Why Mussarat Ahmad Zeb and Pakistanis still find it difficult to accept Malala Yousafzai

Published: May 26, 2017

“The attack on Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai was staged,” read a tweet last week.

The attack on Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai was staged, read a tweet last week. This wasn’t a social media troll or veteran conspiracy theorist. This was a Member of the National Assembly (MNA), Mussarat Ahmad Zeb, who also hails from the royal family of Swat, the region where Malala was shot in the head by Taliban militants.

The distinguished parliamentarian did not stop there, also revealing how plots of land were allocated to those who took part in the medical cover up, and most interestingly, how she had also been offered to take part in this drama but did not want to seek asylum in a foreign country. It is a sad day for Pakistani passport holders when a prominent politician suggests that the surest ticket to the UK is to be shot in the head by a terrorist faction. We shall stick with the embassies for now.

At this point, it would perhaps be prudent to admonish Zeb for what she said. The most obvious reason for that would be that there is no factual evidence of any kind supporting her claim, meaning that it flies in the face of reality and truth. This is all the more problematic considering that as a politician, she has a fiduciary relationship with her constituents, and it is incredibly irresponsible for her to abuse that trust by disseminating claims which are not backed by evidence of any kind.

The second reason is that if this entire situation was created by Zeb for political point-scoring, she needs to rise above typical mud-slinging tactics when discussing children and the tragedies they’ve faced in Pakistan – leave the children alone.

Still, there are some things said in the white noise of the political sphere which can be dismissed for their utter incredulousness. The problem with these statements in particular is that they’re supported by a problematically sizable proportion of Pakistan’s population. After Malala became perhaps the most famous girl in the world, in DW’s words, BBC and Foreign Policy reported on Pakistani citizens’ reaction to the Malala phenomenon.

Following are a few extracts:

Prominent journalist Tariq Khattak said,

“She is a normal, useless type of a girl. Nothing in her is special at all. She’s selling what the West will buy.”

A housewife from Islamabad was stated to have said,

“What has she done to deserve the Nobel prize? She may be brave, but she’s only a child. They should have waited 10 years and let her make a mark among the deprived sections of the society.”

Social media activist Anjum Kiyani said,

 “Unknown to Malala, she was picked up, groomed and her sincere intentions exploited by the world’s most notorious figures.”

The editor of a newspaper based in Mingora, Malala’s hometown, also chipped in,

 “The Americans and Malala’s father conspired to get her shot so she can become a hero.”

These aren’t just isolated incidents either.

A Gallup Poll in 2013 found that a majority of Pakistanis had mixed feelings or were sad over Malala’s nomination for the Nobel Prize. Another survey by the Pew Research Center found that 20% of Pakistanis have unfavourable views of Malala. At least Zeb can take comfort in the fact that she is not alone in her ignorance.

Foreign Policy aptly states in a headline, ‘Actually, All Pakistanis Don’t Hate Malala’. But is that really the bar Pakistan has set for itself? Is it too much to ask for? Tacit acceptance of the world’s youngest Nobel Laureate who defiantly stood up to terror at such a tender age?

Conspiracy theories and admonitions of Malala’s intentions are just symptoms of the problem. The underlying cause is that accepting Malala for who she is and for what happened to her will require a fundamental shift in worldview for many Pakistanis.

It means accepting that local press and media services failed where foreign media succeeded in giving Malala a voice. It means admitting that there are chronic failures in Pakistan’s education system which systematically disenfranchises women, especially those who live outside Punjab and Sindh. It also means conceding that the Pakistani military failed, in Malala’s words,

“To conduct its military operations here properly.”

Most significantly, it means admitting the utter negligence of the state in supporting – or even protecting – a child who identified problems in the system.

It is very telling that Zeb tweeted a photo of Zarmina Wazir Khan – a candidate who achieved top marks in civil services examinations – with the caption “Zarmina Khan is not Malala”. This politician and many others like her are desperate to show that the Pakistani system works for those who just work hard enough.

But this is denial of the highest order, a rejection of a reality that will only serve to brush important issues of security, education and identity under the carpet. Pakistan must fully accept the blame for the tragic events that occurred in Malala’s case. Only then can we move forward towards combatting the issues for which she so valiantly sacrificed herself for.

For the time-being, however, a fear of admitting guilt and all that comes with it, holds us back from accepting her as our own.

Hamza Tariq

Hamza Tariq

The author is set to start a BSc in International Relations degree at the London School of Economics. He worked as an intern under Ambassador Haqqani at Hudson Institute and under Dr Ishrat Hussain at the Woodrow Wilson Center. He tweets as @hamzataq (twitter.com/hamzataq)

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

  • Zubair Khan

    Well written. But you should know in Pakistani Society there are elements who neither want to do any special work nor want others also to do it. MA Zeb represents this element. Its a digital, very fast moving and transparent world. Making fools of others at global level is extremely difficult. The jealous element of Pakistani Society even did not own Dr Sal am for his achievements what to talk of Malala. She got the prize will prosper with time and age and ladies like Ms Zeb will remain jealous and will keep on burning in the fire of their ego and jealousy.Recommend

