We are not Malala, we may be the Taliban

Published: October 15, 2012

Young Malala Yousufzai is now the target of a propaganda campaign.

In order for terrorists to flourish, they need more than guns, funding and a geographical location to operate in – they also need an ideological space to occupy and work inside.

That is how they persist; that is how they can win.

This fact is one which the majority of Pakistanis have yet to come to terms with: the fact that we ourselves are often individually culpable and involved in the war being waged against the terrorists in our country. Tragically, we are often knowingly or unknowingly on the wrong side of the ideological front.

Nowhere has this been better illustrated than in the current tragedy that is the attack on 14-year-old Malala Yousufzai.

Within hours of the attack, a select group of Pakistanis started creating the ideological space that allows terrorists the upper hand. It would be hard to imagine how a counter narrative could be built around the gunning down of a child, but there it was, coming from our politically charged youth, our parties, our ultra-nationalists and religio-political parties, our extremist/banned organisations and yes, our relatives, peers and friends.

I received this SMS message early yesterday morning from a co-worker:

Zara Sochae! [think!]
MALALA Ko Karachi My Target Kiya Jata; [If Malala was targeted in Karachi]
Ya Hazaron Ki Tarah Isay Bhi Drone Nishana Banata Tou: [or killed like thousands in drone attacks]
1-Na To Wo Qoum Ki Byti Kehlati [nor would she be called nation’s daughter]
2-Na Hi yeh Matam [nor this mourning]
3-Na Obama Air Ambulance Offer Karta [nor an Air Ambulance from Obama]
4-Na UNO Ko ko Takleef Hoti. [Nor UNO being hurt]
5-Na tamam Madaris/ulema ka 90 pur data collect hota [Nor the collection of data of madrassas and ulema at Nine Zero]
Aaj Bhi North Wazirastan My Drone Attack My 16 Afrad Shaheed Ho Chuky Hain: [Today also 16 people have died in drone attacks]
1-Na To Qoam Ny DUA Ki? [Did the nation pray?]
2-Na Kiyani Giya Na Kisi kou koi ghum? [Neither did Kayani go, nor did anyone express sorrow?]
3-Na Kisi Ko CMH Muntaqil kiya Geya? [Nor was anyone admitted to CMH?]
4-Qoam Ki Aik Aur Byti  AAFIA K Liye Kisi Ny Aaj Tak Yom-e-Duaa Kiyon Nahi Manai? [Why has there never been a day of prayer for Dr Aafia Siddiqui?]
5-Aur Kiyon Na AAFIA K Liye “Azad Media” Ny Aasman Sar Par Uthaya [Why no hue and cry for Aafia in our idependent media?]
6-Aur Laal Masjid ki betiyan? [What about the Laal Masjid daughters?]
Anjuman-e-Ghulamane America Ke Khilaf Awaz Utah Kur Jiyo [Speak out against the US]

You can only imagine how far this SMS campaign has reached if a ‘liberal extremist’ such as myself has managed to get it sent over to him.

You can only begin to imagine what this campaign looks like on Facebook (I’m sharing a few less extreme images below):

This picture reads:  Pakistan’s two persecuted daughters — Malala and Aafia

Is the nation’s approach equal in both matters?
Is the media’s approach equal in both matters?
Is the world’s approach equal in both matters?
Is America approach equal in both matters?

This picture reads:    Dr Aafia’s ideal and Malala’s idea – Obama

Which one would you pick? Aafia’s or Malala’s? Think and answer, it’s a matter of faith

Examine the content above and you will see the attack on Malala being obfuscated among drone attacks, target killings in Karachi, Aafia Siddiqui and Laal masjid, not to mention the suggestion of a grand conspiracy involving the US and our local media.

“But surely forwarding this message does not make me the Taliban? How absurd! There is some truth in all that after all!”

