Why Malala is not a western puppet

Published: July 7, 2014
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Malala has become an ambassador of Pakistan for goodwill and she is promoting her nation wherever she goes. PHOTO: AFP

Malala has become an ambassador of Pakistan for goodwill and she is promoting her nation wherever she goes. PHOTO: AFP Malala Yousafzai speaks next to Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg (R), outside the prime minister's residence in Oslo June 14, 2014. PHOTO: REUTERS

I have always heard about how summer days and winter nights are exceptionally long in Norway. However, it was not until I visited the Scandinavian country myself that I understood the magnitude of their duration. A beautiful country on the whole, the drastic differences in the lengths of its days, as compared to Pakistan, took me a while to adjust myself over there.

I was invited by the 14 August Committee to visit Oslo and meet Malala Yousafzai, who was also visiting the city at the time. When we reached the Oslo international airport, the other committee members and I were told to wait for Malala and her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, who were going to meet us there and discuss the itinerary of our visit. After a while, Malala arrived with her father and cordialities were exchanged. We discussed the schedule ahead of us briefly and soon we were on our way to our first programme.

While travelling via Norway’s well-planned roads, I couldn’t help but feel astonished. For a person like myself, who has spent a major part of his life covering militancy in war-torn areas of Pakistan, the well-maintained law and order situation in the city made me pleasantly surprised. Everything seemed to be very much in order; so much so that even their prime minister travelled around the city unaccompanied by any security protocol.

After meeting the Norwegian prince, we went on to attend a seminar called ‘Leadership with Purpose’ organised by the committee where Malala was one of the speakers. During her speech, she stressed on the importance of education and harnessing leadership skills for young girls everywhere and discussed the issues women were facing in Pakistan. The way she spoke with foreign journalists and answered their questions was truly commendable for a girl her age.

The Red Cross in Norway also arranged a programme to highlight Malala’s struggle for education where she received an award for her bravery and courage. All this made me wonder how she was managing to accomplish so much at such an age.

I don’t understand why Malala never received the same level of admiration and motivation from her own people in Pakistan. In the West, she is treated like a public figure and people stumble upon one another just to get an autograph from her. Yet, in Pakistan, we have labelled her as a western puppet supposedly spreading propaganda against our land. While travelling with her, I realised Malala’s merit.

She also met Prime Minister Erna Solberg and discussed the dismal condition of education in Swat. She spoke about the schools that were damaged in the 2005 earthquake and how they still haven’t been reconstructed. She also touched upon issues pertaining to militancy in the area, which was also responsible for destroying and damaging many schools, especially those meant for young girls.

She told the prime minister that though Norway has supported Pakistan in the past, it was imperative that they continue to support her country in future so that new schools can be built for the youth in terrorism-struck areas. She discussed how the problem of female education was a global one as young girls are facing this issue in almost every developing country, be it Syria, Nigeria or Kenya. She spoke about how it was important for developed countries such as Norway to assist them in this crisis.

During her discussions with different government officials in Oslo, she talked about how she wanted to be part of initiatives such as ‘Taleem Sub Kay Liye ’(Education for all), which are working towards fundamentally changing the face of the education sector in Pakistan.

In her meetings, she frequently mentioned Pakistan and talked about how the problems of her countries were her own. As she phrased it,

Mera Swat aur mera Pakistan”

(My Swat and my Pakistan)

What I have gathered from my short visit is that Malala is no longer the victimised girl from 2012. She has now become a confident, intellectual and progressive woman who is willing to invest everything she’s got to increase the cause of education in Pakistan. I could see an individual who was genuinely working for the betterment of her country. She has become an ambassador of Pakistan for goodwill and she is promoting her nation wherever she goes.

If, even after understanding that all Malala really stands for is female education, there are people in Pakistan who doubt her motives, then there is nothing much that can be said to them. They should just understand that while they sit in their homes and criticise whatever good is happening in Pakistan, people like Malala are out there, working to make a difference.

If a young girl like Malala can achieve such feats, why can’t we?

This is something we all should ponder upon.

Sherin Zada

Sherin Zada

He works as a reporter with Express News from Swat.

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