  • Yasir

    I really just want to know; what exactly Malala done so she has got Nobel Prize? In Pakistan thousand of people / children have been martyred and killed under the wave of terrorism, many of them were the true social worker. Did West ever concern about them? you know why majority of Pakistan don’t accept it coz all of are the victim of Terror directly or indirectly. Malala seems like a Fiction character.Recommend

  • Asad Hasan

    I totally agree with you Hamza. Unfortunately, we are in a minority. I have educated guys in my office, defending the attack on the Lal Shahbaz Qalander shrine; and even…..yes…..unfortunately true, defending the perpetrators of the Amjad Sabri killing!Recommend

  • abdul hafeez

    Well written story. Actually, I wonder at that time when she was shot. The injury was not so much serious as Govt. and other officials make it big drama and shift her to London hospital (especially in royal patronage services), while media were played strategic role to highlight issue in every hour news. Are medical facilities providing hospitals was poor in our Pakistan? Why she was treated as special? Why Govt. didn’t notice Thar dessert innocent children who are dead by starvation / poor dietary feed, also in US based drone attacks we loss hundreds to thousands innocent children. Despite in the fact that we have Aga Khan hospital like other well established hospitals, nearby neighboring countries like UAE also have world best hospitals, then why specifically UK hospital was chosen at that time. If we see all the facts raised by #MussartAhmedzeb then many doubts still remain unclear by Govt. The school in which Malala have been studying; they also refused to change school name on Malala…..
    My concerned is that why Pak Govt. was tried to seek Noble prize on the basis of falsification.Recommend

  • kangaroo

    We are the most coward and hypocrite people on earth. We revere what scares us most. Malala just chose a different path.Recommend

  • Juan

    Yet we’ll have many Pakistanis claiming Sunni Islamist extremism doesn’t exist amongst them and it’s all a foreign conspiracy.Recommend

  • vinsin

    1) Check wikipedia or ask Pakistani government.
    2) Yes West give lot of money to Pakistan every year since Independence.
    3) World sees Pakistan as a supporter of terrorism.
    4) Malala is real, so her ordeal to get education at the time when whole Pakistan abandon swat.
    5) Pakistan dont accept it as they cannot believe that women can resist so much to get education. Pakistani have not seen any protests/demand for women rights ever in decades by women.
    6) How many protests ever happened in Pakistan for secularism, women rights, child rights, animal rights, minorities rights etc compared to street protests celebrating terrorism and terrorists?
    7) Malala would have found herself in same situation in any Muslims majority country, Pakistan is not special.
    8) Her counterpart https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kailash_Satyarthi is celebrated in India but hated by many India Muslims for demand of child rights.
    9) Problem is Muslims and non-Muslims think differently.Recommend

  • vinsin

    Instead of celebrating that a Pakistani won a Noble prize, Pakistani are more worried and depressed about it, questioning why? and seeing non-Muslim conspiracy? Same was the case with Abdul Salam.Recommend

  • Patwari

    What kind of office do you work in? Is it really an office? Are you
    sure it’s an office? Educated guys,…..you say? ……Seriously?
    Maybe you meant matric passed,…[matriculated in Urdu medium]Recommend

  • ali zaib

    “The injury was not so much serious” and Who are you to decide this, Who told you so ??. second, If it was a drama, then Army too was involved ? Did you read any of her diary ? I hope you answer briefly and in sequenceRecommend

  • ali zaib

    She has done nothing. Now Tell me why do you have a problem if she gets Nobel Prize. Why her Nobel Prize hurts you so much ? Did you read any of her diary ever ? I’m sure no.Recommend

  • Parvez

    The fact that Malala was shot and seriously hurt is undeniable ….. those who due to jealousy or a political or religious agenda concoct stories or contrive conspiracy theories to discredit her, do so most probably because they themselves are inwardly weak and instead of doing something worthwhile themselves, they content themselves by maligning her …. isn’t that just shameful ?Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    malala stop trying to seek attention and do something productive with your attention seeking lifeRecommend

  • Ben Youssef

    Pakistani should learn to leave this kid alone. If some Pakistani are insecure about their own life or the ill that are plaguing the country, it’s not malala fault. Sometimes I wonder if they would have rather prefer to have her been murdered by the coward who shot her at point blank range. Recommend

  • Abdul Hafeez

    Abdul Salam was real hero of Pakistan, but Malala won Noble prize on the basis of falsification, fabricated drama of western…..It means that now Noble prize would be awarded without real work, innovation, and honesty???……Recommend

  • Razi Mallick

    Malala case was staged-managed drama conducted by the Pakistani NGOS in collaboration with their masters abroad. These NGOS are run by the self-proclaimed liberals to serve their self-interest. Hundreds of poor women are murdered in the honor killings, or also are married with Quran, but lips of theses liberals NGOS are tight. The reason being that the women forcibly married to Quran were sisters of mostly Waderas. Recently one case of forced marriage was married and these women were sisters of the central leader of PPP.Recommend

  • Alter Ego

    Because she is playing as a western puppet.
    Nobel prize should go to some one who has done something like Eidhi.
    Instead of lip service Eidhi did real service , unlike Malala.
    I hope this answers your questions.
    Malala can open schools , universities,instead she makes vague statement as if we don’t know the problems of our country.Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    This was a Member of the National Assembly (MNA), Mussarat Ahmad
    Zeb, who also hails from the royal family of Swat, the region where
    Malala was shot in the head by Taliban militants.