That is the tragedy of our nation. An attempt to murder children must also have a conspiracy and double meaning to it. The shooting of a child must serve an agenda (read: my agenda). No matter if this erodes the little resolve the nation may have to come to an agreement on an act of terrorism. No matter if this results in conversations, debates, perhaps policies and action that eventually shapes Pakistan further into the TTP’s Pakistan.

Kill media people

Later that day the web desk ran a report on the Taliban planning attacks on media houses for their coverage of the Malala attack.

I felt fear. But the fear was less from the possibility of being a potential target (a grim reality), and more from the reactions of the online audience when we shared the story to Facebook:

Innocent Kumar Ab Pata Chalega Tum Logon Ko Media Walon tongue
Jalal Khan Hoti taleban zinda bad
FaiZal Ashfaq Should target GEO first
Salman Shafi Should target geo and express tv first.
Ata Ur Rehman Pehli baar Aqalmandi ka kaam karenge tongue grin
Shahzeb Hassan Has somebody told them ET’s address already?
[and dozens more…]
When this story was shared to the Roznama Express page, an overwhelming majority of the comments supported the Taliban’s decision to kill media folk. Perhaps just a vocal minority? Perhaps just a casual reference to supporting murder? This is also when I started thinking about an incident 10 days ago when I was driving home and was delayed for 20 minutes due to a politician blocking the road due to their VVIP protocol and security contingents.
“I hope a suicide bomber blows up all these politicians someday”
That was my casual thought that evening as I waited in frustration for a light to turn from red to green. The ideological infection of extremism is deep-rooted, and in us all.
I spent the last half of yesterday (my day off) browsing Facebook to try and track down the counter narrative being spun around the Malala attack online. What I found was a coordinated effort being made by political parties and their supporters (JI, PTI) along with extremist outfits such as the Sipah-e-Sahaba and ASWJ working alongside ultra-nationalists of the Zaid Hamid ilk to spin, well, this story:
Or to take it straight from conspiracy pundit Zaid Hamid’s mouth:
Under NO circumstances, the Muslims of Pakistan will wage a war against Afghan Taliban, Haqqani or Gulbadin hekmatyar. But by Allah, we will wage a war against those terrorists and murderers who are created, backed and protected by JSOC, CIA and RAW. That CIA should understand this clearly.
Or take it from any number of sources disseminating a new spin on the Malala attack. Some of the images are easy-to-consume ‘fun’ material like this image below.
Perhaps the most shared image in the anti-Malala campaign has been this image below of Malala and her father meeting the ‘evil’ CIA agents and top US officials. Many of the images have included false statements attributed to Malala claiming she bashed the Pakistan Army, encouraged operations in Pakistan and other such ‘nefarious schemes’.
This picture reads: Malala with her parents present at a session with officials of US Army
The image below builds the argument that the Pakistani public is expressing hate towards the Taliban, not sympathy towards Malala because that is what the US and local media wants them to think.
This picture reads:  Conspiracy revealed.First they launched an offensive in Waziristan after a fake video was released.Now, they have attacked an innocent girl to pave way for another operationWe sympathise with Malala and condemn the attack on her. But, why have you not expressed this anger when a number of girls died in drone attacks?

The truth is, you don’t have any sympathy for Malala, but only hate Taliban because of the vengeance the media has instilled in you.

Taking spin yet another step further, the image below states that the Taliban have actually condemned the attack on Malala, and this whole incident has been another move by the US.
This picture reads:  The Taliban have denied attacking Malala and have condemned the attack on her.
This is another trick to defame Taliban and please America
We request the Pakistani media that it’s been 63 years that we have been independent, but sadly you haven’t been freed from the slavery of Western media and America
Share this as much as you can, because media will not do so.
There is even ‘Malala was attacked to take attention away from the Anti-Islam film movement’ spin.
This picture reads: I, Touqeer Khan, vouch that the attack on Malala was cleverly planned so that people’s attention could be diverted from the blasphemous film. Malala attack is not a big deal. Many such Malalas die everyday from Waziristan to Karachi in different acts of terror.
America, the Pakistani government and the Pakistani media have together planned this conspiracy. And as far as I know, these rented murderers do not leave their victims injured.
Pakistani forces were behind the Lal Masjid operation and openly attacking women in Quetta and the blame was placed on the Taliban.

