Posts Tagged ‘Swat’

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

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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

Pakistan holds the second largest Shia community in the world after Iran in terms of the community’s population. The total Shia population in Pakistan is approximately 50 million to as high as 60 million according to Vali Nasr, a leading expert on Middle East and Islamic world. Despite being such a gigantic populace with significance it’s a distressing veracity that Shias living in Pakistan are deprived of a genuine leadership that can protect their political interests and raise the issues faced by this beleaguered community in Pakistan at the uppermost levels. Needless to say that Pakistan is becoming increasingly subjugated under the clutches of religious intolerance and extremism encouraged by the local religious fanatics and extremists from all over the world for their vested interests who in their turn have made religion a salable commodity under vile ostentatious dogmatic rituals. Amidst this gloomy state of affairs the so called Shia leadership, which can be aptly ascribed as inefficacious and incompetent, is making the situation even worse for the already troubled Shia community.

The crisis of leadership in Pakistani Shia’s is primarily that of identity, belief and political organization. It goes without saying that the religious clerics from the Shia community have been trying their best to lead Shias in the political battlegrounds as well albeit they have miserably failed to put up a momentous effort in this regard. Majority of these religious clerics get their graduation degrees from different seminary schools located in Iran especially in the Iranian city of Qom. After returning to Pakistan they sound keen on preaching the greatness of Iran, their cultural values and traditions for the rest of their lives notwithstanding the palpable socio-political differences between the Shia communities living on either side of the Pak-Iran border. Advertently or inadvertently they fail to understand that the issues of Iran are eminently incommensurable to the issues of Pakistan, political paradigm shift takes place for the betterment but there can’t be a religious paradigm shift because it’s about believes. Shias living in Iran are relishing the luxury of being a majority populace whilst Shias living in Pakistan are suffering systematic political, social, cultural as well as religious discrimination. Pakistani Shias have a culture of their own that is quite different from their Iranian counterparts. The traditions followed by Pakistani Shias in their day to day lives are not similar to Iranian traditions and culture either. Despite all these differences these religious clerics vociferously advocate the Pakistani Shias to toe the line of those in Iran & calling upon the masses to look forward to Iran in each and every matter. Meanwhile the persecution of Shias by the outlawed terrorists groups, aided by the deep state elements and sponsored by ‘Halal’ funding, continues at a mass rampant rate in the country. The latest assaults on Shias have claimed twenty more lives in Chilas and Quetta in separate incidents. The hard liner Salafi/Wahabi terrorists stopped six buses going to Gilgit from Rawalpindi. Seventeen passengers, after being identified as Shias, were hauled off buses and then shot dead in cold blood from point blank range. In another incident two more Shias, from Hazara tribe, were target killed in Quetta. Assailants barged into a medical store and shoe shop and opened fire on the victims. From 1987 to 2011, as many as 5,000 Shias are estimated to have been massacred in Pakistan.

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Those who were martyred in Kohistan massacre.

In Pakistan, the organized killing of the members of Shia community dates back to 1980’s. It’s immensely pertinent to find out what else was going on in the country at that very time to comprehend the reasons behind the Shia killings that has now spread throughout the length and breadth of Pakistan — A country that is becoming an exceedingly hostile land for the Shias and other minorities inhabiting here. Karachi, Quetta, Lahore, Jhang, Dera Ismail Khan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Hangu, Parachinar, Gilgit, Southern Punjab, Kohistan and now Chilas — this is increasingly becoming a well thought-out genocide of Shias in Pakistan that has claimed thousands of innocent human lives including the lives of women and children. It wouldn’t take much of an exertion to recollect the events which took place in 1980’s. Remember? Zia ul Haq had come into power prior to subverting the Constitution of Pakistan and overthrowing the elected government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in a military coup on July 5, 1977. His reign (1977 – 1988) is categorically regarded as an era of mass military repression in which hundreds of thousands of political rivals, minorities, and journalists were executed or tormented across Pakistan. Afghan Jihad — sponsored by CIA and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia — executed by Pakistan — errs… Pakistan’s ISI and the thousands of Jihadists recruited by these powers. During the same period the land of pure was littered with a number of sectarian outfits, belligerent in spewing venom against the “infidel” states of India, Israel and Soviet Union. Consequently the tribal belt astride Pak-Afghan border, also known as the Durand Line, became the safe haven for the extremists who were imported from all over the world in the name of Jihad. On the other hand the mantra of hoisting Pakistan’s flag on the Delhi’s Red Fort (Laal Qil’ah) and the slogans of crashing India into bits and pieces laid down the perfect platform for you know who!

From 1980’s to the circa of 2000-2010 — The world in general and Pakistan in particular had entered in another era widely known as post 9/11 in the aftermath of a series of four coordinated suicide attacks upon the United States in New York City and the Washington, D.C. areas on September 11, 2001. Almost 3,000 people were killed in the attacks. Three days later the United States Congress passed a joint resolution authorizing US Presidents to fight terrorists and the nations that harbor them. On October 7, 2001 and less than a month after the Twin Towers were razed in New York, the U.S., aided by the United Kingdom, Canada, and other countries including several from the NATO alliance, launched a consolidated military action, bombing Taliban and Al-Qaeda-related camps in Afghanistan. The stated objectives of this military operation were to remove the Taliban from power, and prevent the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations. Pakistan, which had remained the frontline state against communism, re-acquired the tag and emerged as an imperative ally of the U.S.