    The lady has not been brought up in a royal style. Malala has been honoured outside her State, against the background that she simply wanted to receive education which is the right oif every human in the world. I would give more credibility to the citizen Malala than to the one who claims any heritage to the one who was once the wali ol Swat.

    Rex MinorgiveRecommend

  • Patwari

    And the moon is made of blue cheese. And like in
    the 7th. century AD [or CE],.. if you and your mullahs
    don’t see the moon Ramazan does not begin. Even though
    nuclear clocks will tell you down to the nano seconds when
    the moon will appear.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Agree with you on this topic. You are right in this case.Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    Instead of lip service Eidhi did real service

    And who is Edhi?

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Patwari

    Agree with you partly. Not on every point. Iran was a modern
    secular country at one time. Until the Shah was deposed.
    Turkey was a secular modern country until Erdogan took
    over and now it’s a downward slide. He is a dictator.
    Just like Hindustan is in a downward slide since Modi Sarkar
    took over and a gave a new meaning to bigotry, racism, religious
    extremism, ethnic violence and apartheid,
    Plus the horrible atrocious human rights violations in IOK.
    You may not like this, but it is the truth.
    Hindustan is no pristine Shangrlla. Not at all.Recommend

  • Patwari

    The UK hospitals has World Class neuro surgeons. This particular
    hospital agreed to provide FREE treatment to Malala. No charge.
    The British govt. provided FREE AIR AMBULANCE for transportation.
    The “MUSLIM” hospitals in Dubai/Emirates DID NOT offer free of charge
    treatment for Malala. They have excellent hospitals, no doubt.
    These Wahhabi/Takfiri hospitals in Saudia or Emirates wanted nothing
    to do with their MUSLIM SISTER Malala. [Christians had to come and help!]
    Their governments support extremists through financing, mosques AND madrassahs!! They back and support TTP in Pakland. Covertly, Everyone knows this.
    In Switzerland, Germany, France, NO SAUDI FINANCED mosques are
    allowed. They are banned. Totally. Because they spread terrorism and an extremist Wahhabi/Takfiri. version of Islam.
    Tharparkar is an entirely different story. the aid money sent there is looted
    by the Sindh govt. It never reaches the starving and sick children.
    Do you understand all this? Nope, not one single word.Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    Hmmm, your keyboard ran out of ink before you could expand upon just how this was all a fabrication! All can go to Wikipedia and read in detail about history of Malala to see how she fought for women’s education rights in Pakistan! Now you can explain in detail just how this was all a fabrication! OR NOT!

  • numbersnumbers

    Please volunteer to be shot in the head by a handgun, and then we can discuss how to stage manage your follow up care!Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    All can read what Malala has struggled to achieve for Pakistani women and children on Wikipedia! Curious that I fail to find any entry on YOUR accomplishments!Recommend

  • Gowpeet

    He is a German immigration policeman searching for
    you to send you back to the Wakhan Corridor, Afghanistan..Recommend

  • Salman Abdullah

    Ok. But then what about Dr Abdul Qadir Khan; shouldn’t we just celebrate that Pakistan became a nuclear state thus strengthening its defence due to him, and not crying about him stealing and such other stuff?Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    she has not done shi* but she surely has managed to secure a million dollar for herself adn 50 of her closest family members in the UK where they are living off welfare.Recommend

  • http://nazarbaaz.blogspot.com/ 2#

    Malala is Pakistani Kim Kardashian “Doing nothing, moving and getting famous for nothing”Recommend

  • http://nazarbaaz.blogspot.com/ 2#

    I have read her diary and I am sure its nothing but a basket of junk. whats inspires you in her diary? the created lies?Recommend

  • http://nazarbaaz.blogspot.com/ 2#

    if Coca cola did a campeign with malala, it would have tarnished its future but they are using edhi’s efforts to promote goodRecommend

  • ali zaib

    Created lies ? She wrote about what was happening in swat at that time. No one dare to write about it.
    Secondly, Nobel Prize is western award, You are no body to tell them who it should be given. They will give to whoever they like. They like Malalay, They gave it to her. Now your hate and complain doesn’t matter.
    Instead of Malay, you should open school, universities. instead of posting hateful comments.Recommend

  • http://nazarbaaz.blogspot.com/ 2#

    O Wel.. open school colleges, yes i am already on that path but first who is MALALAY? OR MALAY? tell me one thing from her diary that was impressive to be a real STORY… actuallyRecommend

  • Aina Quraishi

    Why aren’t there Noble prizes for the brave hearts of Army Public School?Recommend

  • vinsin

    Hindustan was never secular. How does it matter to you what Modi do or doesnt? IOK happening since very long time, nothing to do with Modi.

    Modi has no power to change constitution.Recommend

  • vinsin

    For what?Recommend