It’s about time Pakistan owned Malala

While the world celebrates her, we the confused Pakistanis, fail to appreciate a national treasure

Malala Yousafzai has embarked on Parliament Hill, Ottawa—which of course is not her final destination—in a grueling journey from Swat to Canadian Parliament to receive honorary citizenship. Defying the odds Malala dreamed of studying medicines in her childhood during the times when Taliban had planned to ban girls’ education in Swat Valley, Pakistan. Though Malala was the daughter of a progressive educationist, her family was quite conservative; this made her decision of getting higher education improbable. In 2008, fortunately—or unfortunately—Ziauddin, Malala’s father, met Adam B. Ellick and started assisting him in his documentaries who was working as reporter with The Times. Adam filmed Malala’s family as one of the families who suffered with education ban imposed by Taliban in his documentaries. Once these documentaries were aired, it immediately changed the life of this family with Malala becoming the de facto voice of the oppressed region. It took a time of two years for security forces to bring back peace in Swat but Malala continued her struggle against Taliban more forcefully. She used to call Taliban ‘not humans’ in her communications on national and international media. As an unwanted consequence, she was shot in head in an ill-fated morning when she was going to school along with her friends. Without any hesitation Taliban claimed this barbaric attack on the young girl. Malala’s family flew to UK for her surgery; the good thing was that she survived somehow.

She was attending chemistry class in her school in UK when deputy head mistress pulled her out and informed about biggest achievement of her life, the Nobel Peace Prize for the year 2014. Later, she also bagged Sakharov Prize, National Youth Peace Prize, Simone de Beauvoir Prize, Sitara-i-Shujaat and tens of other prestigious awards. On April 12, extending her list of awards, Malala Yousafzai officially added the honorary Canadian citizenship bestowed upon her in 2014. This citizenship was previously scheduled to be awarded by Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a conservative leader, in Toronto on Oct. 22, 2014, which implies that there are no differences between liberals or conservatives of Canada on this mighty decision. But the event had been called off; because it was exactly that day a soldier in Parliament Hill was killed by a gunman. In a statement issued by Prime Minister Office of Canada, it is mentioned that PM Justin Trudeau wishes to discuss girls’ empowerment through education and how they can actively contribute to the sustainable development of their communities and countries.

Today, when Malala is partly paralyzed in her facial looks, that look has transformed her in to a global icon. She is a little deaf in the left ear, but that has empowered her speaking power.  In an ideal world at this stage of life, one would like to have sibling rivalries, fears of not doing home-works given by school teacher, worrying about admission acceptance at college, learning to make food, quarrelling with friends in sports; but she is delivering speeches in parliaments and meeting presidents for women’s empowerment. She wants a minimum of 12 years education for girls. She wants the millions of teenage girls not to go through the trauma she faced. In short, she has travelled miles ahead of what other girls of her age are going through.

Beside her efforts for education she always spoke about the possible measures that could end terrorism. She raised her voice for girls abducted by Boko Haram in Nigeria and showed her displeasure towards Nigerian president for not taking mandatory steps. She also advised Obama administration at the White House that drones were counterproductive and that they should rather invest in education. Talking about biggest threats to humanity —terrorism — depicts the courage she still possess. Very recently she was also announced as UN peace messenger for her unwavering commitment to peace.

April 12, the day Malala officially received Canadian citizenship, is truly a proud a day for Pakistani residents in Canada. She is now considered a treasure for the whole world. When she talks on Skype with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, when Madonna sings for her, when Justin Trudeau feels joy in meeting her, when Angelina Jolie takes her for tea, when she receives standing ovation at UN and Canadian Parliament, when Beyoncé sends her Instagram, when Bill Gates tweets nice words about her, it’s we — the very confused Pakistanis— who are not willing to own her. It is so ironic that a few Pakistani residing in Toronto set up a protest when she was awarded Canadian citizenship in conservative government of Stephen Harper. How long we will keep ourselves engaged in conspiracy theories? It’s high time to own her, let us do it!

Umer Farooq is a PhD fellow at University of Calgary Canada and a freelance writer. His writing focuses on science and technology, religious divide and social development

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