Malala Yousafzai's Nobel peace prize award, together with Kailash Satyarthi for 2014 has evoked mixed reaction in her native Pakistan. She is currently studying in England and is unlikely to return to Pakistan any time soon. Two other girls wounded with her when the Taliban attacked their van, have received scant attention leading to speculation that she is being used to promote the west's agenda.
Friday October 10, 2014, 10:19 DST
It was only a matter of time before Malala Yousufzai would get the Nobel peace prize. It came rather suddenly today despite being expected.
The Norwegian committee announced the joint award for Pakistani girl Malala Yousufzai, 17, and Kailash Satyrthi, 60, of India.
Malala, currently studying in Birmingham, England, was at top of the list for this year’s award, according to a spokesman for the Norwegian committee, even surpassing Pope Francis as well as Edward Snowden, who were also nominees for this year’s award.
In announcing the joint award, the Norwegian committee cited the two [Malala and Satyarthi] “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.”
Satyarthi has been campaigning against “the grave exploitation of children for financial gain [in India],” the Nobel committee said.
“It's an honor to all those children still suffering in slavery, bonded labour and trafficking,” Satyarthi told TV news channel CNN-IBN.
While adored and feted globally, Malala is seen with deep suspicion in her native Pakistan. The feeling is particularly strong in Mingora, Swat, a remote part of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Most people view her as a western agent whose plight—she was shot and wounded by the Taliban in October 2012—is being exploited to advance the west’s agenda.
Two other girls shot and wounded with her—Shazia Ramzan and Kainat Riaz—have received scant attention, reinforcing the belief that she is being used for purposes other than the advancement of girl’s education.
There is also widespread belief among Pakistanis that her father, Ziauddin, a lowly schoolteacher, is using his daughter to promote his own schools of which he has now established a vast network.
For the record, these schools do not provide free education. Instead, using his daughter’s name, Ziauddin has made connections with Gordon Brown, the former British prime minister, who is a vigorous campaigner for for-profit schools that receive support from American multinational companies.
Pakistan’s beleaguered Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif immediately jumped into the fray congratulating Malala calling her the “pride” of the country.
Speaking in his tortuous English, Nawaz Sharif said: “She is pride of Pakistan. She has made her countrymen proud. Her achievement is unparalleled and unequalled.”
Among most Pakistanis, the reaction was mixed because the award was given jointly to Malala, a Muslim girl from Pakistan, and a Hindu from India.
The two countries are archenemies and are currently involved in exchange of gunfire along the Line of Control in Kashmir where many civilians have been killed in the last week.
The Nobel Committee’s announcement also lacked tact. It rubbed salt into Pakistani wounds when it said it “regards it as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism.”
While some Pakistanis may consider her achievement a plus for the country, Malala herself is quite clear. In her 2013 book, I am Malala, written for her by British journalist Christina Lamb, Malala openly says “like all Swatis, I thought of myself as first Swati and then Pashtun before Pakistani.” (p.25). There is no mention of being Muslim at all.
Sharif may think Malala has made all Pakistanis “proud,” she proudly writes that on Pakistan’s 50th independent anniversary on August 14, 1997 (when Nawaz Sharif happened to be prime minister!) her father and his friends “wore black armbands to protest, saying there was nothing to celebrate,” and that Swat had suffered since it “had merged with Pakistan.” (p.55).
Some daughter of Pakistan!