by Sajjad Shaukat
The barbaric and cowardly attack by the Taliban on teenager Malala Yousafzai, a child educator and National Peace Award winner critically injured her in Mingora town of Swat, while she was returning home from school on a van on October 9. Two of her school friends were also injured in the assault. Malala’s campaign for right of women’s education continued during a two-year Taliban insurgency in Swat which was crushed by Pak Army in 2009.
Report suggests that Malala Yousafzai who is admitted in the military hospital of Rawalpindi has been put on a ventilator. The bullet has affected some part of her brain.
Malala who was also nominated for an International Children’s Peace Prize by Kids Rights Foundation, gained fame for championing the cause of the people of Swat by blogging for BBC under a pseudonym “Gul Makai.” In her blogs‚ she highlighted the atrocities of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) which has claimed responsibility for this brutal act, saying that it would target her again if she survives.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government announced a reward of Rs. 10 million for information leading to arrest of those behind the attack on Malala, while the shooting of 14-year-old innocent girl enveloped the nation with a strong sense of anger. Political and religious parties, governmental and non-government institutes and civil society members held protest rallies against Taliban whereas special prayers were arranged by mosques, schools, colleges, universities and churches across the country on October 10 (Friday) which was observed as a “day of prayer” for the recovery of Malala Yousufzai’s health.
Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf strongly condemned Taliban regarding assassination attempt, made on the life of a teenager girl.
Chief of Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani stated on October 10 that the Taliban were attacking children, adding that the army would make any sacrifice but would not back down from this war. He further remarked that the Taliban could go to any extent to follow their self-perceived ideology, and had no regard for human life.
The leaders of PPP, PML (N), ANP, Jamaat-e-Islami, JUI-F, PTI and MQM including all those of provincial and local parties denounced this shocking attack on Malala Yousafzai.
Notably, more than 50 Islamic scholars and muftis of the Sunni Ittehad Council have issued a joint fatwa on October 11, terming attack on Malala as un-Islamic and held that the attackers have trampled the Islamic Hudood (tenets). They pointed out that the assailants’ self-adopted interpretation of Islam was nothing but ignorance and digression from the actual teachings of the religion. They clarified Islam not only made it obligatory on every man and woman to seek education but also strictly forbade taking life of any innocent person. Besides, Shia religious scholars also condemned this deadly attack.
In the last six years, the Taliban who have killed thousands of people across Pakistan, especially Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA through suicide attacks, bomb blasts, targeted killings, beheadings, assaults on military troops, police stations, sectarian violence etc, destroyed hundreds of girls’ schools including those of boys. Their subversive activities are destabilising Pakistan. In the past four years, in Khyber Agency and some other tribal areas, Taliban belonging to Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan are also indulged in murdering and torturing Shias in their majority areas, forcing them to flee.
As regards external support to the Pakistani Taliban, Asia Tribune Online had disclosed on September 21, 2008 that American CIA and Indian RAW developed their tentacles in Swat, Bajaur, Kurram Agency and Balochistan. Some of the pro-Pakistan groups had been purchased or neutralised and those not coming to terms were eliminated.
Particularly in some tribal areas, these insurgents have been involved in a number of crimes such as drug-smuggling, hostage-takings for ransom and even car-snatching. However, they justify that they collect money through these unfair means to wage their holly war and in killing the moderate dissidents. They have discouraged women’s education, keeping them ignorant and exploitable.
Now, the gruesome killing of innocent people in the name of religion is the worst thing to imagine. The attack on Malala Yousufzai who voiced her concerns regarding girls’ education in the terror-hit areas of Pakistan has exposed the TTP’s visage of being fundamentally opposed to progress, development and modernisation of the country, and it is only to perpetuate Taliban’s self-styled religious agenda far removed from Islam and its teachings.
Islam considers killing one innocent person equal to murdering the entire humanity, and even forbids executing any woman who has reneged on the religion, as against the men who are punished with death. While jihad is a sacred obligation but its real spirit needs to be understood clearly, as targeting innocent women and children is not jihad.
These Taliban and their banned affiliated groups are defaming Islam which is the religion of peace, democracy, moderation and human rights.
Although majority of the Taliban consists of Pashtuns, but the latter who have rejected irrational notion of these insurgents have glorious traditions of bravery and chivalry. Nefarious attacks on women and children are against Pashtuns who are patriot and peace-loving people.
It is notable that foreign agents backed by CIA, RAW, and Israel Mossad are also penetrated in Taliban outfits. By availing the anti-Islam and anti-Pakistan activities of the Taliban, these agencies have been defaming Islam and strengthening the perception abroad that Muslims are terrorists, besides undermining the security of Pakistan. In this context, just after the tragic incident of Malala, a new wave of suicide attacks and bomb blasts have started in the country, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA.
To what extent, Taliban’s dreadful attempt on Malala Yousafzai has distorted Pakistan’s image in the world could be judged from the fact that various countries such as US, France, Australia, Germany, European Union etc. have condemned this event, while US President Obama has shown his outrage on this heinous attack by protesting against the Taliban. And UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also expressed similar thoughts.
At this critical juncture, entire nation is united against the Taliban’s assault on the country’s youngest girl education campaigner. But some political and religious parties which have denounced Taliban in diplomatic style are still against military action against them in order to get their votes in the coming elections. Even some media commentators who are on the payroll of foreign elements are also favouring Taliban in one or the other way, are also opposing military operation against these insurgents.
Nevertheless, Malala incident including other criminal acts of Taliban have been clearly exposed as these extremist elements do not want to see Pakistan a moderate, peaceful and developed country by isolating it from international community. Malala’s tragic event has closed the doors for any possible peace talks between Islamabad and TTP.
So, military operation must be taken against the TTP-led Taliban wherever they are present. This action must also be launched in North Waziristan where TTP insurgents have also their safe havens. But all this is not possible without public support which demands selfless practical unity.
Now, people from all segment of life including majority of politicians seek that a handful of terrorist elements must not be allowed to dictate their agenda and to impose their self-created ideology in the country.
Instead of verbal statements and condemnation of Taliban and their affiliated extremist organisations, leaders of political and religious parties, general masses must show practical unity against these fundamental elements.
Practical unity also requires that for better intelligence-gathering, people must also provide information to the law-enforcing and secret agencies about the presence and covert activities of the Taliban. Before situation go out of control, this is the right hour for the nation to unit practically against the nefarious designs of the Taliban.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations