Canadian Senator Salma Ataullahjan on Pakistan, Pakhtunkhwa & Malala Yusufzai in the Globe & Mail

Malala Yousafzai drew a ‘red line’


I recently met the parents of Malala Yousafzai in Birmingham, England. Malala, who should be learning and laughing and doing what teenaged girls do, is instead lying in a British hospital, recovering after being shot and wounded in Pakistan by the Taliban for advocating girls’ education.

Malala and I are both Yousafzai Pakhtun women, from the same town and the same clan. We are a generation and two continents apart, but the 15-year-old girl’s courage, determination and maturity has triggered hope and inspiration in me at a time when I felt that all was waning in the land of our birth, Pakistan.

When I was 15 in the historic city of Peshawar, in the province of Pakhtunkhwa, my sisters and cousins could never have imagined a day when simply going to school would jeopardize our lives. We were brimming with confidence and optimism. Girls and young women were emerging to take positions of responsibility in government, social development and politics. Our colleges and universities were centres of learning and debate. I studied at a convent run by Irish nuns, and we spoke English and wore Western-style uniforms.

Women felt safer in Pakhtunkhwa than anywhere else in Pakistan. Our people lived by the Pakhtunwali, a moral code that came into existence before Islam and that articulated the protection and honour of women and children. My family would travel to the Swat Valley, where we and many others kept summer homes to escape the heat. Swat was then a peaceful area, and women were well-respected.

The Cold War was in full swing, and across the border where our other Pakhtun cousins lived was Afghanistan. The people on both sides were one, but a colonial border had placed us in opposing camps.

Believe it or not, Afghanistan was a step ahead of us in embracing modernity and women’s rights. I remember travelling to Kabul through the Khyber Pass and seeing cafeterias and discos where American hippies and the local people would rub shoulders.

Then, in the late 1970s, three regimes changed and the world would never be the same. In Kabul, the pro-Soviet Afghan nationalists were overthrown by the Communists. In Islamabad, a U.S.-backed general overthrew the elected government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. And in Tehran, a revolution saw Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomaini take power. By the time it was New Year’s Day 1980, my childhood optimism had come to a crashing halt. War, chaos and Islamic extremism slowly began its ascent, while women’s dignity, democracy and human rights went into a free fall.

Malala Yousafzai was not yet born. But by the time she would open her eyes, almost nothing that I, as a Yousafzai, had witnessed or hoped for would be there to welcome her.

Malala, however, could be the tipping point that will cause the pendulum to swing back to its centre. Millions around the world have risen to her call. Women and girls carry signs in the streets that claim “I am Malala.” In the words of her father, “Malala has drawn a red line between barbarism and civilization.”

It’s for this reason that I have signed a Canadian petition asking the Nobel Committee to award the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize to Malala Yousafzai, and I appeal to all Canadians to do the same.

I have not lost hope for Pakhtunkhwa or Pakistan. From my visits there, from seeing Malala and girls like Malala, I know the women have not lost their voice. They won’t let anyone take away what they have.

Salma Ataullahjan is a Conservative senator representing Ontario.

Courtesy: The Globe and Mail

One thought on “Canadian Senator Salma Ataullahjan on Pakistan, Pakhtunkhwa & Malala Yusufzai in the Globe & Mail”

  1. Malalla Yousufzai is used by the CIA, Pakistan’s corrupt Govt and Kabul’s rogue regime as a child soldier to carryout their propaganda work against their Taliban ‘enemies’ who is at war with them against occupation. Her parents foolishly sacrificed their daughter for fame and money or whatever reason. The result is another of our daughters is attacked. It could be by Taliban or it could be by their own mercenary gang to tarnish Taliban. End result is yet another life. She was used as a pawn in the dirty war of occupation.

    If Taliban attacked her because she attended school then there were many who were attending the same school along with her … why didn’t they shoot all of them … Why only her? This is the way Americans work … They brought an idol and shot her or got her shot …. they killed their own Ambassador to kill Zia-ul Haq. They killed 3000 of their own people in the Twin Towers on 911 to achieve their goals. Don’t be fooled when they say … ‘Taliban admitted” or Osama admitted. or Khalid Sheik Admitted.

    The commotion is too high all over the world for this child soldier … but when Afia Siddeeqi was tortured and her children were killed and prisoned many of our hypocrites didn’t have a voice to cry … when hundreds of Malallas are killed by drones on daily basis no tears are shed … no protests, no songs in dedication to them … but for the child’s soldier of CIA there is so much of sympathy ..

    There are countless women who are promoting education in Pakistan, but they don’t promote via BBC, or any other foreign channels—There has never been an incident of violence by any, leave alone the Taliban’s, on any of these women from Pakistan—What is so special about this Malala, that she has been honoured with peace prize, and nominated for Noble?—Yes of course she needs to come back to Pakistan, or how else will she spread mischief about Taliban’s sitting in Britain—

    At age 11 Malala began writing, under a pseudonym, for the BBC. Did the BBC encourage Malala, knowing she was only 11? If that is the case, what an irresponsible, unethical act!! I am sure the BBC feels somewhat remorseful that this story ended the way it did, and they are the ones who are paying for Malala’s treatment in England. I wonder if Malala’s parents were aware of their daughter’s blog. The Taliban extremists are against any Western ideas that encourage women to reach their potential. This attitude exists all over the world, not just in the Middle East. It’s not an attitude readily palpable, but if you scratch the surface, the idea of women being subservient objects exists even in so-called “civilized” societies. Americans shoot little girls and boys and babies also and yes, the ones doing so are ALL evil whether they are Taliban or American.

    Reading all the other Malala stories, there was a strong sense that people were stereotyping all Pakistanis, and all Pakistani men, by the Taliban. They conveniently forgot that millions of Pakistani girls are attending schools, and that’s because their parents, fathers included, want them to have an education.

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