Support Malala

Rarely has the Taliban stood as isolated as it did over the past week. The shooting of a 14-year-old peace activist, Malala Yusufzai, by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has set off a tsunami of anger and outrage against the terror organisation and its misogynist outlook. Malala, who lives in strife-torn Swat, wrote a blog under a pseudonym in which she advocated the right of education for girls.

She has paid a heavy price for her energetic activism; she is now battling for her life. The Pakistani Taliban’s shooting of Malala and two of her friends were aimed at not just silencing these plucky girls but at terrorising all of Afghani and Pakistani society.

Their attempt has failed, evident from the large anti-Taliban protests in several cities in the two countries. Interestingly, the attempt on Malala’s life has served to mobilise support against the Taliban. Fifteen years of repression unleashed by the Taliban had largely beaten Afghani and Pakistani societies into silence and submission. Malala has changed that. Her outspokenness has inspired an entire generation of youth.

Thousands of boys and girls are pouring into the streets wearing caps and t-shirts with ‘I am Malala’ written on them. Their show of support goes beyond just expressing sympathy for Malala. It is a show of solidarity with the cause she battled for, a signal that her battle against the Taliban is theirs too. This show of support is being articulated not just on social media, which provides people with some amount of anonymity, but in very public rallies as well.

Malala wrote with passion about her dreams of being educated and becoming a doctor. These are not unachievable in most parts of the world but in Malala’s Swat and in vast parts of Taliban-controlled Pakistan and Afghanistan these can only remain dreams.

It is time the Taliban read the writing on the wall. Its obscurantist outlook is totally out of sync with the aspirations of people it claims to liberate.  The anti-Taliban movement in Pakistan is gathering momentum and it would be unfortunate if at this critical juncture public support wanes.

Public solidarity with Malala carries a message for the Pakistan government as well, which has shown neither spunk nor sense in its handling of the Taliban. The Pakistani people are now showing the way to stand up to the Taliban. The least the government can do now is to follow them.

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