Posts Tagged ‘Malala Yousafzai’

Editor’s NOTE: The following op-ed, penned by me, was originally published by NDTV on January 20, 2016. I’m pleased to cross-post the article on my blog from NDTV’s  website without any editing. (Ali Salman Alvi)

 

Bacha Khan University

 

Pakistan finds itself reeling after yet another terror attack on its soil. Heavily armed militants stormed Bacha Khan University this morning in Charsadda, about 50 kilometers from the city of Peshawar, and opened indiscriminate fire on students and staff members where they had gathered for a poetic symposium to commemorate the 28th death anniversary of renowned Pakhtoon leader and proponent of non-violence Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, popularly known as ‘Bacha Khan’.

Umar Mansoor, a commander in the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistani (TTP) and the mastermind of the attack on the Army Public School Peshawar in December 2014, first claimed the attack. But the official spokesperson for the Pakistani Taliban disowned it. More than 21 people are reported to have been killed and at least 60 others injured during a two-hour rampage; officials fear the casualties will rise. Four terrorists were shot after the security forces launched a remarkable counter-terror operation in the university’s premises in a bid to control the damage.

Bacha Khan UniversityThe investigations into the terror attack are underway, but we must not avert our eyes from the fact that the attack was the result of yet another intelligence failure and a major security lapse, especially when only three days ago, rumors of security threats to educational institutions triggered the closure of schools in the same region.

In many ways, today’s attack was reminiscent of the gruesome December 2014 terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar which left over 140 dead – most of them children. The message behind today’s attack is the same. 13 months ago, they targeted a school being run by the Pakistan Army that is actively combating terrorists and eliminating their hideouts in North Waziristan. Today, they attacked a university named after Bacha Khan, the man who laid down the foundations of the politics of the secular Awami National Party that has rendered a number of sacrifices for standing up against the Taliban. The message given by the terrorists is loud and clear: standing up to them has a price, and more often than not, you have to pay that with your blood.

More than the identity of the outfit that has claimed the attack on Bacha Khan University, the people of Pakistan in general and those at the helm of affairs in the country in particular need to counter the mindset of the terrorists and the ideology they preach in the name of Islam. These terrorists are afraid of education. They are afraid of the power of knowledge. The very same mindset and the very same group targeted Malala Yousafzai in October 2012, attacked the Army Public School in December 2014 and stormed a university today, apart from  deadly attacks on polio vaccination teams across the country.

Despite the ongoing operation against the hardcore militants in the tribal areas of Pakistan, the TTP’s ability to strike in the settled areas of the country should be a matter of concern for Pakistan’s civil and military leadership. The rot is surely deep and Pakistan is passing through extraordinary circumstances which demand extraordinary measures. While it is obvious that it’ll take significant amount of time to eliminate terror from Pakistan, the more worrying part is that the state of Pakistan has shown no clear intent or political will to counter the mindset that has been a major hurdle in developing a counter-terrorism narrative in the country.

After the horrific terror attack on Army Public School that jolted Pakistan’s civil and military leadership, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced a comprehensive roadmap to counter terrorism in his 20-point agenda known as National Action Plan.

While the plan looked good on paper, the situation on the ground remains disturbingly awful and unchanged. The plan talked about countering hate speeches and extremist material, choking funding for terrorists and terrorist organizations and dismantling communication networks of terrorist organizations. Point 3 of the plan stressed the commitment to ensuring that no armed militias are allowed to function in Pakistan, while points 10 and 11 talked about the registration and regulation of religious seminaries and a ban on the glorification of terrorism and terrorist organizations through print and electronic media.

Ground realities suggest that little has changed since then – so much so that the incumbent government itself has accepted that the progress on National Action Plan has been unsatisfactory.

Manohar ParrikarThere is another aspect of the attack and that directly affects the already fragile and vulnerable relations between Pakistan and India. Hardliners in Pakistan are linking today’s terrorist attack to a statement given by Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar after the Pathankot terror attack in which he said that “Those who harmed us will feel the pain”. Former interior minister of Pakistan Rehman Malik went as far as to blame Indian intelligence agency RAW for this latest attack on Pakistani soil. The two reckless statements mentioned above underscore the need to show restraint and maturity in the face of adversity. The authorities on either side of the border need to realize that they should not play into the hands of the terrorists.

As far as Pakistani authorities are concerned, they need to focus on the security threats to Pakistan posed by militants who not long ago enjoyed state patronage, and show the intent to take on terrorists without making any discrimination.

