By Yasser Latif Hamdani
October 13, 2014
Malala Yousafzai’s Nobel Peace Prize — a point of pride for all Pakistanis — has elicited a most shameful response from certain quarters in the country. These people have attempted to paint Malala as both anti-Pakistan and anti-Islam, and therefore her Nobel Peace Prize is a conspiracy against Pakistan and Islam.
Now, anyone who has read honestly and without blinkers the book I am Malala knows that she is one of those remarkable and rare young Pakistani women who are comfortable in their multiple identities. She is as proudly a Pakistani and a Muslim as she is a Swati and a Pashtun. For someone supposedly anti-Pakistan (allegedly because of her father’s affiliation with the ANP), her book contains several references to “our founder”, Jinnah, showing him as a progressive and modern leader who stood for equal rights for minorities and women, and a proponent of education. The first picture she has in the book is of her outside Jinnah’s tomb in Karachi. Perhaps portraying Jinnah as what he was — a modern anglicised barrister and a liberal politician who was from the Shia sect — is considered a “western conspiracy”. In other words, portraying Jinnah as anything other than the caricature of the man created by General Zia’s regime is just another crime in Malala’s long list of crimes.
As a proud Pashtun, Malala admires Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan aka Bachcha Khan as a hero; the ultra-nationalists consider that treason because Bachcha Khan was in the Congress before partition. Now, here is my problem with this approach. Bachcha Khan was not alone in his opposition to Pakistan but when he met Jinnah and took an oath of allegiance to Pakistan, the Quaid is reported to have said, “Today, Pakistan is complete.” Ironically, at the same time, it is not considered treasonous to list Maulana Maududi or Ataullah Shah Bokhari as heroes despite the fact that they were far more vociferous in their opposition to Jinnah and indeed were openly abusive towards him, calling him the great infidel, unlike Bachcha Khan whose opposition was political. These facts inconvenience those who wish to act as the guardians of Pakistan’s ideology. When two rabid, right wing columnists started attacking Malala, they chose sentences out of context from her book, editing out the exculpatory provisos in Malala’s narrative.
Malala is not in bad company when it comes to being slandered by right-wingers and conservative religious writers. Everyone from Jinnah, Dr Abdus Salam and Abdus Sattar Edhi has been attacked and called much the same. Dr Abdus Salam, our first Nobel Laureate, was one of the greatest physicists in the world. Even the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) honours him and his name graces one of the leading centres of theoretical physics in the world today. Yet the fraud from Bhopal, Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, whose real role in the nuclear programme has been documented by Brigadier Feroz Khan in his book, Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb has been scurrilously penning articles accusing Dr Salam of treason. Dr Salam basically founded Pakistan’s science programme, including the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission. He, along with PAF Air Commodore WJM Turowicz, founded the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Corporation (SUPARCO) that was tipped to become the greatest space agency in Asia, so much so that it was expected that Pakistan would be one of the few countries that would travel into space. In comparison, you have Dr Qadeer Khan who confessed to selling Pakistan’s nuclear secrets. The gall of the man to then accuse one of Pakistan’s true benefactors, Dr Salam, of treason is just rich.
The sentiment, tragically, behind Malala bashing emanates from the formerly apolitical middle class youth that now forms the backbone of the ‘Youthia’ revolution. For example, proud PTI supporter, Hamza Ali Abbasi, who shot to fame through the utterly mediocre film WAAR, tweeted that it was tragic that Edhi never got the Nobel Peace Prize but Malala did. This started the #NobelPrizeForEdhi trend. Some other enthusiastic PTI supporters did try to start #NobelPrizeforAfiaSiddiqui trend but that was not as successful.
Now, to be fair, Imran Khan did congratulate Malala for the Nobel even if his party had banned Malala’s book in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. There was a time though when Imran Khan had in public questioned the bona fides of Abdus Sattar Edhi. This was in 1995 and 1996 when Imran Khan approached Edhi to form a pressure group to bring down Benazir Bhutto’s government. He was backed by his friend Hamid Gul in this noble mission. Unfortunately, the ‘Youthias’ are too young to remember these facts. Not long ago, Edhi revealed that this “pressure group” threatened to kidnap him, a charge that Imran Khan, to my knowledge, has never denied. Those who have heard Imran Khan at close quarters say that the great Khan was for a time convinced — and probably still is — that Edhi was a US stooge. How ironic then that his supporters are now found whining that Edhi did not get the Nobel Prize but “traitor” Malala did. Edhi deserves the Nobel Prize for his selfless service to humanity. However, so does Malala for having stood up to the menace of the Taliban.
Yasser Latif Hamdani is a lawyer based in Lahore and the author of the book Mr Jinnah: Myth and Reality.