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July 23, 2014

Malala, Boko Haram and Gaza

I went to pick up my three-year-old from her summer school for the first time. She is yet to begin kindergarten but her mother decided to put her in a short-term summer school to somewhat acquaint her with the years of rigorous schooling ahead of her.
On our way back I heard the news about the kidnapped schoolgirls in Nigeria on a local radio channel. A shiver went through my spine. We have sisters, daughters, nieces, children of friends and millions of bright, young Pakistani girls who go to school every day. There are millions who do not and we want them to be in school. If something of that sort happens to us when militants kidnap our children en masse, what will we go through as parents, teachers, uncles or aunts?
It is one hundred days since Boko Haram – the militant jihadist group – kidnapped around 279 school girls, of which more than 200 are still missing. Imagine the plight of parents and siblings, relatives and friends of these girls who have been kept hostage for more than three months in some remote part of Nigeria. The leader of Boko Haram has also threatened to sell them.
It is reported that non-Muslim girls are being forcefully converted, older girls given into marriage or being transported across the borders. Some such movement has been sighted by local residents in the jungles.
The world is enraged. Both the incompetent Nigerian government and its laidback army – tipped off four hours before the actual kidnapping took place – and the international community have not been successful in safely recovering the girls. Boko Haram has killed hundreds of students in the past, blown up schools, killed thousands of civilians and kidnapped scores of women and men. They are against girls’ education and girls kidnapped previously were either used as cooks or sex slaves in their camps. They have gone a notch above our good old Taliban. The Taliban also blew up hundreds of schools and were against educating girls. They shot Malala in the

head but she survived and proved to be their nemesis.
Speaking of Malala, she was in Nigeria recently to show solidarity with the kidnapped schoolgirls. She and her family stood their ground when girl schools in her native Swat were being blown up. That is her stated mission – girls’ education – for which the world respects her. For which she campaigned by writing diaries and making speeches at a tender age. For which she got a bullet in her head. For which she was airlifted by Pak Army to be treated first in Rawalpindi and then in London. No one in Pakistan came forward to appreciate the act of young Malala going to Nigeria and also speaking to their president.
But very soon after, the 16-year-old was subjected to harsh criticism again, not by anyone else but her own fellow country women and men. People, in fact, with a renewed vigour started writing articles against her and even composed poems to condemn her after Israel attacked Gaza. It was all over social media. There were those who blatantly condemned Malala and those who appreciated that condemnation. What is the connection between the two? Gaza and Malala? Those who are not Pakistani, be they in the country or in the diaspora, will never ever understand the connection. Only Pakistanis can see that since Malala did not rush to Gaza and fought against Israeli soldiers hand in hand with Hamas fighters, she is a sure-shot puppet of the Jews – not Zionists, Jews. Pakistanis do not know the difference anyway.
There is less anger among some Pakistanis for Arab and other Muslim countries, including their own, for being dormant and ineffective when it comes to Palestine than their anger for Malala. In fact, people are praying and posting personal Facebook status updates that say: ‘May God save Palestinians through divine intervention’. Perhaps those praying know that the more than one billion people strong Muslim countries collectively possess less knowledge and less technology than a few million Israelis.
Also, where is the Palestinian Authority which has remained adversarial to Hamas? Do we know in Pakistan that there are major splits among Palestinians which Israel fully manipulates to its benefit? Besides, no one in Pakistan writes a poem against military-ruled Egypt, democratic Turkey and monarchic Jordan and asks them to sever their commercial and diplomatic relations with Israel.
Turkey, the country Pakistanis are in love with, recognised Israel in 1949 and has enjoyed vibrant economic relations since. Even after the Flotilla incident some years ago when Israel restricted ships with humanitarian supplies coming from Turkey to harbour in Gaza, relations were not severed. Egypt and Israel have diplomatic relations since 1980 with sustained economic activity. Jordan, which normalised its relations fully in 1994 and proudly calls Israel as a significant regional ally, enjoys gas supply from Israeli fields and technological support in its newly developed industrial zones besides other joint ventures.
Speaking of Jordan, Pakistanis may like to be reminded that there is something called Black September 1970. That was when the civil war began between Jordanians and Palestinians who lived across the west and east banks of the River Jordan and the British-crafted Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan. Once in history, the king had become the King of Jordan and Palestine also. But then the state remained named as the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
In 1970, led by Brigadier Mohammed Ziaul Haq, the Jordanian army killed more Palestinians than Israel had since 1948. One of the decorations he received from the Jordanian king was the ornate belt that the brigadier wore across his chest after becoming General Ziaul Haq – the chief martial law administrator, the custodian of our faith, the commander of the faithful and the president of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
Interestingly, only a few would know in Pakistan that Brigadier Ziaul Haq had even then disobeyed orders from his own Pakistani military command which had asked him not to command a Jordanian armoured division. In the stride of the same habit, he disobeyed and killed his civilian boss a few years later before sowing the seeds of extremism and terrorism in his country and across its borders.
Therefore, our political and military elite have a tradition of siding with the Americans and making our forces fight for Jordanians and kings and rulers in the Gulf, and not Palestinians. Also, no one condemning Malala asks the Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, the forces of the newly founded Islamic State in Iraq, the holy warriors out to dethrone Bashar al-Assad in Syria, to go and fight the Israelis. But Malala should first go to Gaza and then West Bank and East Jerusalem. Why shouldn’t she? If she has to prove that she is not a puppet of the Jews to her devout, pious and righteous fellow Pakistanis, she must plan a mission.
First, she should convene a meeting of the forty odd factions of Palestinian organisations and ask them to become one party. Once they agree, she should try to select a new shared leadership with consensus. If some disagree, she should hold an election among them as fairly as possible and serve as their interim leader until the new leadership takes over.
Once the Palestinians are all on one platform, she should fly to Amman, Cairo and Ankara and ask them to cut their ties with Israel at once. Then she should fly to Tel Aviv and tell Benjamin Netanyahu that the Palestinians, Arab and Muslim countries will destroy Israel if he does not unconditionally ends war on Gaza and free the occupied territories without delay. She must give him a deadline. I am sure he will succumb to Malala’s pressure. Malala should start on this mission at once.
On a serious note, while I can see the outrage in Pakistan on the Israeli aggression against innocent Palestinian civilians and children, which by the way is shared by all humane and civilised people in the world, I cannot understand the connections some Pakistanis make between two completely different phenomena. This is rooted in their sheer ignorance of politics and history and gross insecurity about their faith and existence.
The writer is a poet and author based in Islamabad.
Email: [email protected]