PESHAWAR: Both Malala Yousafzai and her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, were reportedly on the hit-list of the Swat Taliban, but the militants managed to target the daughter first.
She obviously was an easier target, but the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) earned further notoriety by trying to kill a 14-year old girl. The attack was both un-Islamic and against Pakhtun traditions in which attacks on women are considered unmanly.
And what had Malala done to deserve the pistol shot by masked gunmen in the head that caused her critical brain injury? That she campaigned for access to education for girls in her native Swat in 2009 when the Maulana Fazlullah-led militants imposed restrictions on females attending schools and colleges.
Malala was 11-year old when she courageously defied the Swat Taliban by writing diaries for the BBC Urdu Service using the name Gul Makai. It provoked the militants and seemed to have given hope to many Swatis intimidated by the Taliban. She was duly rewarded first at the international level and, as it so often happens, later in Pakistan with awards.
Ziauddin Yousafzai, originally belonging to Shahpur area in Shangla district adjacent to Swat, has been a marked man like Malala because he owned the private Khushal School, Mingora that continued to impart education to girls despite Taliban threats and was spokesman of the Swat Qaumi Jirga which stood up to the militants.
Being a brave man, he encouraged his daughter to speak her mind even if it was risky. Like innumerable Afghan and Pakhtun parents, Ziauddin and his wife gave their daughter an inspiring name when she was born in 1998 as Malala was named after Malalai, the famous Afghan girl who took part in the battle of Mewand in Kandahar province when the Afghans routed the British forces.
Ziauddin Yousafzai conceded to this writer during a meeting in Swat that he mistakenly named her Malala instead of Malalai, but it didn’t matter as his daughter has become equally famous and beloved as the Afghan girl commonly referred to as the heroine of Mewand. As the subsequent events showed, Malala lived true to her name and used her pen and speech to accomplish the mission of freedom that Malalai achieved by fighting and nursing the wounded at the battleground of Mewand.