Karachi, March 31 (Express Tribune): The youngest-ever Nobel laureate and global activist for girls’ education, Malala Yousafzai said on Friday that despite the worldwide respect and recognition, baseless propaganda and criticism hurled at her specially by the ‘well-educated’ people in Pakistan was perplexing to say the least.
Speaking during her first interview to a private TV channel after returning to Pakistan on a four-day-long visit, Malala said she also wanted to know who was behind the campaign being run against her, adding that she avoids watching news on television and going through negative comments on her social media posts in order to remain focused and positive.
Welcome messages for the 20-year-old global education advocate poured in soon after she landed in Islamabad on Wednesday night, but there was also intense criticism of her decision to leave the country after the attack, and suspicion over her motives.
When asked if she would settle in Pakistan permanently after completing her higher education in the United Kingdom, the Oxford student said, “Yes, certainly. Pakistan is my country and I want to live here.” She reiterated that she is happy to return to the country, which once looked a far-fetched dream to her.
The youth of Pakistan… they are actively voicing their concerns, which is a very good thing,” said the 20-year-old when asked if she found any difference between the Pakistan of 2012 and 2018.
“Three PSL [Pakistan Super League] matches were held here and more and more [foreign] people are now willing to visit the country,” she added.
Commenting on fellow students Kainat and Shazia, who also sustained injuries when she was attacked by the Taliban in 2012, Malala said the two completed their 10th grade in the Wales and now they were acquiring higher education at the well-reputed Edinburgh University in Scotland.
On a question regarding helping the injured students of Army Public School for their medical treatment in England through Malala Fund, she said, “We should help others not only by money but with our attitude and gestures.”
Commenting on her future endeavors in the country, she said Pakistan, along with Nigeria, topped the list for most numbers of girls outside schools. A girls school, being built in her home town of Shangla in Swat district, will be the first secondary school in the area, she said, adding that a hospital that is being built by Malala Fund will enable women from getting treatment in their locality instead of travelling outside the village.
Thanking the Pakistan government and the military, Malala said that they helped her not only in getting the best possible medical treatment immediately after the 2012 attack but also for taking her to the UK for further medical assistance. “All this wasn’t possible without their help,” she added.
A string of international awards, appearances at the United Nations, audiences with world leaders and more than one million Twitter followers speak to the view of Malala as a peace icon abroad.
However, to the militants who tried to kill her, she was an obstacle, preventing them from ruling with an iron fist over the Swat valley where Malala lived and blogged about their oppressive practices.
Commenting on the short trip to the motherland, the young rights activist said she could only undertook the trip because of ongoing Easter holidays in the UK. “I am very much involved in studies and the overall university life including student counseling to get as much learning experience [from her stay in the West],” she added.
When asked about her role models, she said the nation had just lost one of the best role models in Asma Jahangir. “When you translate bravery into human body, you can call her Asma Jahagir.”
She said the Pakistani youth had the passion for bringing change and they were lucky to have many role models including senior journalist Hamid Mir, the interviewer, to follow.
Malala opined that education was the only answer to counter extremism in the country and the students should be given examples of tolerance and coexistence from the life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Commenting on the Kashmir issue, she said that only people of the occupied valley should have the right of deciding about their fate of joining Pakistan or India. “But children everywhere must have freedom to go to schools and play and got to markets with their parents and therefore, we should listen to Kashmiris in this regard and find out what they want,” she remarked.
“Without focusing on war we can still compete with India in different fields including economics.”
On the merger of Federally Administered Tribal Area (Fata) with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), the Pashtun girl said that the tribal people must be treated like the other Pakistanis. “To convince them [Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao], I would say to them that Fata people are as much Pakistani as you are,” she said in response to a question.
Commenting on difference between educational systems of the country and the West, she said that students were encouraged to raise questions and be curious in the West rather than punished for not memorising the whole books.
‘I Am Not Malala Day’
A group of private schools in the country declared Friday to be “I Am Not Malala Day”, for what its spokesman described as her “anti-Islam and anti-Pakistan ideology”. That description puzzles Malala.
“I just don’t know anything I’ve said that makes me anti-Pakistan or anti-Islam,” she said in another interview to Reuters.
“Islam has taught me the importance of peace. Islam has taught me the importance of education. The first word of Islam, or the first word of the Holy Quran, is Iqra which means ‘read’.”