PESHAWAR: Even as the world continues showering praise and tributes on the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Malala Yousafzai, the government in her home province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has yet to recognize the prestigious award.
On October 9, 2012, the teenage education activist was shot in the head and critically injured by militants in her hometown of Mingora, Swat. She was shifted to Peshawar and later to the United Kingdom for treatment. Since her recovery, she has sought support from international leaders for female education and received accolades for her determination to continue her struggle despite threats.
To honour Malala’s courage and promote her message for female education, earlier this month the Global Women’s Institute at the George Washington University included her book “I Am Malala” as a resource guide for educators teaching high school and university students.
However, contrary to the recognition Malala and her cause has received across the globe, the coalition government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa led by Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has yet to celebrate the award even after a passage of more than six weeks.
Save for a statement from the Chief Minister Parvez Khattak, no events or celebration have been organised to express pride in the global recognition that the daughter of the province received by winning the Nobel Award for peace.
“We did congratulate her through press statements and acknowledge her sacrifice and struggle for education,” said Muhammad Atif, Provincial Minister for Elementary and Secondary Education while talking to News Lens Pakistan. When questioned on the absence of enthusiasm in the provincial government circles over Malala’s momentous achievement, Muhammad Atif agreed but hastened to add, “But, we normally do not celebrate other achievements and never advertise accomplishments of the government. … It is not our style.”
Although the spokesman for the provincial government, Mushtaq Ghani, told media after Malala received the Nobel that the government would chalk out a series of programmes to celebrate this great achievement, they have yet to materialize.
However, Rakhshanda Naz, a women’s rights activist based in Peshawar, contests this assertion. She believes that there is a little difference in the ideology of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Jamaat-e-Islami. “They both are allies in the government and it is a fact that the government failed to recognize Malala’s award in a befitting manner,” she said.
Rakhshanda said that it needed a lot of courage to eulogise Malala, keeping in view the stance of extremist organisations towards Malala. “People voted PTI with great hope but it disappointed. They did congratulate Malala but half-heartedly. And it has tainted the image of the government,” she said. The PTI minister Atif, however, denied any pressure from its right wing coalition partner Jamaat-e-Islami saying they had never discussed this issue. Similarly, he said, the government was not facing any pressure from militant groups to celebrate Malala’s award.
“The PTI government, which claims to be liberal, progressive when it comes to women rights, do not share the vision of Malala or else is too cautious to take a position because of its coalition partner, the right wing Jamaat-e-Islami for fear of extremist backlash,” said a Peshawar based human rights activist who didn’t want to be named for reasons of safety.
Earlier in January, the provincial government stopped the launch of Malala’s book—I am Malala. It then moved to block a resolution acknowledging Malala’s struggle and her Nobel Peace Prize. The resolution was submitted by Jaffar Shah, a member of the Awami National Party.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government at the centre paid tribute to Malala through newspaper spreads. The National Assembly, the Senate, the Sindh Assembly and the Punjab Assembly passed resolutions praising her for winning the prize.
Secular liberal parties like the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Awami National Party (ANP), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and others congratulated her and pledged to support her struggle for girls’ education.
The issue is ownership of who Malala is and what she stands for, said Rakhshanda Naz. “The government is reluctant to own her. We have to show magnanimity and own the daughter of the land and acknowledge her contribution.”
She hoped the attitude of the provincial government towards Malala’s Nobel Peace Prize would not affect her cause and she would remain a source of inspiration for millions of children in the country.