Malala Yousafzai & the shame of Pakistan's political class

Early indications suggest Malala Yousafzai will survive and recover. The same can't be said for the country she has just come from

Pakistan's shell-shocked society has been mourning the attack on Malala
Ghaffar Hussain
On 16 October 2012 09:06

There aren't words in the English language that can express the anger, exasperation, and sheer frustration that comes with trying to follow political developments in Pakistan.

If it's not Islamist militants attacking and brutalising innocent civilians, then it’s commentators peddling outlandish conspiracy theories about how the rest of the world is plotting against Pakistan. If it's not the religious establishment expressing outrage at the latest offence against Islam, it’s the politicians acting cowardly in the face of rising bigotry and extremist intimidation.

For those of us who can't afford to switch off from all the mayhem, the experience is mentally exhausting. But just when you think you're getting used to it all something new comes along to push absurdity to new heights and stretch credulity to breaking point. You are at once awoken from your slumber and reminded just how manic that place called Pakistan is these days.

Unless you have been on Mars for the past few days, you must have heard of Malala Yousafzai, the 14 year old girl who had the bad fortune of being born in the Swat district of Pakistan.

Malala rose to prominence in 2009 when, at the tender age of 11, she began writing about her life as a young girl seeking an education in the Swat district on a blog. Swat at the time was under Taliban control and the Pakistani army was engaged in a military operation to rid them from the area.

Under Taliban occupation, many girls were strictly forbidden to attend school and many girl-only schools were demolished in line with the Taliban's interpretation of Islam. There were even cases of young girls having acid thrown on their faces for attempting to get an education.

Despite these shocking conditions, Malala continued to campaign for girls’ rights. Her work led her to being interviewed by a number of local and international media outlets, including the New York Times, and this publicity culminated in her receiving Pakistan's first ever National Youth Peace Prize.

On October 9th, 2012, Malala, along with a number of her colleagues, was shot in the head and neck as she was on her way to school. The Pakistani Taliban soon released a statement proudly claiming the attack and decrying Malala as a bad influence and a tool of the west. The outrage, amongst most sections of Pakistani society and the rest of the world, was palpable.

The attack on a poor innocent school girl was a new low for the Pakistani Taliban at a time when most of us thought they couldn't possibly get any lower. Demonstrations against the Taliban as a result of this cowardly attack have been held in Lahore and Karachi in the past few days.

What made the Malala case even more shocking was the fact that Pakistani politicians, throughout the affair, kept their mouths shut. Here was a 14 year old girl who was shot for standing up to the Taliban, yet her example was not enough to inspire the spineless men that dominate Pakistan's wretched political class to do the same.

Even former Cricket star turned self-aggrandising politician Imran Khan, or “Im the dim” as he was known in his Oxford days, couldn't find the cojones to condemn the Taliban. In fact, he has just spent the past few days campaigning against drone attacks in a desperate attempt to bolster his credentials amongst voters ahead of the forthcoming national elections.

According to the Express Tribune, a widely read Pakistani paper, during a media interview Khan claimed that the only way to bring peace to the troubled badlands of Pakistan was to visibly pull out of America’s war, call for an end to drone strikes, and entrust the armed tribals to police their own areas.

According to Imran, the war against the Taliban is only America's war, we can trust the local tribal leaders, many of whom have links to the Taliban, to police the area, and the Taliban will stop blowing up girls’ schools when the US-led coalition stops drone attacks and pulls out of the area.

This from a man who some have tipped to be the new leader of Pakistan. Is it any wonder that optimists are thin on the ground, and most educated people can't wait to leave the country?

Malala has now been flown to Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham to be treated alongside British soldiers injured in Afghanistan. Whilst early indications suggest she will survive and recover, the same can't be said for the country she has just come from.

Ghaffar Hussain is a counter terrorism expert and Contributing Editor to The Commentator. Follow him on Twitter @GhaffarH

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