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Malala Yousafzai: The tipping point for Pakistan?

After the fate of Governor Taseer, the hardliners have been emboldened, and the voices of reason face enormous danger. Who can blame them? Putting one’s life at risk is no small undertaking and solicits truckloads of courage.

Ahmadiyya Times | News Watch | US Desk
Source/Credit: Miami Islam Examiner
By Mansura Minhas | October 15, 2012

Malala Yousafzai, a teenager from the Swat Valley in Pakistan was shot in the head lat week by the Taliban because of her unflinching quest for education despite all odds.

The attack on the unarmed, 14 year old girl has alarmed the whole world. It has sent shock waves in Pakistan and her countrymen are demonstrating unparalleled solidarity and condemning the brutal attack on her life. This appears to be the tipping point in the harrowing tale of a nation, which had seemingly lost its soul. The tragedy lies at the culmination of a malaise that has afflicted Pakistan for too long.

A few weeks ago, a Christian teenage girl Rimsha Masih was arrested on charges of blasphemy. A society that allows such unchecked acts of bigotry against children direly needs introspection. Shooting a 14 year old girl in the head and incarcerating a girl suffering from Down syndrome are grave offences that cannot be condoned at all.

Pakistan emerged on the map of the world in 1947. Founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah aspired and struggled for a ‘Muslim majority’ nation that would safeguard the rights of Muslims, which were denied to them in United India. Jinnah never envisioned a theocratic state. Pakistan was created an ‘ideological’ state and that somehow allowed the radicals to impinge upon the true vision and misconstrue it for their political gains. As a result of the incessant meddling of the hardliners, Pakistan became the “Islamic Republic of Pakistan” in 1956.

If exceptions are made, if principles are compromised for political expediency, if laws are altered to ostracize a minority, then it is just a ‘matter of time’ before the rest come under the wrap of prejudice. Such was the case with Pakistan. Religio-political parties continued to wield influence. Even secular leaders gave into their whims due to their short-sightedness. They spiraled down an abyss leading to their own political ruin, while setting the stage for the decline of the nation.

Pakistan People Party, the current ruling party, cannot escape the demons of its past. Its founding father, Zulfiqar Bhutto caved in to the Mullahs’ demands in 1974. His infamous Second Amendment to the Constitution declared followers of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, a sect within Islam, as non-Muslims. In 1979, he met his end at the hands of his self-appointed crony, General Zia-ul-Haq.

Zia-ul-Haq, the military dictator was a hardliner. His era represents the darkest years in Pakistan’s history. In his fervor to appease the religio-political parties, he carried forward his unabated agenda to Islamize Pakistan. He promulgated the harshest ever State-sponsored laws that persecuted minorities and deprived them of basic human rights. The infamous Ordinance XX primarily targeted members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Other minorities also incurred the wrath of the blasphemy laws contained therein.

Fast forward two decades. Salman Taseer, governor of the largest province was murdered in board daylight by his own body guard, who deemed him to be a blasphemer. The governor’s ‘crime’ was his concern about the abuse of blasphemy laws as he sought to free a hapless and poor Christian woman who had been indicted under blasphemy. Due to the high profile of this case, it garnered worldwide attention to Pakistan’s ever-increasing woes and its bewildering obsession with religion.

Pakistan’s miseries worsened because the majority remained apathetic as minorities were persecuted. Despite their own disillusionment with the religious clergy, many could care less, as the discrimination and harassment did not impinge on them directly. However, to insinuate that the majority in Pakistan is in acquiescence with the radicals will also be erroneous. In private circles, the moderates have long been disturbed about the disenfranchisement of minorities, yet they could never muster enough public courage to stand up to the injustices. After the fate of Governor Taseer, the hardliners have been emboldened, and the voices of reason face enormous danger. Who can blame them? Putting one’s life at risk is no small undertaking and solicits truckloads of courage.

However, Malala, a girl from the tribal and most conservative North-West region remained undeterred. The Taliban who represent the epitome of hardline ideology, who can only talk in the language of guns and violence, used their only tools to silence her. Malala had defied them and dared to tread on a path that most in Pakistan were wary of. She defied the mores of her tribal society and continued her insatiable quest for education.

In the process, Malala set herself on a perilous road. Yes, the benign act of attending school in conflict-ridden Swat is a daunting task. Even though the Taliban had been driven out to the countryside after the military operation of 2009, they continued to threaten her. The documentation of her ordeals and criticism of the Taliban for the BBC’s blog offended them.

Malala’s unwavering determination has left many speechless. It has put to shame the spineless politician and leaders of Pakistan, who are scurrying for photo-ops, which appear to be desperate attempts to appease their guilt. Some had previously awarded her a National Peace Prize and deemed that enough. Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif failed to realize that the award was not enough; real support merited furthering her cause and dealing the Taliban with an iron-hand.

Malala’s parents named her after a Pashtun warrior who fought for Independence against the British. What a befitting name for the young crusader who rose to challenge the Taliban, who endanger women empowerment and literacy. They represent a monstrosity of behemothic proportions. They deny girls the right to education by deeming it an “American value”. Such outlandish justifications for their harsh stance on issues like education make one wonder if they ever read the Qur’an (39:10) which clearly states:

“Can those who know, be like those who know not?”

Or have they ever bothered to read what Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) enjoined upon ALL Muslims:

“Seeking of knowledge is obligatory upon every Muslim man and woman”.

Does this leave any ambiguity about the importance that Islam places on female literacy?

It is heartening to see that Pakistanis are waking up from their deep slumber and condemning the attack on Malala. Hopefully, this will make them reckon the demons that have plagued their nation for too long now. They must realize that religious extremism is the real threat to national sovereignity, it is the real enemy within, and not just drones, as some like Imran Khan would like them to believe.

The quest for justice should not end with Malala’s case. Rather, this should usher in a new era, a renewed zest to guarantee equal rights for all citizens of Pakistan regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or gender. That is the sole glimmer of hope, the only viable tribute to the outstanding guts of the feisty Malala. Let this be the “Rosa Parks” moment for Pakistan.

Read original post here: Malala Yousafzai : the tipping point for Pakistan?

This content-post is archived for backup and to keep archived records of any news Islam Ahmadiyya. The views expressed by the author and source of this news archive do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of Ahmadiyya Times.

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