View Full Version : To shoot a mocking bird - M.A Niazi - 19th October 2012

19th October 2012, 11:57 AM
The shot that hit Malala Yousafzai was heard around the country, causing an outpouring of emotion that was not explained either by a desire for an operation in North Waziristan, or by a commitment to any education, let alone female.
The emotion did make one thing very clear: the Taliban who shot her had made a mistake, and the Taliban spokesman who made the claim had a reward placed on his head by the government. The idea of launching an operation in North Waziristan was floated, and supposedly approved by a meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. But the government itself, through Interior Minister Rehman Malik, denied that any operation was occurring. An operation was backed by those claiming that the attacker had come from North Waziristan.
It was also worth seeing how the Taliban supporters tried to defend the shooter and his backers. However, the approach was not productive, and the justification of the attack on the ground that her age or sex did not protect Malala did not seem to work. Doubt was also thrown on the main reason for her fame, the blog she wrote about her desire for the education that was being denied to her by the Taliban occupation of Swat.
It is constantly mentioned that she was merely trying to get what Islam had promised her, obtaining an education. No one pays much attention to the fact that knowledge of religion is meant, not the essentially secular education given in our schools.
It should not be ignored that Swat is a battleground for female education, which the ANP has emphasised ever since its own inception. And though there is much stress laid on female education in rhetoric, practically, all over the country, it faces a kind of dumb resistance.
This is, perhaps, because the question of women’s education is related to women’s liberation. It is interesting that women’s liberation and education is also a key issue in Afghanistan, and one of the greatest justifications for the US occupation is supposed to be the liberation of Afghan women.
Though the ANP also stands for such liberation, it seems less progress has been made, but one of the points for the support of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan has been precisely this carefully studied ambivalence towards women. Both the Taliban and its American opponents seem to recognise the centrality of the ‘Woman Question’.
The West seems to regard it as the point through which it can impose its ideology, and the Taliban, therefore, feels that it needs to make a defence at this point. However, both see the education offered as secular, not religious!
It is to the disadvantage of the Taliban that they have no alternative to offer, which would satisfy the commandment to all believers, both men and women, to obtain an education. Be that as it may, the Taliban are merely a 21st century manifestation of a phenomenon that began in the 19th century, a response to the Western missionaries of that time, who wanted to spread Christianity through schooling. The natives wanted that schooling for their children because it gave access to government jobs. The ANP, thus, represents a strand that goes back to this time.
The debate over women’s education is, thus, an old one, and is familiar to the people of Pakistan.
At the same time, it was not supposed to descend into shootings. That might help explain some of the sympathy for Malala; the debate she had joined was not supposed to involve being shot.
Another strand of sympathy was the result of paternal feelings. Malala looked like everyone’s daughter, and thus seemed to be asking for sympathy.
However, it also showed the Taliban that she was more than the local figure they must have thought. By attacking her, they brought upon themselves the obloquy of the whole country. Even Afghanistan got in on the action, with President Hamid Karzai sending across a sympathy message which all but asked for the Waziristan operation in so many words.
Of course, this was him merely giving voice to the wishes of his American masters, who feel they have been deprived of victory in Afghanistan by the attacks of the Haqqani Network, which is headquartered in North Waziristan. This ignores the resentment at foreign occupation felt by the Afghans, which has led to the resistance.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan government responded by saying that Maulvi Fazlullah was behind the attack. Maulvi Fazlullah was driven from Swat by the army operation there, and according to the government is holed up in the Kunar province, from which he launches periodic raids into Pakistan. As this cannot be possible without the USA knowing, indeed even assisting, it is to be assumed that this is an operation intended by both Afghanistan and the USA as a response to Haqqani Network, and the failure of the Pakistan Army to launch an operation against it.
This means that the shooting of Malala converted her from an unusual teenager in Swat into a pawn in the ‘great game’. Also, by blaming Maulvi Fazlullah, the link between Malala and the army was being strengthened. The army has a particular interest, because it not only has an interest in Swat, but also in women’s education. Though the army seems an unlikely supporter, its modernising mission must not be forgotten.
The military served the Raj not just as its strong right arm, but also as the means of spreading education. The Pakistan Army has continued this role, which has become even more prominent now through its network of educational institutions. It should not be ignored that Malala was in Pakistan Army institutions as long as she was in Pakistan, with updates about her being issued by the ISPR, and was shifted to a hospital in the UK that also treats British soldiers getting head injuries. That her fellow patients, probably, include those also wounded in the head by the Taliban is an additional irony.
That Malala was shot was a tragedy. But then, so was what succeeded it, which was successive drone strikes. The nation has not so much grown insensitive to victims of drone strikes, it seems, because there was no real reaction, as let alone injuries, there were also killings. If the Taliban may have been provoked into shooting Malala because of her blog, it is to be seen how they will act against those raining down the missiles.
The government needs to consider why there has been an attack anyhow. Swat is supposed to have returned to normalcy, and has been settled after an army operation. Yet, it was still possible for an assailant to carry a pistol in Mingora, and then to stop a school van, commit the crime, and manage a getaway. Suspects have been arrested, and are doubtless being interrogated by the time-honoured method of being beaten within an inch of their life.
However, that does not answer questions about the effectiveness of any army operation in Waziristan, or what security will be given to those who help. That is another reason why the North Waziristan operation, which the army does not want anyway, because it would mean killing fellow Pakistanis, should not take place.