This is the ideological ground that allows terrorist outfits like the Taliban to operate.

It is an information-fueled rabbit hole, which goes deeper and deeper depending on the depths an individual wishes to go, and unfortunately, whether it is a preppy teenage PTI supporter up at the top, or all the way down to a hardened ultra-nationalist being paid to pour out propaganda online, the result is all the same:

Create space for terrorism and extremism to flourish.

To quote Karl Marx’s oft cited view on ideology (as a negative force):

“They don’t know it, but they are doing it.”


Some of the Facebook pages accessed for this blog post include:

Mai Pakistani HoonAl Asir ChannelMuslim Youth


Pakistan media – The fifth column of the enemy

Syed Zaid Zaman Hamid [Official]Ahmed Quraishi

+92 – Plus Nine Two.

Read more by Jahanzaib here or follow him on Twitter @jhaque_

Do you think there is a conspiracy involved in the attack on Malala?

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Jahanzaib Haque

Jahanzaib Haque

News buff and Web Editor, The Express Tribune. Jahanzaib tweets @Jhaque_ twitter.com/jhaque_

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • http://faceook mohammad akram

    we codemn the THE ATTACKE ON MAMAMA but it is just mystry that why Taliban want to
    kill Malala even it is admitted for a while that taliban want to prevent the women to be educated so there are so many other women who are get the education and are not being killed by taliban it is clear the conscpyrcy and some anti-islam people want to divert attension of muslims from blashphemous film and saving the position of those film makers. Recommend

  • tahira

    is india citadel of islam?Recommend

  • asma

    i request u all pakistanis pllllllzzzzzzzzzz

    1.stop the rate of divorce by law..
    2.stop the misuse of mob and internet..
    3.stop the harrasments in public transports…
    4.stop the rate of sexual voilation…
    5.stop the game to to in girls houses (of boys/men nd their mothers , sisters )to searching girls for marriage…
    6.stop the harrasments on roads…Recommend

  • http://gmail someone

    @asma: that still doesnt justify attacks on innocent ppl by americans through drones… and if muslim women want to be safe, they should first follow the religion n understand why there hav been certain restrictions and rules for women to follow in Holy Quran n Sunnah… Nnd Allah surely protects those who want to protected…the rest is their own conduct, be it man or woman…if you want to follow your own devised rules only..then dont bring islam into question…and pakistan is not filled with this filth onlyRecommend

  • asma

    you are 100% right ..i must say to punish all sinsters, there shud b no limitation for man or woman …but muslim brothers should take steps to stop voilations against simple girls/women …i hav seen in my society , where 3 girls are divorced without any kind of reasons…i have seen , boys r finding rich girls for marriages….i hav seen bad behaviours of men nd guys in public transports..

    I am realy THANKFUL OF ALLAH TA’ALLAH , ALLAH (SWT) kept me save frm e.problem…and i hav no complain with any boy/man personally…but i feel pain for others..
    i say openly to punish e.one who acts wrong , but by legal ways..
    sorry if someone dislikes my views..Recommend

  • Leila Rage

    @asma and @someone:

    By your logic, women who are assaulted or raped in Pakistan, want to be attacked because if they wanted to be protected no one would harm them? You are seriously delusional.

    Do you think young infants want to be raped? What about young children below the age of even 8 years? Why are they not protected from sick perverts- children clearly can’t want to be attacked.