Source: How We In Pakistan See Today’s University Attack

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Imran khan

Editor’s NOTE: The following op-ed, penned by me, was originally published in The Nation on September 29, 2013. I’m pleased to cross-post the article on my blog from The Nation without any editing. (Ali Salman Alvi)

It’s a matter of great surprise and national shame that the Pakistani Taliban, till date, do not have a central office of their own in the land of the pure. What a crying shame that the outfit from Pakistan that consistently made headlines in national and international media is deprived of an official, but easily approachable, headquarters in its own country. No prizes for guessing the only level-headed, incredibly knowledgeable and clear-sighted leader, in a country where all other leaders can’t see beyond the end of their nose. Yes, none other than PTI chairman Imran Khan realized the need for an office for the Taliban at a time when the Christian community had just buried their dead from the double suicide attack on the historic All Saints Church in Peshawar that killed 85 worshippers and injured more than 100.

Talking to the media after visiting injured persons of the Peshawar church bombing at the Lady Reading Hospital, Imran Khan called on the federal government to allow the Pakistani Taliban to open an office in Pakistan similar to the Afghan Taliban office in Qatar to facilitate the dialogue process if it was serious about holding peace talks with them. It is tough to determine if the attempt of putting a “balm” on the wounds of the Christian community was successful or not, but one thing is for sure; You cannot even think to doubt the noble intentions of his holiness Imran Khan and if you are bent on doing so, do it at your own risk. God forbid if a fake liberal mutters the saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions make sure you don’t let him/her go without giving him/her what he/she deserves.

Unfortunately, the short-sighted and myopic civil society couldn’t see what the farsighted Taliban Khan, err, I mean Kaptan Khan did. As a matter of fact all genuine liberals are a part of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf and, apart from Asad Umar, none of them has voiced concerns over Mr. Khan’s statement. Only fake liberals are censuring the Great Khan on social media for his demand for an office for the Taliban. But there is nothing to worry about those foul-mouthed liberals because Khan’s social media warriors will take good care of them. We, the Pakistanis, must not act like thankless goofs and should thank our lucky stars that we now have a leader whose message of change is resonating across the length and breadth of Pakistan.

Though yours truly can’t match the sagacity of Imran Khan but I strongly feel that the TTP’s office in Pakistan will turn out to be a step in the “right” direction and it will usher a new era of peace and prosperity in the region. Not only will it help curtail the increasing unemployment –  by creating new job opportunities –  but also reduce the growing population which leads to unemployment, by blasting a few. Killing two birds with one stone, something an ordinary man would have not even thought about!

Every time a drone strike takes place on Pakistani soil, the Taliban officials, not terrorists, will scare the hell out of Americans by carrying out a suicide bombing on the same soil. Telephone calls claiming responsibility for an attack will now be a thing of the past. In order to treat all media outlets equally, the Taliban spokesman will now be holding a press briefing at the organization’s office after every attack and thus no news channel would be able to take the credit of breaking the news first. Lack of breaking news would inevitably lead to lesser sensation.

In addition, the Taliban’s office would be needing security due to the fears of a retaliatory attack by the survivors of a suicide bombing on the holy office. The same office can also be hit by a US drone. Imran Khan might have to ask the federal government to deploy paramilitary/military personnel to save the sacred office from a ground attack. And to protect the office from a possible drone strike, Imran Khan could call on the federal government to order the Air Chief to strike down the drones flying anywhere near the sacred office. After all it’s the responsibility of the state of Pakistan to safeguard its own people from any aggression, be it internal or external.

In addition, to make the environment more conducive for the proposed peace talks, Imran Khan should appeal the TTP to get registered with the Election Commission of Pakistan so that certain political parties can do something else than acting as their political front.

In a bid to remove mystifications about the Taliban, Imran Khan might have to call on the PEMRA to issue a license to the TTP to operate its own television channel given that the Taliban are righteous and pious Muslims and they might not want to watch channels airing news bulletins featuring female anchorpersons without any scarf. Moreover, such a channel will help in conveying the Taliban’s view point to the masses without any depravity. The Taliban will also be allowed to air videos of different suicide bombings, beheading ceremonies and similar stuff.

A Taliban office in the country will also help in creating a soft image of Pakistan in the international community that was badly distorted by, a CIA agent, Malala Yousafzai who made her way to London, after surviving a staged attack in Swat, to malign the angelic Taliban.

