Malala and Goliath

October 17, 2012


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For the first time in my life I have started to like Pakistan. I see what I always wanted to see. The image of Malala on every chowk, newspaper, profile picture, status update and TV channel. The prayers of people all across the country have touched me beyond imagination. This is a Pakistan that gives me hope and light at the end of tunnel. Let us celebrate this golden moment in the history of Pakistan that might not last for very long.

Just two weeks before the Taliban attacked her, I heard her speech in a conference in Islamabad. I had a presentation just after her and was jittery as I am not a good public speaker. One sentence struck me when she said, ‘one defiant ‘NO’ can break the silence of fear’.

I didn’t realise then but now I know what she meant. Lets us celebrate one girl’s defiance and the courage to say ‘NO’. One girl’s courageous stand against the mighty Talibans, exposing them, forcing them to explain their act with accordance to Sharia. All religious parties and political parties who are afraid to condemn the Taliban publicly were forced to condemn the Taliban because of a 14-year-old girl. Malala like David defeated the mighty, armed to his teeth Goliath - the general of Philistines.

Illustration by Sabir Nazar

The day Malala was attacked; I was sitting in my car waiting for my wife to finish her shopping. My daughter who is one year older than Malala was sitting in the back and I couldn’t see her face in the somewhat dark parking area. She asked me a question and I felt as if she was on the verge of breaking down into tears. I didn’t dare look at her in back-view mirror. I don’t know why I wanted to avoid her gaze.

Her: It is very difficult to express one self.

Me: No, what is so difficult, what is stopping you.

Her: No I mean, I am talking about Malala.

Me: But she did express herself. Look at the power of her expression. Didn’t it touch you and millions of other all over Pakistan. She wrote a dairy like Anne Frank from Swat.

Her: But they have met the same fate. She died in a concentration camp and she is in a hospital.

Me: What are you trying to say?

Her: Isn’t it better to leave this country where one can’t say what she wants, can’t adopt the profession what she wants?

Illustration by Sabir Nazar

Me: Malala didn’t have a choice to leave the country. Running away from any situation is not an answer.

Her: But she could have left Swat and lived in any other city?

Me: But it was more difficult living in another city. She couldn’t have continued her education if her entire family was displaced.

Her: But why she was the only one who stood for her rights?

Me: Because people living under such conditions become aware more than others living in a secure environment. The brush with reality is the greatest teacher. She realised the importance of education as she was being forced to leave it.

Illustration by Sabir Nazar

Her: I was talking to my friends in school and one girl said that she was not attacked by the Taliban but some tribal people who are against education.

Me: That is not true. We know only one group is responsible for destroying thousands of girls’ schools in Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Besides, the Taliban in Afghanistan stopped girl education in 1995.

Illustration by Sabir Nazar

Her: When I started to tell her about Malala, my friend nudged me under the table to stop the conversation.

Me: Why? What was she afraid of?

Her: She said there is no need to get into debate. They have only known Malala after this incidence. Me: So?

Seema: Can I write about her in my school magazine?

Me (to myself): Is she afraid of writing? (To her): Yes why not, it would give you an opportunity to understand the issue and other students would know the Malala’s role in education.

Her: Our school has started drills for emergency again. I don’t understand the two different sirens, which one is for locking ourselves in the class rooms and which is to gather outside the building.

Me: The first drill is meant to lock yourself in, if terrorists sneak into the school. And the second drill is probably to evacuate the school building in case of a bomb planted inside the building.  There are hoax calls of bombs in the building.

Her: Its very difficult to express one self in this society. I have learned not to surrender and shouldn’t stop to express myself, like I did in school.

Me: Yes, you should.

Her: But why should a girl struggle for education? Why didn’t somebody else speak about education in Swat?

Illustration by Sabir Nazar

Me (to myself): This is the age when 14-year-old girls should be dreaming about clothes, going to picnics and playing with her friends, as she described in her dairy. Why should she struggle for an education which is her right? Wasn’t this the duty of the adults to provide her with education? Have we reached a stage where our little girls, like Rimsha, Malala, have to offer sacrifices to wake us from our slumber?

I remained silent.

The author left architecture for painting but ended up as a cartoonist and now writes Hijjo. He is the jack of all trades.

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