It has been four years since Pakistani army retook the control of the valley of Swat and ousted the TTP militants. It has been four years since an 11-year old kid, Malala Yousafzai, rose to fame when her diary of life under TTP rule in Swat was published by BBC. It has been four years, and yet, no one really knows what Malala has achieved with her “education activism”.
You follow the news and read blog posts after blog posts full of praise for Malala and think that she really is a national hero, that she has done more for the country than we could ever do, that she is a courageous little girl who stood up to TTP and spoke against them, that she is a brave warrior fighting for female education and women’s rights in the land of savages and barbarism, the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. But come back to the real world and you have to ask yourself, “What HAS she done for female education in KPK?” The answer is: nothing. There are no facts or figures to support the claim that she and she alone has brought countless kids to school and has revolutionized the face of Swat valley.
The truth is that the TTP rule brought all life in Swat to halt, not just girl-only schools, and as soon as the army took over, that ceased to be the case. Life in Swat has returned to normal, and in Malala’s own words “the army is trying to rebuild good quality schools”. In other words, there is no female education problem in Swat. All the praise she has received is mere rhetoric which seems to be working for majority of the people as they now believe in a cause which simply doesn’t exist.
The real education problem lies in the rural areas of the country where the literacy rate falls to 48% for both males and females as compared to the national literacy rate of 57%. The low literacy rate is caused by either the dominance of feudal mindset in these tribes or by the fact that rural families can’t afford to get their kids in to school. It is not caused by TTP’s mission to impose their so-called “shariah”. If we further look in to the literacy rate, females comprise 45% of the 57% literate population of the country. Overall literacy rates at all levels and among both genders in the country have improved a lot and they continue to rise, with no help at all from Malala.
Another major education problem in the country is the lack of a uniform nation-wide curriculum of good quality and the failure to nurture the thinking abilities of students in the current system. This problem has been addressed nowhere in Malala Yousafzai’s “education activism”.
Now this post is not against Malala, she is not a CIA agent and her getting shot in the face is not a conspiracy. This post is against her blind followers and fans who refuse to accept the truth even when it is right in front of them. It is surprising that the “educated” people of this country fail to realize that they are being played for fools by the local and international news media, and that they would rather turn against the people who do not support Malala than search for facts. This clearly demonstrates the fact that the current education system simply doesn’t work as it fails to teach the students how to think for themselves. We are the same ignorant people with tribal mindsets under the layers of honorary titles and degrees.
It is sad that she was singled out and shot in the face, and I am glad that she recovered completely from the accident, that is something worth praising. But she was neither brave nor a courageous girl who stood in the way of the TTP and eventually got shot, it is not like she and her friends had a choice of giving up their cause or get killed. Her only fault seems to be her immense worldwide popularity and continuous appearance in the news media instead of her non-existent “education activism”. Her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, has to be blamed here too, for pushing her to pretend to be an “activist”. In one of her earliest interviews, she had clearly stated that it was her father who wanted her to be a politician even though she didn’t like politics. Even her UN speech seems to be written by someone else, most probably her father.
She has been criticized for not talking about the US drone attacks in FATA that have destroyed as many futures as TTP, maybe even more. But it is not her fault, she is too young to realize the political situation of the country, and her father (being a liberal-minded Pakistani and a social activist) wouldn’t have a problem with drone attacks to urge her to speak about the issue.
The real problem then does not lie with Malala Yousafzai, it lies with us and her blind followers who seem to be running in the wrong direction to a non-existent destination. The social networking websites and blogs are full of praise for this young girl and criticism and insult for those who don’t support her. One word against Malala or her fans and you suddenly become a jealous pro-taliban misogynist. One word against Malala and you become the problem with the country and the obstacle standing in its progress. One word against her and you become a spineless coward who has never done anything for the country who just sits in his comfy home to criticize anything good happening in Pakistan.
Well I am sorry I cannot imagine a different world and commit to and fight for a non-existent cause. I am sorry I cannot change the world because I was not thrown into spotlight when I was just a kid. I am sorry I did not get featured in countless interviews, articles, documentaries and I am sorry I did not get to meet important personalities from both Pakistan and US so that I could become important enough to be heard. Most of all I am sorry that I tend to think for myself rather than blindly following a cause just because most of the people follow it like a flock of sheep.
It is not Malala who needs to address the drone attacks, it is us. We need to open our eyes and see the real picture and fight for the real causes such as peace, the poor quality and uniformity of our education system and rising against the influence of the news media. We need to realize that Malala is not a leader, she is just a kid, and she is no different from the innocent kids and adults that get killed by either drone attacks or terrorists. We need to sympathize with all these people, and not just Malala. We need to raise our voice against all injustices; we need to fight for all the victims, not just one. And if we can’t do that, then it is better to remain silent than to become a hypocrite and be selective in our sympathy.
God bless Pakistan.
The blog was first published on Pakistankakhudahafiz.com on 17 July, 2013.