The TTP office will also keep a record of its members operating in and out of Pakistan since a few of them have been exported to Syria to fight alongside the rebel forces to oust Bashar al-Assad’s from power. In case a branch office is needed in Syria, Imran Khan can always call on the federal government again to help them in setting up one. After all they are “our own people” and to facilitate them is our first and foremost duty.

So what if the TTP set pre-conditions for the peace talks, killed a Major General, Lieutenant The Nation, Ali Salman AlviColonel, other army personnel and 85 Christians in the immediate aftermath of the APC, held on September 9, which set new national record of appeasing “our own people”. All in all, Imran Khan’s demand of a TTP office in Pakistan speaks volumes about his unparalleled prudence and consummate level-headedness. Haters will hate but Khan will scintillate. Keep it up Mr. Khan.

Source: Keep it up Mr Khan

Some of history’s greatest statesmen have spoken there. On July 12, 2013, the Assembly listened  spellbound to a 16-year-old schoolgirl. These are Malala’s words:

Malal Yousafzai delivering a speech at the U.N. Headquarters in NY.

Malal Yousafzai delivering a speech at the U.N. Headquarters in NY.

Honourable UN Secretary General Mr Ban Ki-moon, respected president of the General Assembly Vuk Jeremic, honourable UN envoy for global education Mr Gordon Brown, respected elders and my dear brothers and sisters: Assalam u Alaikum.

Today is it an honour for me to be speaking again after a long time. Being here with such honourable people is a great moment in my life and it is an honour for me that today I am wearing a shawl of the late Benazir Bhutto. I don’t know where to begin my speech. I don’t know what people would be expecting me to say, but first of all thank you to God for whom we all are equal and thank you to every person who has prayed for my fast recovery and new life. I cannot believe how much love people have shown me. I have received thousands of good-wish cards and gifts from all over the world. Thank you to all of them. Thank you to the children whose innocent words encouraged me. Thank you to my elders whose prayers strengthened me. I would like to thank my nurses, doctors and the staff of the hospitals in Pakistan and the UK and the UAE government who have helped me to get better and recover my strength.

I fully support UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in his Global Education First Initiative and the work of UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown and the respectful president of the UN General Assembly Vuk Jeremic. I thank them for the leadership they continue to give. They continue to inspire all of us to action. Dear brothers and sisters, do remember one thing: Malala Day is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every boy and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights.

There are hundreds of human rights activists and social workers who are not only speaking for their rights, but who are struggling to achieve their goal of peace, education and equality. Thousands of people have been killed by the terrorists and millions have been injured. I am just one of them. So here I stand, one girl among many. I speak not for myself, but so those without a voice can be heard. Those who have fought for their rights. Their right to live in peace. Their right to be treated with dignity. Their right to equality of opportunity. Their right to be educated.

Dear friends, on 9 October 2012, the Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends, too. They thought that the bullets would silence us, but they failed. And out of that silence came thousands of voices. The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions. But nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born. I am the same Malala. My ambitions are the same. My hopes are the same. And my dreams are the same. Dear sisters and brothers, I am not against anyone. Neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorist group. I am here to speak for the right of education for every child. I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all the terrorists and extremists. I do not even hate the Talib who shot me.

Even if there was a gun in my hand and he was standing in front of me, I would not shoot him. This is the compassion I have learned from Muhammad, the prophet of mercy, Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha. This the legacy of change I have inherited from Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

This is the philosophy of nonviolence that I have learned from Gandhi, Bacha Khan and Mother Teresa. And this is the forgiveness that I have learned from my father and from my mother. This is what my soul is telling me: be peaceful and love everyone.

Dear sisters and brothers, we realise the importance of light when we see darkness. We realise the importance of our voice when we are silenced. In the same way, when we were in Swat, the north of Pakistan, we realised the importance of pens and books when we saw the guns. The wise saying, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” It is true. The extremists are afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women. The power of the voice of women frightens them. This is why they killed 14 innocent students in the recent attack in Quetta. And that is why they kill female teachers. That is why they are blasting schools every day because they were and they are afraid of change and equality that we will bring to our society. And I remember that there was a boy in our school who was asked by a journalist: “Why are the Taliban against education?”He answered very simply by pointing to his book, he said: “A Talib doesn’t know what is written inside this book.”

They think that God is a tiny, little conservative being who would point guns at people’s heads just for going to school. These terrorists are misusing the name of Islam for their own personal benefit. Pakistan is a peace-loving, democratic country. Pashtuns want education for their daughters and sons. Islam is a religion of peace, humanity and brotherhood. It is the duty and responsibility to get education for each child, that is what it says. Peace is a necessity for education. In many parts of the world, especially Pakistan and Afghanistan, terrorism, war and conflicts stop children from going to schools. We are really tired of these wars. Women and children are suffering in many ways in many parts of the world.

