islamic behaviour. As a consequence, they are against schooling, reading and any other formative activities that enable people to think independently and develop rational perspectives. Fundamentalist groups, who have rising influence throughout the country, dictate a society where women are not entitled to equal rights. Their extremist, fanatical and intransigent model of society does not allow women’s participation, recognition and appreciation.

It is all of our responsibility to stand beside Malala and to be brave and willing to even deal with possible threats, so that conservative mindsets understand that the peace-loving population of Pakistan is ready to stand against them. We all have to prove that we are not afraid of cowardly fundamentalists who use the power of their weapons to intimidate the rest of the country. We must truly believe that their weapons are weaker in comparison to the power of the pen.

Malala has become a symbol of courage, demanding justice and expressing our desire for empowerment, not only for girls and young women in Pakistan, but for the entire world.

At such a young age, she is an inspiration for millions of girls who share similar stories of deprivation among some of the most conservative and inflexible mindsets on earth.

About the Author: Nida Nida is working on youth issues in Pakistan and is office bearer of Progressive Youth Forum (PYF) Pakistan. She can be reached at: nida@ahrc.asia

Clip_6Perhaps inspired by Malala’s speech and partly in response, Adnan Rasheed (photograph on right), a hardened militant and suspected of involvement in assassination attempts on General Musharraf, wrote her a letter on July 15.

Adnan was caught and sent to Bannu prison, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, in in late September 2011. In an attack on the facility on April 15 2012, nearly 500 TTP militants freed him, and many other TTP leaders and scores of low-ranking militants along with ordinary prisoners.

Adnan was on a death row in Bannu prison and now supposedly in North Waziristan, is commanding the TTP fighters.

Unlike most other TTP leaders, he is believed to be a deep thinker, strategist, well read and a “cool dude!”

In the letter to Malala, Adnan challenged her on her views and explained his, and TTP’s stance toward her.

Adnan Rashid’s Letter

Miss Malala Yousafzai,

Clip_3I am writing to you in my personal capacity this may not be the opinion or policy of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or other jihadi faction or group.

I heard about you through BBC Urdu service for the first time, when I was in Bannu prison, at that time I wanted to write to you, to advise you to refrain from anti-Taliban activities you were involved in. but I could not find your address and I was thinking how to approach you with real or pseudo name, my all emotions were brotherly for you because we belong to same Yousafzai tribe. Meanwhile the prison break happened and I was supposed to be in hiding. When you were attacked it was shocking for me I wished it would never happened and I had advised you before.

Taliban attacked you, was it islamically correct or wrong, or you were deserved to be killed or not, I will not go in this argument now, let’s we leave it to Allah, He is the best judge.

Here I want to advise you as I am already late, I wish I would have advised you while in prison and this accident would never happened.

First of all please mind that Taliban never attacked you because of going to school or you were education lover, also please mind that Taliban or Mujahideen are not against the education of any men or women or girl.

Taliban believe that you were intentionally writing against them and running a smearing campaign to malign their efforts to establish Islamic system in swat and your writings were provocative.

You have said in your speech yesterday that pen is mightier than sword, so they attacked you for your sword not for your books or school. There were thousands of girls who were going to school and college before and after the Taliban insurgency in Wwat, would you explain why were only you on their hit list?

Now to explain you the second point, why Taliban are blowing up schools? The answer to this questions in that not only Taliban in KPK or FATA are blowing up the schools but Pakistan Army and Frontier Constabulary is equally involved in this issue. The reason for this action is common between them that is turning of schools into hide outs and transit camps once it comes under control of either party Pakistan Army or Taliban.

In 2004 I was in Swat, I was researching on the causes of failure of the first revolution attempt by Sufi Muhammad. I came to know that FC was stationed in the schools of Swat in tehsil Matta and FC was using schools as their transit camps and hid outs. Now tell me who to blame?

Dozens of schools and colleges are being used by Pakistan Army and FC as their barracks in FATA, you can find out easily if you like. So when something sacred is turned lethal it needs to be eliminated this is the policy of Taliban.

Blowing up schools when they are not using strategically is not the Taliban job, some black sheep of local administration may be involved to extract more and more funds in the name of schools to fill their bank accounts.

Now I come to the main point that is EDUCATION, it is amazing that you are shouting for education, you and the UN is pretending that as you were shot due to education, although this is not the reason, be honest, not the education but your propaganda was the issue and what you are doing now, you are using your tongue on the behest of the others and you must know that if the pen is mightier than the sword then tongue is sharper and the injury of sword can be hailed but the injury of the tongue never hails and in the wars tongue is more destructive than any weapon.

