By Shabana Mahfooz
Nine years ago, a young school girl in Pakistan started writing a blog about her daily experiences. While those of an average school girl may not hold much interest to its readers, this particular experience was different. It helped give an insight in the then Taliban controlled region of Swat, who in horrific violations of human rights and defiance to the true spirit of Islam, imposed many restrictions. Apart from banning all sorts of entertainments like music and watching television, the Taliban did not allow women to leave their house, even to attain education. So when Ziauddin Yousafzai on BBC Urdu’s request let his daughter blog her life as a school girl in Swat, although aware of the acute danger to life he and his daughter faced, he probably himself didn’t know, that not only she will survive an attack on her life, she would live on to become one of the most influential personalities of the world. This was the beginning of the journey of Malala Yousufzai.
From a school girl in a relatively underdeveloped area of Swat Valley in Pakistan, Malala has now become a student of the prestigious Oxford University – an institution where former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto also studied and incidentally is someone whom Malala idolizes. But the price Malala has paid is very high. She had to risk her life, then the freedom to live in her homeland – all for her desire to receive education, a basic right.
There are many who do not believe in the actuality of the near fatal attack she suffered at the hands of Taliban. They search minutely in her post surgery photographs of the wound in her forehead and are not convinced that a bullet almost damaged her skull before passing through. They question the swiftness with which she was shifted abroad for treatment. They challenge the authenticity of the book she co authored with a British journalist. They doubt the sincerity of her cause and loyalty to her country, calling her an agent of the West, thinking aloud why does she not come back to Pakistan?
But each time she receives an honour, the name of her country comes first. A state leader who jointly advocates with her the importance of educating girls is acutely aware that she belongs to Pakistan. Each time she raises her voice on any issue, her suffering and her emergence is quoted in the background. At a time when Pakistan is battling allegations of harbouring terrorists and is not at the very best of relations with most of its neighbours and some key allies, any action or person who brings good name to Pakistan should at least be given the benefit of doubt.
She seems not to have forgotten her roots, as her appearance has hardly changed since she left Pakistan. But her vision has expanded, her interest widened, her outlook modified. She champions the rights of education not only for Pakistani girls, but for all around the world. Her heart bleeds at the genocide of Rohingyas. Her list of accolades surpasses even the figure of her age. This may only be the beginning. The world is keenly waiting for the day when she completes her own education and pursues education of other girls like her. We all have yet to see how she breaks the chains binding those girls and keeping them away from the path to literacy, just like she was once restricted. We all await to hear her political agenda, as she holds the ambition to become a politician one day. Until then, let’s praise her for fighting odds, braving hardships, giving eloquent speeches and basking in limelight. Let us witness the making of Malala.
Story first published: 18th October 2017