In India, innocent and poor children are victims of child labour. Many schools have been destroyed in Nigeria. People in Afghanistan have been affected by extremism. Young girls have to do domestic child labour and are forced to get married at an early age. Poverty, ignorance, injustice, racism and the deprivation of basic rights are the main problems, faced by both men and women.

Today, I am focusing on women’s rights and girls’ education because they are suffering the most. There was a time when women activists asked men to stand up for their rights. But this time we will do it by ourselves. I am not telling men to step away from speaking for women’s rights, but I am focusing on women to be independent and fight for themselves. So dear sisters and brothers, now it’s time to speak up. So today, we call upon the world leaders to change their strategic policies in favour of peace and prosperity. We call upon the world leaders that all of these deals must protect women and children’s rights. A deal that goes against the rights of women is unacceptable.

We call upon all governments to ensure free, compulsory education all over the world for every child. We call upon all the governments to fight against terrorism and violence. To protect children from brutality and harm. We call upon the developed nations to support the expansion of education opportunities for girls in the developing world. We call upon all communities to be tolerant, to reject prejudice based on caste, creed, sect, colour, religion or agenda to ensure freedom and equality for women so they can flourish. We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back. We call upon our sisters around the world to be brave, to embrace the strength within themselves and realise their full potential.

Dear brothers and sisters, we want schools and education for every child’s bright future. We will continue our journey to our destination of peace and education. No one can stop us. We will speak up for our rights and we will bring change to our voice. We believe in the power and the strength of our words. Our words can change the whole world because we are all together, united for the cause of education. And if we want to achieve our goal, then let us empower ourselves with the weapon of knowledge and let us shield ourselves with unity and togetherness.

Dear brothers and sisters, we must not forget that millions of people are suffering from poverty and injustice and ignorance. We must not forget that millions of children are out of their schools. We must not forget that our sisters and brothers are waiting for a bright, peaceful future.

So let us wage a glorious struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism, let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first. Thank you.

SourceThe full text: Malala Yousafzai delivers defiant riposte to Taliban militants with speech to the UN General Assembly

Editor’s NOTE: The following op-ed, penned by me, was published in Daily Times on November 17, 2012. I’m pleased to cross-post the article on my blog from Daily Times without any editing. (Ali Salman Alvi)

Fanaticism has been kept in the mainstream by those for whom it is a game to extract money out of organisations after rampant looting and killing. People then think of only an exodus as a means of survival, hence leaving behind the land to be ruled by those who have a singular aim to grab power by means of terrorism. Swat, with high mountains, green meadows and clear lakes, once known as the Switzerland of the region, where winter sports and tourism were a normal trend, is now marred by the chilling account of the barbarous and bloodied persecution of those who tried to defy the Taliban. Vested interests of ‘some’ with terrorism have destroyed the region as a business hub, which in turn has cracked the backbone of the economy of Pakistan and has left the state with no tourism. Hundreds of the inhabitants of Swat region were massacred by the Taliban and their misery only came to an end when the government launched a major military operation in 2009, despite facing opposition from the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf and religious parties.

The fanatical bent of the human mind always opposes any kind of progressive, scientific education since it will inevitably make the succeeding generations question their diktat, which will consequently topple their kingdom of regressive dogmatism complemented by terror logistics. Religion galvanises people, but misinterpreted religious sermons galvanises the ignorant and uneducated. These people form the vote/power bank of such voices, because due to ignorance their sermons sell; therefore, education is only opposed by fanatics. More than 800 school buildings have been blown up in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA to date and the campaign is not over yet. The silence of religious parties in Pakistan over this destruction is quite meaningful, which clandestinely endorses the militants’ argument that educating girls is in breach of the teachings of Islam. Islam does not ask its followers to keep girls uneducated. In fact, it holds education for girls as obligatory as for boys. Malala Yousafzai, who stood for the principles of peace and education, thus jeopardising the hegemony of these thugs, was an obstacle in their greater plan of destabilising Pakistan further.

Malala spoke about education and a secular Pakistan, which is the biggest thorn in the side of their business agenda of terrorism, and that is the reason why she was added to a Taliban hit list in 2011 and, subsequently, attacked in 2012. After an abhorrent campaign run by Islamist goons on social media, casting all sorts of doubts on the assassination attempt on Malala, their full of hot air leader, Fazlur Rehman stamped his approval upon the lamest of conspiracy theories about the 15-year-old who is undergoing medical treatment after surviving miraculously in the attack.