I would like to share with you that Indian sub-continent was highly educated and almost every citizen was able to read or write before British invasion. Locals used to teach British officers Arabic, Hindi, Urdu and Persian. Almost every mosque was acting as school too and Muslim emperors used to spend a huge sum of money on education. Muslim India was rich in farming, silk, and jute and from textile industry to ship building. No poverty, no crises and no clashes of civilization or religion. Because the education system was based on noble thoughts and noble curriculum.

I want to draw your attention to an extract from the minute written by Sir T.B Macaulay to British parliament dated 2nd February 1835 about what type of education system is required in Indian sub-continent to replace the Muslim education system. He stated “We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern, –a class of persons Indian in blood and color, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect” This was and this is the plan and mission of this so called education system for which you are ready to die, for which UNO takes you to their office to produce more and more Asians in blood but English in taste, to produce more and more Africans in color but English in opinion, to produce more and more non English people but English in morale. This so called education made Obama, the mass murder, your ideal. isn’t it?

Why they want to make all human beings English? Because Englishmen are the staunch supporters and slaves of Jews. Do you know Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, the founder and symbol of English education in India was a freemasons.

You say a teacher, a pen and a book can change the world, yes I agree with, but which teacher which pen and which book? It is to be specified, Prophet Muhammad Peace be upon him said I am sent as a teacher, and the book He sent to teach is Quran. So a noble and pious teacher with prophetic curriculum can change the world not with satanic or secular curriculum.

You have given the example that once a journalist asked a student that why a talib afraid of this education he replied a talib didn’t know what was in this book. The same I say to you and through you to whole world that why they afraid from the book of Allah because they don’t know what is in it. Taliban want to implement what is in the book of Allah and the UN wants to impleme nt what they have in man-made books. We want to connect the world to their creator through the book of Allah and UNO want to enslave the world to few evil creatures.

You have talked about justice and equality from the stage of and unjust institution, the place where you were standing uttering for justice and equality, all the nations are not equal there, only five wicked states have the veto power and rest of them are powerless, dozens of time when all the world untied against the Israel only one veto was enough to press the throat of justice.

The place you were speaking to the world is heading towards new world order, I want to know what is wrong the old world order? They want to establish global education, global economy, global army, global trade, global government and finally global religion. I want to know is there any space for the prophetic guidance in all above global plans?

Is there any space for Islamic sharia or Islamic law to which UN call inhumane and barbaric? You have talk about attack on polio team, would you explain why the then American foreign secretary of state Henry Kissinger, a Jew, said in 1973 to reduce the third world population by 80%. Why the sterilization and eugenics programs are running in different countries in one way or another under the umbrella of the UN. More than 1 million Muslim women have been sterilized in Uzbekistan forcibly without their consent.

Bertrand Russell writes in his book the impact of science on society, “diet, injections and injunctions will combine, from a very early age, to produce the sort of character and sort of beliefs that the authorities consider desirable and any serious criticism of power that be will become psychologically impossible”. This is why we have the reservation on so called polio vaccination program.

You say Malala day is not your day it is the day of every person who has raised voice for their rights, I ask you why such a day in not assigned to Rachel Corrie, only because the  bulldozer was Israeli?

Why such a day in not assigned to Affia Siddique because the buyers are Americans? Why such day is not assigned to Faizan and Faheem because the killer was Raymond Davis? Why such a day in not assigned to those16 innocent afghan women and children who were shot dead by an American Robert Belas because he was not a talib.

I ask you and be honest in reply, if you were shot but Americans in a drone attack, would world have ever heard updates on your medical status? Would you be called ‘daughter of the nation? Would the media make a fuss about you? Would General Kiyani have come to visit you and would the world media be constantly reporting on you? Would you were called to UN? Would a Malala day be announced?

More than 300 innocent women and children have been killed in drones attacks but who cares because attackers are highly educated, non-violent, peaceful Americans.

I wish, the compassion you learnt from Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him should be learnt by Pakistan Army so they could stop shedding of Muslim blood in FATA and Baluchistan. I wish, the compassion you learnt from Prophet Jesus should be learnt by USA and NATO so they should stop shedding blood of innocent Muslims across the world and I wish the same for followers of Buddha to stop killing of innocent unarmed Muslims in Burma, and Sri Lanka and wish the same for Indian army to follow Gandhi jee and stop genocide in Kashmir, And yes, The followers of bacha khan, the ANP has an example of non-violence in their five years regime in KPK province, for example Swat, where a single shot was not fired and we witnessed the followers of bacha khan implemented the philosophy of nonviolence in its true soul, with support of jets, tanks and gunships.

