Tuesday October 16, 2012, 4:58 PM
BY REKHA BASU
Rekha Basu writes for Scripps Howard News Service.
he hard-line Islamist movement may not care about public opinion. But Pakistan’s government, which has variously tolerated, attacked and protected the Taliban, cannot ignore it. The Taliban’s Oct. 9 assassination attempt on 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai for wanting an education has united people across Pakistan in rarely seen outrage and indignation.
As Malala clung to life, the Pakistani Taliban vowed to finish off the job on the girl it hunted down and shot in the head in a van full of schoolgirls. “Although she was young and a girl,” its statement said, “and Taliban does not believe in attacking women, ... whomsoever leads any campaign against Islam and Shariah is ordered to be killed by Shariah. It is not merely allowed to kill such a person but it is obligatory in Islam.”
It would be ludicrous to say the Taliban went too far this time. It has been going too far since it took control of Afghanistan in the early 1990s, driving women out of schools and work places, and punishing displays of female independence with beatings and stonings. But this latest attack may strip it of a narrative that has helped attract recruits: that the Taliban are people of faith fighting to protect a religion under siege.
The right to be educated
It’s a story fueled by every Quran-burning cartoon caricature of a Muslim prophet or anti-Muslim DVD. But now there is another story: of a Muslim girl who has fought for nothing more than the right to be educated. If a movement that claims God on its side is so threatened by its own girls that it would kill an innocent one, how righteous or godly could it be?
The attack also calls into question the Pakistani government’s commitment to purging radical extremists. The opposition party, Tehreek-e-Insaf, has blamed Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari for not protecting Malala, though she had earlier been threatened. Women’s organizations are pressing Zardari to ensure girls’ and women’s safety, and rights to an education.
Zardari’s government has condemned the attack. The Taliban hasn’t controlled the Swat region where Malala was shot since the Pakistani military launched air raids there in 2009. But as part of a peace agreement, Zardari allowed them to impose Islamic Sharia law in parts of the region.
In that period, the world began to learn of Malala, who was 11 when her family was forced to flee their hometown for six months, along with more than a million other Pakistanis.
The BBC published her diary online in Urdu. It invites comparisons to another diary of a young girl hiding from genocide. But while Anne Frank was targeted by Nazis for being Jewish, Malala is targeted by fellow Muslims.
Tags: Malala, Yosufzai, Afghanistan, Occupation, US, NATO, Taliban, Pakistan, Terrorist, Punjabi, ISI, Al, Qaeda
Location: Afghanistan (load item map)
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