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Militants in Swat, Pakistan, destroyed 191 schools including 122 for girls.

American assault on Afghanistan triggered fury among the Taliban, supporters of Taliban and hardcore Islamists living in Pakistan. All these elements vowed to wage a holy war but this time it was against the United States unlike the previous Afghan Jihad which was funded by the United States against the Soviet Union. Among many other groups Malakand Taliban, a militant outfit, led by Sufi Muhammad, the founder of Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) and his son in law Molvi Fazalullah recruited a number of Jihadists to battle to fight the U.S.-led invasion in Afghanistan. Sufi Muhammad was later jailed for sending thousands of volunteers to Afghanistan; however he was set free in 2008 after he presumably renounced violence.  To fortify their control which already had been in Dir, Swat & Malakand districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, apart from Waziristan, Taliban instigated bombing schools, hotels, Police stations, and shrines to spread terror and fear among the local inhabitants. So much so that they target killed their opponents in the region and hung their beheaded corpses upside down in a square in Mingora (a city of Swat district) that was named as “Khooni Chowk” (Bloody Square) by Taliban. Swat valley once known as “Switzerland of South Asia”, for its great natural beauty and popularity among the local and foreign tourists, had become a valley of carnage at the helm of Taliban.

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Taliban flogging a girl publicly in Swat.

Stooping down to the might of terror campaign the Government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa made an agreement with Sufi Muhammad for establishing a system in the region known as “Nizam e Adal” (The system of Justice) which was demanded by Sufi Muhammad to officially establish a system introduced and endorsed by Taliban that would allow them to publicly behead, amputate and flog the people if they are found guilty by the “Qazi” (An Arabic/Urdu title referring to a Judge). This system was palpably in parallel to the judicial system established in the rest of the country in accordance with the Constitution of Pakistan. To get the Government’s approval on the “Nizam e Adal” Sufi Muhammad called for a temporary ceasefire in the Malakand region. The provincial government agreed to allow the implementation of Nizam e Adal in the region once violence had stopped. Muhammad traveled to Swat to discuss the deal with Maulvi Fazlullah and his followers, who agreed to observe the ceasefire. Showing complete camaraderie with Sufi Muhammad and Fazlullah, a spokesperson of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Muslim Khan publicly announced that his group would observe an indefinite ceasefire. Facing the escalating political pressure to reach a settlement, President Zardari signed the controversial regulation into law on April 13, 2009 after a National Assembly resolution approved of the measure. The resolution was supported by Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party, the Awami National Party, the Pakistan Muslim League-N, the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam and generally pro-government FATA officials. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) opposed the motion but abstained from voting. In a show of rare defiance, only one MNA Ayaz Amir stood up and opposed the regulation valorously despite the grave coercions by Taliban’s spokesman, Muslim Khan, carried by all the daily newspapers in the morning.

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Announcement letter signed by various Shia clerics, at Jamia tul Muntazir Lahore, showing solidarity with Sufi Muhammad.

As feared the militants took advantage of the peace deal and expanded their territory into other districts and within few days they took control of Buner, Lower Dir and Shangla. Given a free hand to the deo-bandi hard liners, it was evidently understood that the Shia community would suffer the most since Taliban and their supporters firmly believe that Shias are apostates/infidels. Much to the bewilderment of many readers the so called Shia leadership (understandably constituted of religious clerics) gathered in a well known seminary “Jamia tul Muntazir”, located in Model Town Lahore, and fervently endorsed highly controversial Nizam e Adal regulation proposed by Sufi Muhammad vide an announcement letter despite facing such a palpable threat to the community. The letter claimed to have been released with the consent of Sajid Ali Naqvi and it held the support for the regulation as a religious obligation on all the seminaries affiliated with Wafaq ul Madaris Al-Shia Pakistan as well as all the Shias living in Pakistan. It goes without saying that the much extolled Niazm e Adal regulation later yielded in horrific repercussions.

Shia community in Pakistan, bearing in mind that there is no time to lose, will have to find a way out of this absurd state of affairs. Instead of following those who never miss an opportunity to stab in the back, Shias should endeavor to bring forth a leadership that can safeguard their interests and not of those who aren’t anywhere in the picture. Otherwise living peacefully in Pakistan would become a distant dream not only for Shias but for other minorities including Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and Ahmadis considering the sense of insecurity ripping through a commoner’s mind. No doubt the Salafi/Wahabi regimes have been financially supporting terrorist organizations in Pakistan but why have the people of Pakistan swayed into fanatic charm of Saudi Arabia to destroy peace in Pakistan? World perceives Pakistan as a safe haven to terrorism, Saudi Arabia enjoys the dominance of the rich oil wealth, who stands as the beneficiary of trust deficit in the world? Who is at the receiving end of all these troublesome realities? It won’t take much of a labor to find out the answer. Somewhere to a large extent the peoples psyche has been swayed. To get things in order all of us will have to strive together; let’s safeguard our society and our rich cultural values of tolerance, hospitality and equanimity. Let’s defy hatred, bigotry and intolerance with all the available resources — let’s shield our next generations from the wrath of intolerance, extremism and barbarianism — let’s protect our beloved motherland — let’s save Pakistan.