Almost four weeks after Malala and her two friends, Shazia and Kainat, came under attack by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in her hometown, Swat, the eponymous chief of his own faction of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, Maulana Fazlur Rehman termed the assassination attempt a drama. Addressing the ‘Islam Zindabad Conference’ in Karak, he said, “Pictures shown on social media have shown the whole character as suspicious because there was no sign of injury after the bandage on her head was removed.” This meant that Malala had not received any injury in her head since there was no sign of one after the bandage on her head was removed.

A couple of weeks ago, in the op-ed pages of a national English daily, a similar article with the title, “Shame on You, Mr Khan” was published in which the writer had bashed the chief of the PTI, Imran Khan, for being a ‘coward’ on account of his statement he gave in a television programme. While condemning the attack on Malala, Khan had said that his party had local affiliates and supporters in the restive areas of Pakistan, of the likes of Waziristan and FATA, and thus he could not give statements against the Taliban because that would make them [supporters] the Taliban’s targets. The column went viral on the social media, so much so that Hamid Mir invited Khan to his show and grilled him about that column and throughout the programme, he kept repeating the title of the aforementioned show. While I agree that Khan’s statement was not a brave one, I am taken aback to see that none of the writers have penned down any criticism on Fazlur Rehman for his despicable statement. Or maybe Mir should invite the maulana to his programme only to fire a barrage of ‘Shame on you, Fazlur Rehman’ for the sake of fairness, if not for anything else. The whole world of some of the writers would have come crashing down around them had such a statement, similar to Rehman’s, come from Imran Khan. Just because Khan listens to all the criticism directed towards him should not become license for his unabated bashing.

I am not surprised to see a group of politically ignorant people celebrating ‘Aafia Day’ on November 10 as a rebuttal of the Malala Day declared by the UN on the same day. Trying to compare apples and oranges, Maulana Fazlur Rehman went on to compare the case of Malala with the case of Aafia Siddiqui in an attempt to cash in on the sentiment of the public associated with Islam, since using religion and anti-Americanism always works wonders in Pakistan, bearing in mind people’s sentiments. Maulana Rehman said, “While everyone was outraged over the attack on Malala Yousufzai, there was silence on the issue of Aafia Siddiqui.” Malala became a victim of a fanatic’s bullet, which wanted to silence her struggle for awareness, whereas Aafia Siddiqui wanted to make many victims.

Let me make it very clear that the two cases cannot and should not be compared. Aafia Siddiqui, 40, was convicted by a US court for attempted murder, armed assault and other charges; Malala Yousafzai, 15, on the other hand, stood against extremism and terrorism, vowing for peace and girls’ education in a time when the Taliban were bombing schools in Swat to deter girls from going to school. During the five years of her disappearance, Declan Walsh, who was The Guardian’s correspondent for Pakistan and Afghanistan from 2004 to 2011, reported that Aafia visited her uncle, Shamsul Hasan Farooqi, and pleaded with him to smuggle her into Afghanistan into the hands of the Taliban, insisting that she would be safe with them. Aafia’s first husband, Amjad Mohammed Khan, an anaesthesiologist, has already disclosed that after the September 11 attacks, Aafia pressed him to go on jihad to Afghanistan and work as a medic for the Mujahideen.

Malala epitomises bravery and peace in the face of terror and barbarity. Her courage has won the hearts of hundreds and thousands of people across the globe. As the government of Pakistan plans to honour Malala by opening special schools in her name for poor children, the world calls for a Nobel Peace Prize for the 15-year-old. She, now, has the support of more than 124,000 people who have signed an online petition asking the Nobel Foundation to nominate her for the prestigious award. Forlornly, there was no Malala Yousafzai moment in Pakistan. The attack on Malala could have been a turning point in the war of our survival but it was not to be. Conspiracy theories got the better of the bitter reality, commandeering vulnerable minds. Here’s hoping Malala would recover soon and resume the fight against bigotry, extremism and oppression. Here’s hoping that Kainat and Shazia pursue education with a rejuvenated resolve. It is high time we stood for all the Malalas who are deprived of education and basic human rights to strive for a better, progressive and tolerant Pakistan.

Source: VIEW : Guillotine of intolerance and guile of hypocrisy — Ali Salman Alvi