At the end I advise you to come back home, adopt the Islamic and pushtoon culture, join any female Islamic madrassa near your home town, study and learn the book of Allah, use your pen for Islam and plight of Muslim ummah and reveal the conspiracy of tiny elite who want to enslave the whole humanity for their evil agendas in the name of new world order.

All praises to Allah the creator of the Universe.

Clip_14Mohammad Hanif, author of Exploding Mangoes, and a former BBC Employee Responds to Adnan Rasheed

Dear Adnan Rasheed,

I am writing to you in my personal capacity. This may not be the opinion of the people of Pakistan or the policy of the government, but I write to thank you in response to the generous letter you have written to Malala Yousafzai. Thanks for owning up that your comrades tried to kill her by shooting her in the head. Many of your well-wishers in Pakistan had been claiming the Taliban wouldn’t attack a minor girl. They were of the opinion that Malala had shot herself in order to become a celebrity and get a UK visa. Women, as we know, will go to any lengths to get what they want. So thanks for saying that a 14-year-old girl was the Taliban’s foe. And if she rolls out the old cliche that the pen is mightier than sword, she must face the sword and find it for herself.

Like you, there are others who are still not sure whether it was “Islamically correct or wrong”, or whether she deserved to be “killed or not”, but then you go on to suggest that we leave it to Allah.

There are a lot of people in Pakistan, some of them not even Muslims, who, when faced with difficult choices or everyday hardships, say let’s leave it to Allah. Sometimes it’s the only solace for the helpless. But most people don’t say leave it to Allah after shooting a kid in the face. The whole point of leaving it to Allah is that He is a better judge than any human being, and there are matters that are beyond our comprehension – maybe even beyond your favourite writer Bertrand Russell’s comprehension.

Allow me to make another small theological point – again about girls. Before the advent of Islam, before the prophet gave us the holy book that you want Malala to learn again, in the times we call jahilia, people used to bury their newborn daughters. They probably found them annoying and thought it better to get rid of them before they learned to speak. We are told Islam came to put an end to such horrendous practices. If 1,400 years later, we have to shoot girls in the head in an attempt to shut them up, someone like Russell might say we haven’t made much progress.

Like you, I did a bit of research in Malala’s hometown in Swat valley, and I remember a wise journalist warning your commanders that the Taliban might get away with slitting people’s throats in public squares but not to try shutting down the girls’ school. The government practically handed over the valley to your comrades, but their rule didn’t even last for a few weeks because they ordered all women to stay home.

There was only one lesson to be learned: you can fight the Pakistani army; you can try and almost kill Pakistan’s commander-in-chief, as you so heroically did; you might wage a glorious jihad against brutal imperial forces. But you can’t pick a fight with the working women in your neighbourhood and hope to win. Those women may never get an audience at the UN but everyone – from cotton picker to bank teller – cannot be asked to shut up and stay home, for the simple reason that they won’t.

It has also been suggested that your letter represents the mainstream opinion in Pakistan. But don’t fall for this praise. You might think that a lot of people support your just fight, but there is a part of them that worries whether their girl will get the grades to get into a good university. And if you tell them there is a contradiction there, they might tell you to leave it to Allah.

I’m not sure if such frank language is appreciated in the Taliban’s shura, but I’m sure, with your linguistic skills, you can phrase it better. I have a feeling that, like it or not, our women will kick arse.

Yes, we have heard all your arguments about how they are a weaker sex, they can’t be in the workplace because they are impure five days a month, and if they are good wives they are pregnant nine months a year; but whenever I look around I have this sinking feeling that they are going to kick arse. Mine and yours.

Don’t believe me? You may have seen the propaganda pictures of female pilots released by your former employer, Pakistan’s air force. Some of them have started to fly fighter aircraft. Like you, I’m of the firm belief no good has ever come out of the Pakistani army’s misadventures. But just think of the day when one of those female pilots decides to notleave it to Allah.

Another Rejoinder to Adnan Rashid

The truly disturbing bit about TTP’s Adnan Rashid’s letter to Malala is that it does not shock too much. Had the name been erased, personal details omitted and contents modified a little, it would not have been easy to guess that it came from a TTP commander. It could have been any of our luminaries of the Urdu press (perhaps even of English press) or any one of our “fearless” prime time television anchors. It could have been someone from the expatriate professional classes. A leftist ‘intellectual’ unwilling to unlearn could have penned it or an aspiring anti-imperialist yet to learn.

