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Hero in exile
Monday, February 04, 2013
From Print Edition
Malala Yousufzai was in the headlines again last week, making the front and back pages around the world.
Considering she has barely uttered a word in public since she woke up in England and has a gaping hole in her head, she is making a considerable impact. The hole in her head appears to be real, and if it is not, then we are all witnessing the biggest conspiracy since the Gunpowder Plot.
I do not in any way make light of a dreadful injury but there are many here that have publicly doubted that she was shot at all.
Perhaps the 3-D imagery and the BBC clip that showed the making of the titanium plate that will be screwed down over the hole to protect her brain might silence the sceptics, but I have my doubts.
The second reason she is receiving media attention is that the Norwegian government has nominated her for the Nobel Peace Prize.
This is no trivial matter, particularly as the prize is in the gift of Norway, the nominating country, which must make her a strong contender – and here we come to the crux.
Were she to win, she would be the second Pakistani Nobel laureate, the first being Dr Abdus Salam who shared the 1979 Nobel Physics Prize. He left the country in 1974 after parliament passed a bill declaring the sect he belonged to as non-Muslim.
Even from abroad, and until the end of his life in 1996, he worked for the advancement of science in Pakistan, and made significant contributions to the development of our nuclear programme.
Nobody tried to kill him for his beliefs in his lifetime, but had he lived here there is a good chance that they would.
Thus it is with the youthful Malala. She is a young woman still in her teens. Under normal circumstances she would be going to school, thinking of college or university and, further along the line of life, perhaps marriage and her own children. All of that may still be possible – but not in Pakistan.
It seems that she has an intellectual grasp of the life in exile that awaits her. The doctor in charge of her treatment said that she was “preparing for a life in the spotlight” and was fully aware of her public profile.
Even if she does not win the Nobel Peace Prize she is going to remain an iconic figure, remembered for her brief time as a blogger and activist in the cause of education for girls, for the rest of her life.
A life that will always be lived outside of her native country, because she would be a dead woman walking the minute she stepped off the plane if she returned.
The supreme irony is that the Taliban, in not killing Malala Yousufzai, have created the biggest of sticks to beat themselves with.
They, and others who share their ideology, would strive with every fibre of their being to kill her were she ever to return to these shores and, given the inability of the state to protect vulnerable citizens, it might be assumed that they stood a better than 50/50 chance of doing so.
The conspiracy theorists will continue to peddle their fallacies and untruths, but a young Pakistani woman is about to embark on a career in the limelight for all the wrong reasons, and she will never walk her home stage or hear the applause of the home crowd. Hers is going to be a life of eternal exile. Dr Abdus Salam would have been proud of her.
The writer is a British social worker settled in Pakistan. Email:
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