Pakistan never liked Malala: truth, conjecture, or a bit of both?
In reality, to pick any one categorization would be doing injustice to the different shades of opinion prevalent in this country. After all, there are a myriad of possibilities to consider. Malala Yousafzai has been labelled everything under the sun: liar, spy, coward, fraud, fake, disloyal. Then there are those who love her and are proud to have her represent Pakistan; but such sentiments just simply aren’t as interesting.
Ironically, it is her achievements that rankle the most. Malala’s campaigns for accessible education and women’s rights fall flat in the face of continuing hopelessness at home while she takes refuge abroad. Her graduation from Oxford, one of the most privileged institutions in the world, marks her as an enemy benefitting from one of Pakistan’s biggest tragedies – terrorism. Her Nobel prize is a personal slight for those who think it is the rightful property of Abdul Sattar Edhi; he worked for it.
On the surface, Malala is innocent. She tweets about things like how happy she is to graduate and will now have time to “sleep and Netflix”; she tweets about birthday celebrations. But she can never fit the mold of a normal twenty-something. Perhaps if Malala had died the day she was shot, she would have been lauded as a “real” hero. After all, Pakistanis have unconditional love for martyrs. But she lived. And then she left in search of safer pastures.
People sneer at the mention of Malala Day because they could never own Malala. They worry when she talks about Pakistan, because she is no longer one of them. Never mind the fact that she lived through one of the ugliest realities this nation has to offer: the Taliban’s occupation of Swat. It could also be argued that all we’re trying to do is outrun that. But Malala doesn’t allow it.
She very nearly fits the archetype for the one that got away: old news, nearly forgotten but not quite. There she drifts, hovering uncomfortably, and here we drift right beside her.