Of course, it could have been Syed Munawar Hasan, but more unnervingly it could also have been Mr Imran Khan citing the Macaulay quote of dubious authenticity or Mian Shahbaz Sharif’s speech-writer providing the reference to Russell. It could have been anyone. Fanaticism is commonplace, bigotry has gone mainstream. The moral question remains an easy one; we have just got the answer exactly wrong.

Adnan Rashid, the ex-PAF, the patriot gets nods of understanding, while Malala is the “native informant”. Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil” seems to be the intuitive reference. Mind you there is nothing banal about a child being shot in the head and “respected” people making apologies for it.

How dare Malala only talk about education and omit drones, imperialism, Muslims in Burma? Global warming, children in Africa, the CNG crisis and the patwari system? How weak of her not to be a condemnation machine, an all encompassing and engulfing voice for everyone in the world for all issues. Impeccable logic, one should speak up for everything or speak up for nothing. In Ghalib’s words, “Mushkilen itni parin mujh pay kay asan ho ganyi”. Did she really think that the way to stardom is as simple as getting shot in the skull? No Sirs, not on our watch. How dare she go to the United Kingdom and get operated upon by those infidels, agents of imperialism doctors? Oh, perhaps because none of our brotherly Islamic countries offered treatment. Sure, she could have done the honourable thing and died on our soil.

We know of all this already. So what’s the point? Firstly, ignorance and bigotry should be called out as a general principle. Secondly, and more significantly, while there is some pretense of opposition to religious extremism and violence in the abstract, as soon as the conflict is concentrated in a particular example, the extent of the rot is exposed. The previous seminal example is Governor Salmaan Taseer’s murder and shameful display of cowardice and bigotry that followed. Mumtaz Qadri was not only cheered on by madrassa students, but garlanded by lawyers. A former chief justice of the Lahore High Court volunteered to represent him pro bono. References to Ghazi Illam Din were de rigueur. Facebook warriors expressed solidarity with the murderer. The most generous ones offered to change the subject only. With Malala, it is the same cruel circus all over again.

The steady daily dose of confused notions of hyper-nationalism, fabricated history and paranoia are well on their way to triumph. The only meaningful resistance to the complete descent into madness comes from Malala and her sisters. Malala’s plea for education and the need for it are painfully and ironically vindicated by the reaction to her speech. A whole generation of middle-class and upper middle-class youth is being raised on xenophobia, led to believe that all was well before the war on terror, suicide bombings are blowback to drones, the punishment for any corruption should be death and abuse a valid substitute for thought, etc.

The cliche of youth representing hope and all that is hollow and we know it. These young ultranationalists are revolted by the idea of becoming “brown sahibs” (as they should be), yet the idea of becoming “brown Bedouins (or is it Sheikhs)” is not equally unappealing. The disdain for local culture is a common thread, merely substituting one form of imperialism with another, camels for camaros, water kits for Nukes. The diehard nationalist is also a pan-Islamist, go figure. Judging by the product, the education system is, indeed, broken.

The national conversation has to, at some point, move from ideological polemic to policymaking and institutional reform. That point is now. Curriculum reform (particularly post Eighteenth Amendment) has to take centre stage. The outdated and unaccountable Babu Raj of the CSP bureaucracy and the need for civil service reform is not talked about enough (perhaps, not at all). The debate on local government legislation and why the state proposes to go back to Zia’s model of non-party based elections needs to be conducted. Yet, policy debate presumes a minimum consensus on basic human values.

Political disagreements and policy differences are not the same as those on whether a child shot by religious fanatics is justified or not. It is difficult to discuss education policy when schools are being blown up. Still, it needs to be done. We cannot wait for the conflict between us and the medievalists to end before we begin, since the conflict is here to stay for a while.

Women in the Karak district of K-P have been reportedly banned from leaving the house without a mehram by a committee of clerics recently. Those outraged at Malala’s address in the UN will probably find this to be an acceptable local custom, culture relativism, etc. Taking ignorant and condescending liberties with the Pashtun culture is now a sport of the overzealous youth and the “all-knowing Punjabi intelligentsia”. That is why Malala had to speak, and she did it beautifully. Malala is Pashtun culture; bravery and eloquence.

In the Holy month after breaking fast, accessing YouTube through a proxy server, Rooh Afza in hand, listening to Pink Floyd’s tribute to the genius Syd Barrett “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” makes the evening easier. Syd Barrett was as different from Malala as is possible, yet these lines make one uncomfortably think about her.

You were caught on the crossfire

Of childhood and stardom,

Blown on the steel breeze.

Come on you target for faraway laughter,

Come on you stranger, you legend, you martyr, and shine!

May you always shine like the sun, your spirits never be dampened, and the naysayers consigned to the wastebasket of history, as they shall be.