    You can take all the precautions you want, but if a pervert has a diseased way of thinking, then he will still assault someone. Such sick perverts need to be treated. Its their thinking that needs to change. they need to start seeing women in a respectful way rather than just thinking of women as sexual objects. Recommend

  • The 21st Century

    As a distant observer of the Pakistani scene, the backlash against Malala is very distressing to witness. Never in my life have I seen such blatant whataboutery (the attempt to distract from a story’s narrative by introducing wholly unrelated issues). With ridiculous conspiracy stories rampant, it seems like the entire nation needs to sit down and study Occam’s Razor. Why do so many find it hard to believe that terrorists would act like terrorists?

    The drone attacks cannot be used to justify the violence and horror inflicted on Pakistanis by their fellow citizens. And until Pakistanis understand that far from being a foreign provocation, the drones are merely a response to your own failed state’s unwillingness to deal with its own problems, they will most assuredly continue. Religious extremists who believe that their god–who has failed to protect them thus far–is capable of defeating the forces of liberalism and secularism, are sadly deluded. The overriding arc of history moves in one direction and one direction only–and it’s not backwards. Recommend

  • arian

    @Leila Rage:
    u r saying 100% right..i m also saying to protect women nd girls frm voilation..u can see on news tv channels…men r v.cruel with females..on the other side , these r men who r making crore pati of stage dancers…these dancers get lakhs rupees at one dance by pak muslim brothers..but a pvt school teacher gets just 3000 rupes after a month by hardworking teaching..
    point to be noted..if men r good according to islam..then there will b peace in society…

  • http://gmail someone

    @Leila Rage:
    had u read my comment properly, you would have realized that what i said is different from what you interpreted…
    women these days..are theynot deviated from the right path? are they not finding ways to get noticed in another way? n that doesnt mean that men are right in any way in doing this… and nobody’s blaming young kids or the innocents ofcourse who would? my point’s if you might notice.Recommend

  • http://www.crazyraid.com cheap wow gold

    Do you have any video of that? I’d like to find out some additional information.Recommend

  • Zehra Naqvi

    Salam Aleikum/Hi (whatever you prefer)

    I’ve been in Chicago so the only image that I’ve been getting of Malala is the positive one propagated by the western media. It never crossed my mind that killing a girl could be painted as a hoax until this morning when I saw a photo similar to the ones above on my facebook news feed. This is just one example of how polarized Pakistan has become concerning not just issues on the political forefront but also something as horrfying as the shooting of a child that would unite any normal nation.

    May God help us all. And protect all religious minorities in PakistanRecommend

  • P1

    Seeing what’s happening in Pakistan… I think it is the lowest level to which a society can sink and no miracle seems to prevent Pakistan from collapsing. A nation can overcome poverty,colonialism and any such difficulty if general population is morally superior and right thinking. But Pakistani population have handed over their destiny to bunch of self serving psychopants who illustrate a living inspired by 2000 year old script and teaching. If Pakistani people can’t help themselves then no body can. All religions are just a tool to make general population to maintain mental peace but if religion becomes tool of hatred it is better to discard such religion. Recommend

  • Rosh

    I usually do not comment but then I decided there is always a first.
    I wonder why we use the word “Taliban” for people with overgrown beard representing a distorted image of Islam, terrorist should be better, no? ( I have lived in swat so I am pretty much familiar with these terrorist kind.)
    Secondly I do not understand why Malala got so much attention ( its not that I am jealous, no) Its just that I am sad why are Dr. Afia and the Drone attacks justified ( since I have family living in Bannu, you won’t believe me but those people seriously those stories are worth being heard, the people dying, worth being mentioned
    Now the above article… I am not sure what it is but it seems ” too emotional””too directed”
    “too amateur”. Now if you want to portray a point to the people you don’t tell them Santa Claus doesn’t exist and he is a vampire… Instead you ask them to think about themselves. I am pretty sure there is a huge reality behind the Malala case (I am every bit against killing of being especially girls)but I just don’t understand the hype (so you see I am doubting Santa here).
    P.s I have studied in swat and I am a female and I am against terrorist was then and will be. Peace ( I hope we all get to live the way of the peace)Recommend

