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Who is Malala?

Who is Malala?
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Already an activist for girl’s education in the Swat valley of Pakistan, by writing for BBC Urdu under the pen name of Gul Makai, the events of 9 October, and what transpired subsequently, would change Malala’s life irrevocably. A nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, for standing up for girl’s education in an area controlled by fundamentalist forces and appearing on the cover of TIME magazine, it is a space far removed from the city of Mingora in Swat Valley. Ghost written by noted journalist, Christina Lamb, I am Malala is a remarkable story of a family uprooted by lawless terrorism, for a deeply held conviction that resonated with millions around the world.

However, as it is an autobiography of a 16-year-old, there are limitations, in terms of what could be narrated about her own life. As a result, Lamb and Malala have had to fill up the pages with the history of Pakistan and the political and religious turmoil that have shaped its history. Malala’s father Ziauddin, is probably the most significant presence in her life. Her strength of character clearly draws inspiration from her father’s socialistic activism in the field of education. Contrasting the two elements, Pakistan’s politico-religious situation and father’s social activism, it is interesting to note that no questions are raised about Malala’s mother, Tor Pekai, who quit school at the age of six and remains an illiterate to this day. Through Malala, we also get close to the heart of Pakistan’s troubles. 20 years after partition, the Wali of the Swat Valley renounced his power and ceded with Pakistan. ‘So I was born a proud daughter of Pakistan,’ she writes, ‘though like all Swatis I thought of myself first as a Swati and Pashtun, before Pakistani.’ The above statement is reflective of the ethnic fissures that have dominated her homeland, with only the burgeoning power of the Taliban that has provided a distraction to these fissures. The presence of the Taliban has raised the need to redress these ethnic tensions. There is a fear amongst those at home, that her narrative will be subjugated by what some perceive as the ‘colonial west’. However, despite being a vocal critic against the Taliban, she does passionately speak out against America’s drone strike in her province, CIA’s policy of funding jihadists when it suits them and even Raymond Davis, the CIA contractor who caused a diplomatic meltdown between the two countries after shooting two civilians during broad daylight in Lahore.

Unfortunately, like most ghost-written autobiographies there is a problem with distinguishing between Malala’s and Lamb’s voices. However, this must not distract us from the articulate nature of Malala’s courage and conviction to stand up for the rights of girl’s education in the face of death.
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