KARACHI: It was a speech delivered with nothing but purity of the heart. Rape survivor Kainat Soomro lifted the spirits of a large number of people who had gathered to listen to a video message of iconic young woman Malala Yousafzai at an event titled ‘Celebrating the spirit of Malala’ organised by civil society organisations at the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology on Saturday.
The programme was divided into two parts. The first half was dedicated to the memory of Pakistan’s first Nobel laureate Dr Abdus Salam, and the second half to the second laureate Malala.
Introducing the event to the audience, Anis Haroon said the organisers had been planning it for a long time but incidents like the Dec 16 Peshawar tragedy, the Shikarpur blast and the recent attack on a mosque in Peshawar prevented them from doing so. She then requested everyone to observe a minute’s silence to remember and honour all those killed in terrorist attacks.
Mahnaz Rehman talked about her interview of Dr Salam that she took in Beijing in 1987. When she asked him whether he wanted to return to his homeland, he replied when Tagore won the Nobel Prize, he made the Shantiniketan; for him there was no Shantiniketan.
Documentary film-maker Zakir Thaver showed bits of his film on Dr Salam on which he has been working for more than a decade and would be released by end of this year. It was a nice little presentation.
This was followed by the reading of a (fictitious) letter of Dr Salam to Malala, read out by Abida Ali.
Then came the moment that everybody was waiting for: Malala’s video message. In her address, Malala said if the country was to progress, it was imperative that we focused on education. The field of education had been terribly affected by terrorism as more than 400 schools in Swat and over 2,000 in KP had been destroyed by terrorists. Terrorism had adversely impacted education in the entire country. However, she argued, there were also other reasons (such as poverty and lack of quality education) that needed to be looked into. She said the people needed to ‘unite’ to educate their children. They should ignore divisions on the basis of religion and gender, and look at things as humans.
Malala said the Malala Fund was working for providing children with quality education. In her village in the Swat valley there were no proper facilities for students. She reiterated that the nation got united for the cause of the five million children in the country, and lamented that the matter was not the government’s top priority. She said that instead of spending money on the military it should be invested in education. Remembering the 132 children killed in Peshawar, she said the people should make sure that such a tragedy didn’t happen again.
After Malala’s speech, Kainat Soomro came to the podium. In a manner that was utterly devoid of pretence and showiness, she told the audience how she got to meet Malala. She narrated last year she received a call from Malala’s father who said his daughter would like to talk to her (Kainat). Malala told her that she’d seen a film based on Kainat’s life and read about her in the newspapers. Upon knowing that Kainat had discontinued her studies, Malala took the responsibility of bearing all the cost for her education. As a result, Kainat hired a tutor.
Subsequently Malala asked her to join her at the Nobel award ceremony in Oslo. Luckily, Kainat said, her passport was ready which she had tried to obtain when the film based on her life was being shown abroad but couldn’t get it on time. When she landed in Oslo, it was cold. But once she met Malala, she forgot all her pain and misery. “Was it a dream or reality?” Kainat said.
Kainat agreed with Malala’s message that Pakistani children needed to be educated. Those who weren’t educated were like animals, she said. She said she’d been away from her home for the past eight years but expressed her resolve to fight against the terrorists. “I will fight the terrorists. They were not able to subjugate Malala or me with weapons. If we don’t speak up today, we will never be able to speak up,” she said rounding off her speech.
Nuzhat Kidvai read out Maya Angelou’s poem ‘Still I rise’.
Writer Zaheda Hina spoke on the impact of extremism on women’s rights. She said the Pakistanis didn’t value Dr Salam because of which he left the country. Similarly, Malala only wanted to acquire education and they tried to take her life. Shedding light on the problems faced by women, she said it all started with the Objectives Resolution of 1948, and the later events (1973 constitution, Zia’s rule, etc) aggravated it.
A couple of poetry recitations and speeches were also on the list of the programme.
Published in Dawn, February 15th, 2015