  • William Winkelman

    @M Ali Khan:
    This is the kind of stuff that turns religious people into atheists and that atheists find useful in condemning religion. Those mullahs do God a great disservice.Recommend

  • Muhammad Ismail

    Was Usama Bin Ladin an Afghani Pathan(If not then why thousand of Pathan were killed for?)Recommend

  • OhPakistan

    Jahanzaib, you/your article contributed enormously to their media war to counter the incident !
    Your article, being widely read and commented, displayed all the “noxious material” they wanted the general public to view which in turn means “you have played into their hands” ! Recommend

  • Tariq

    @M Ali Khan: What is wrong with what you have listed ….if you are Muslim or even Christian or Jew……read any of the books revealed in those faiths and you will find no difference. You yourself are an ignorant person who doesn’t know what the followers of a faith like you pass your comments on are supposed to observe for modesty. You have very cunningly listed the repeated points and create 10 out of one……..Taliban certainly were not to put a liberal charter when they came in to power…..What good they did was not possible for the imperial powers or so called super powers to show.

    They controlled crime ….the almost stopped drug business, above all they fully control Afghanistan that could not be possible for any one in the history. Internet banning, veil, free mixing of women and thin dress is not a thing that can be argued for a cruel rule. Drones, occupations, social perversion through internet porn is certainly.

    This paper is visibly part of planted media, where only those letters are selected to publish which can neutralize the good effect of this article where a good argument is presented selected from social media which most of the so called free media is averse to. I know I am also putting my comment in to well but at least it would provide some food for thought for a single stooge editing it. Recommend

  • Tariq

    I am sure the comment that came to favor the article have been put to bin. We know you very well. This is a new technique to publish an article and than neutralizer it with counter comments. Recommend

  • Sami

    It was the medai which supported Taliban. It was the media which made a hero of Taliban Leader
    Fazal ullah. It is the media which is misleading pakistani folk. A country run by a whole group of corrupt leaders such as pakistan, TTP like organizations will naturally exist???? What do you think about Target Killing in karachi? What do you thing Civilian casualties in CIA drone attaks? and the whole list can’t be described here…….where is media? Actually Pakistani media is on US Agenda, They criticize pakistan army, they criticize pakisan ISI……and so on……. Recommend

  • Ali

    Brave people like Malala can change this country not this American war.We should be proud of

    this brave young girl who came out for a great cause.I don’t know why reformers like Sir Syed

    Ahmed Khan become controversial and people like Zaid hamid or Hameed Gul

    become heroes.The writer of this article is certainly looks angry towards the Americans but

    was not able to create a case. Recommend

  • From USA

    Nice Article!!!!
    Only for those who have sense…
    Great work and keep it upRecommend

  • Yogesh Khandke

    My opinion is that Indians and Indian Muslims. (In the pre-partition sense) have been baited by the trap that the colonialists laid for them – creation of Pakistan, apparently because Hindus and Muslims are two nations and cannot be part of one. (M. A. Jinnah) (India in 2012 has almost as many Muslims as Pakistan has.)

    Later on when under the communists in Afghanistan, there was universal education, emancipation of women etc., we had Afghan Muslims and Pakistni Muslims used as cannon fodder in the America’s anti-communist campaign, Taliban and the Mujahadeen were American heroes then. Now that the threat from communism has been neutralised we have the Talilban, Al Qaeda former American partners being demonised. I am amazed by the gullibility of those concerned. The United States/ Britain created the conditions that lead to the Malala incident, they have sown the seeds of hatred and violence, unfortunately it is Muslims, Pakistanis, Afghans, Indians who are reaping the harvest.

    One of the posters here has shared a Taliban dos and donts list, well isn’t the United Sates propping up the Saudi Arabian regime that has quite similar rules, I am surprised by the inability of anyone to see through US hypocrisy Recommend