Malala And the Other Side 

By Dr Zeeshan Khan

Returning back to Pakistan may have finished her home sickness.A four day visit Of Malala is redefining a better image of Pakistan Globally. Malala Yousafzai may have won the Nobel Peace Prize, but she remains an object of hate for many Pakistanis who view her as a Western agent on a mission to shame her country.

The reaction seems only natural, given Malala’s story — her journey from getting shot in the head as a schoolgirl by a Taliban gunman in 2012, to becoming a Nobel Prize-winning advocate for female education worldwide, working out of her home in the United Kingdom since 2013.

On 29 March 2018, Yousafzai returned to Pakistan for the first time since the shooting. Meeting the Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, she gave a speech in which she said it had been her dream to return “without any fear”. Yousafzai then visited her hometown in Swat Valley.

More difficult for her supporters to comprehend is the outpouring of invective from Pakistan’s middle classes, who may be keen to educate their daughters but who object to airing the country’s problems abroad.

Other social media users regularly post sexualized and derogatory insults.

Three main complaints of Yousafzai’s critics are: “Her fame highlights Pakistan’s most negative aspect (rampant militancy); her education campaign echoes Western agendas; and the West’s admiration of her is hypocritical because it overlooks the plight of other innocent victims, like the casualties of U.S. drone strikes.”
Public’s lack of rage against the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), blaming the failing state government and another, her as being used to justify Western imperialism as “the perfect candidate for the white man to relieve his burden and save the native”.

Some people in Pakistan say,“Through Malala they want to malign the image of Pakistan and Islam and they were in search of a figure from this region with a Muslim name, so that they could use her against us and term this as American Agenda.”

She has been widely praised by some sections of the public and by politicians who call her “pride of Pakistan”.

The hatred towards her stems partly from religious conservatism and opposition to female empowerment. But it also taps into skepticism towards a decade-long fight against militants which many Pakistanis regard as being imposed by United States.
And yet, as always, some of her fellow Pakistanis reacted in a starkly different fashion.

To be sure, many Pakistanis admire and embrace Malala. Readers of the Herald, a Pakistani magazine, voted her person of the year for 2012. In 2014, a Pew survey found that 30 percent of respondents had a favorable view of her (a relatively low figure, but still higher than the 20 percent with unfavorable views).

But Malala is no national hero. Revered by many abroad, she is reviled by many at home, including among middle-class Pakistanis one might imagine would be her greatest fans.

In November 2014, just a month after she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the All Pakistan Private Schools Federation — which claimed to represent 150,000 schools — announced an “I Am Not Malala” day and called for her memoir, I Am Malala, to be banned. Enmity even emanates from her own community. In May, a Pakistani parliamentarian from Swat, Malala’s home region, said the attack was preplanned and staged by a variety of players — and with official Pakistani government connivance no less. And her best-selling book hasn’t exactly flown off the shelves across Pakistan (though admittedly some bookstores have refused to sell it because of threats from the Taliban and urging from local police).

Conspiratorial thinking about Malala is strengthened by Pakistanis’ deep mistrust of the West, where she is now based. Many suspect it of harboring designs on their country. This perception, to be fair, is at least somewhat valid. The CIA, as detailed in Mark Mazzetti’s book The Way of the Knife, has enjoyed an extensive role in Pakistan — perhaps captured most vividly by its enlisting of a Pakistani doctor, Shakil Afridi, to launch a fake vaccination campaign in the effort to track down Osama bin Laden.

Pakistanis’ conspiratorial thinking is so powerful that Malala’s actual work and messaging, much of which serves Pakistan in the most concrete and not so glamorous ways, is conveniently disregarded. The Malala Fund oversees several programs in Pakistan. According to the fund’s website, these include providing educational opportunities to girls that had been domestic laborers; establishing educational programming for children fleeing conflict; and repairing classrooms and providing school supplies for girls’ schools affected by flooding.The Malala Fund announced a new $10 million initiative to invest in local education advocacy programs around the world, including in Pakistan. One of Malala’s first tweets declared: “I’m proud to be Pashtun, Pakistani and Muslim.” She has said she hopes to one day become Pakistan’s prime minister, and that she will always love Pakistan even if Pakistanis hate her. She has even condemned the American drone strikes — a grievance, ironically, harbored by the same urban, middle-class Pakistanis who accuse her of espousing anti-Pakistan positions.

And yet, there’s more to this story than conspiracies. For all the talk of anti-Malala sentiment being the product of delusional thinking, such hostility can also be explained by a basic and ugly truth: Pakistan’s lack of upward mobility and rigid class divides.

Watch Malala’s father speech on Ted talk, I agree with him that women have literally several problems that need to be seriously taken and worked on.

In Pakistan, upward mobility is a very tall order. The poor struggle mightily to escape to prosperity. According to a 2015 study by Oxford and the Lahore University of Management Sciences, 40 percent of the Pakistani children in the lowest economic quin-tile are expected to remain there for life. This entrenched inequality is easy to understand. For many poor Pakistanis, access to two key resources needed to escape poverty— education and land—is elusive. Nearly 60 percent of Pakistan’s poorest kids are not in school, and 70 percent of Pakistan’s rural poor are landless.

And yet Malala bucked the trend and rose to the very top, from schoolteacher’s daughter to embodiment of the global elite. True, Malala was not living in abject poverty in her early years; her father owned a school and was an English-speaking activist. Additionally, she enjoyed the privilege of strong connections to the Western media; she was writing for the BBC, after all, even before she was shot. Still, she’s in a far different place today — both literally and figuratively — than she was in the past.

Pakistanis aren’t used to seeing this type of transformation — and particularly one that happens so quickly. And so, this disorienting reality provokes a range of responses. For some, it’s admiration. For others, it’s jealousy. For still others, it’s skepticism,suspicion and outright hostility.

Malala personifies what is admirable about Pakistan and its people: youth, resilience, bravery, and patriotism. But her story also holds up a mirror to the country’s dark side, not just in terms of terrorism, misogyny, and conspiracy-mongering, but also its deep class divides and the sharply divergent worldviews generated by such fissures.

Her book “I am Malala” is very inspirational to read but the mistakes in the book cannot be neglected and need to be corrected.In March 2018, it was announced that Yousafzai’s next book We Are Displaced: True Stories of Refugee Lives would be published on 4 September 2018.The book is about refugees, and will include stories from Yousafzai’s own life along with those of people she has met.Speaking about the book, Yousafzai said that “What tends to get lost in the current refugee crisis is the humanity behind the statistics”and “people become refugees when they have no other option. This is never your first choice.”

Malala received too many awards and honours nationally and internationally including Sitar-e-Imtiaz.

Let her prove herself a true Pakistani by giving some time and elating humanity with education, knowledge and wishing good for all.


Dr. Zeeshan Khan, doctor by profession, freelance Writer and Poet.

Motivational Speaker and Columnist. Alumni of LUMS.

Doctor At CMH Hospital


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