I normally tend to avoid blogging about the trending topics of the week, because I prefer to avoid jumping on the bandwagon. But I’m making an exception for once, to talk about two very important little girls; Malala Yousufzai and Laiba Khan.

Malala’s story begins in 2009. As the Taliban took over the Swat valley, they closed down schools for girls, forcing women and young girls into their homes with threats and coercion. It was then that this small little 11-year-old, enraged at her education being snatched from her, decided she wasn’t going to stand for it. This was when she started to keep a diary for BBC Urdu under a pen-name, in which she described life under Taliban rule. In an interview, Malala expresses herself more eloquently in her early teens than I can today at 23;  “I wanted to scream, shout and tell the whole world what we were going through. But it was not possible. The Taliban would have killed me, my father, my whole family. I would have died without leaving any mark. So I chose to write with a different name.”

This would prove to be her crime. According to the Taliban, they were “forced” to go against tribal codes which forbid the killing of women because Malala was speaking against them. This attack comes after years of terrorizing Malala’s family, slipping death threats under her door, leaving dead bodies near her house, but Malala just ignored each threat and continued on her campaign.

Then there is Laiba. Her picture was circulated after Malala’s attack, mistakenly referring to her as a victim of a drone attack. This tiny little seven-year-old was buying herself socks for Eid when a convoy of FC troops mistook their car for suicide bombers, and opened fire, resulting in poor little Laiba losing her left leg. Her family is unable to bear the cost of buying the growing girl a new prosthetic limb every six months as required, and only ask for justice for their daughter.

I’ve seen a lot of pessimism on social media regarding Malala. A friend who’s an entrepreneur and marketing student was blunt enough to explain his cynicism. His view is that Malala is simply the Lady Gaga for Pakistanis, meaning that she is just another big brand for people to endorse. Just like people don’t know about indie alternative bands, they also do not know, do not care, about ordinary girls who lack the courage to fight for the right to an education, who are sold off into prostitution, used to settle feuds and debts, raped, murdered, honour killed. Malala is not the first girl who has been attacked by the Taliban. She is not the last. But she has become a famous brand for people to speak about for the sake of their own image.

Yes, my friend’s comparison is callous, but I can’t help but agree. I knew who Malala was before the attack. I also know about the crimes committed against women in Pakistan. I try to help when and where I can. I know other people who do. But how many of us are there, who really care? If you keep company with activists like me, you would feel, quite a few. But the reality is, we’re a small, teensy minority. This country, these people, they just simply do not care. They’ve become desensitized and lazy. All they want to do is sit and complain about the media sensationalizing news, excessive coverage of violence, the army, American imperialism, drone attacks, but no one is willing to do anything. And it is frustrating and depressing. When I see people making status updates about their anger at people getting outraged when they had no clue who Malala was, I have to agree with them. I would like to say, but no, now they know, now they will demand change, now they will see that the struggle for women’s rights, the feminist struggle is here for a reason. But I know my people. I know that they will clamour and rage, then forget it a week later. Every now and then, when Malala or Laiba come to mind, they’ll mutter angrily and shake their heads. That’s just how it is.

Ironically enough, the only people I see being hopeful and optimistic are the expats, sitting in their cosy homes outside Pakistan, speaking of how it hurts their hearts to be far from their homeland, to see what is going on in their country, though they still have hope and pray for change. It is so easy to say all of this when you grew up surrounded by privilege, encapsulated in a comfortable little elitist cocoon. Sure, your love for your country is real, but your judgment upon those who are despairing, who are seeking to build a life outside Pakistan, reeks of hypocrisy.

All this brings me as usual, to myself; do I have hope for change? Honestly speaking, most of the time, I’m in in denial, and forcing myself to believe my own lies. I do not think change is possible. I think one of the most historic times of my life would be watching the Arab Spring unfold, seeing the youth, the revolutionaries take to the streets. But realistically speaking, I don’t see an uprising in Pakistan, or any kind of change. Yes, there are many people working towards the goal, and I count myself among them, but I feel that the contribution we make is too miniscule to matter. And it probably won’t, for the next couple of hundred years, or however long the world lasts, what with all the environmental degradation and exploitation of resources. (And no, I don’t believe in magic stories about faeries in the sky bringing about the end of the world, so yes, this is how I believe the world will end). So no, I don’t believe in change, but maybe, even if I can’t lay the foundation for future generations, I’d be putting my life to good use.

Malala and Laiba represent all the other nameless, faceless women and children who are victims of drone attacks, of extremism, and misogyny. All the people outraged right now, do not know or care about the children who are killed by the Taliban, by drone attacks. They don’t care of all the girls schools bombed because they didn’t bow to pressure and shut down. They don’t know that girls are reduced to property, subjugated and forced into slavery, into submitting to the patriarchal structure. And when or if they do, they simply do not care, unless it’s from their AC’d mansion in America or Europe, listening to desi music on their top of the line sound system, dressed in designer PJs. But for those of us who are still fighting against the despair and bitterness, who refuse to give in to truth, we know, we care, and we won’t forget. And that isn’t enough; we’ll do something about it. It’s easy, really, start from home. Educate your maid’s children, your driver’s kids. Volunteer and donate to orphanages. Raise money for learning materials for underprivileged children. Help where you can, when you can, and don’t think about making a change. You won’t. You’ll help a few people, and that has to be enough until the current generations die out, and the country deteriorates into a bigger mess than it is now, because maybe, by then, people will be willing to take a stand like Mohamed Bouazizi and Abdesslem Trimech did. And yes, I know none of you know what that name means. And none of you will follow the link to try to learn. But it’s okay. I’ve learned to shove down the anger and trudge on. We do what we must, after all.

POST UNITED NATIONS-SPEECH NOTE: The views expressed here are regarding the average Pakistani’s “Malala represents hope, now lets slump back into slumber again” views. They are not in any way, criticism of Malala Yousafzai. I consider Malala to be a strong, feminist figure, an exceptional role model ,a humanist, and the only hope left for the other young girls who still go to school in fear of the Taliban. This is not criticism of Malala. Its criticism of the people who share videos of her speech and yet, still do nothing to impact change, while one little girl bears the burdens we should collectively share with all Pakistanis.

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Comments
  1. Yousuf says:

    Elections.

    Viva la Democracy.

    Also, Pakistan will become more like India.

    That is what the Brown Pundits think.

    And the Arab Spring was a big fart.

    Your country set the trend by beginning to force out a military dictator in 2007, long before it was cool.

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