Reaping the whirlwind
Tuesday, Malala Yousafzai, a 14-year-old schoolgirl, was on her way home
from school in Mingora in Pakistan’s Swat province when a gunman shot
her through the head and neck. Unconscious, she was taken to the
intensive care in Peshawar army hospital for treatment.
On Wednesday, doctors removed a bullet which had passed through her
head and lodged in her shoulder. She was then moved to the Armed Forces
Institute of Cardiology critical care unit in Rawalpindi. She remained
unconscious, but doctors said she had a 70 percent chance of recovery.
Ehsanullah Ehsan, a spokesman for the militant ‘Islamic
Fundamentalist’ Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP or Student Movement of
Pakistan) told the AFP news agency by phone that his organisation
claimed responsibility for the attack. He said she was openly
propagating ‘Western culture’ in the area and that his organisation
would not spare her if she survived. He called her activities ‘a new
chapter of obscenity’ adding ‘we have to finish this chapter.’
Malala was a member of the Swat Qaumi Jirga, an anti-Taliban group.
In January she announced that she would form a new political party. She
first came into prominence when it was revealed that she was the
anonymous ‘Gul Makai’, who wrote a diary for the BBC’s Urdu Service
describing life under Taliban.
The TTP had banned women from going to market or wearing colourful
clothes and prohibited girls from attending school - burning many
schools in the process. In 2009, the Pakistan Army demolished the
terrorist’s rule in Swat, although they continue to maintain an
underground presence in the province.
Symbol of resistance
After that, Malala began publicly to advocate female education,
especially on Television. Last year the KidsRights Foundation nominated
her for the International Children’s Peace Prize and the government
awarded her the National Peace Award. She has become a symbol of
resistance to Taliban and its obscurantism.
The TTP was formed by Pakistani former fighters of Taliban and other
militias who fled Afghanistan in the wake of the 2001 US-led invasion.
It inherited its weird version of Islam from its Afghan namesake.
The holy Prophet did not lay heavy strictures on women, least of all
on their education. His wife Aisha bint Abu Bakr, who was known to have
ridden a camel into battle, was not merely well educated herself (being
consulted by learned Muslims) but was an advocate of women’s education.
The suppression of women appears to have come about because of the
need for feudal aristocrats to control their subjects. Indeed, parents
were told that if their children (boys as well as girls) went to school,
they would go to hell. In Afghanistan, as late as the mid-70s, there was
90 percent illiteracy.
The Taliban obtained its dogma from the right-wing Madrassas in
Pakistan, run by the feudal landlord class, in which its cadres (as well
as those of the TTP) received their religious instruction. This backward
thinking was not confined to Taliban: in 1992 the US-backed regime of
Burhanuddin Rabbani issued an edict which said ‘Women should be banned
from working in offices and radio and television stations, and schools
for Women... must be closed down.’
In April 1978, a leftist government came to power in Afghanistan. It
legalised trades unions, distributed land to the peasants and
inaugurated an education and literacy programme (especially for women).
‘Privileges which women, by right, must have,’ wrote Dr Anahita Ratebzad,
the first woman to play an active role in government, ‘are equal
education, job security, health services, and free time to rear a
healthy generation for building the future of the country.’
Women’s basic rights
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) began beaming anti-government
broadcasts into Afghanistan and training terrorists. The then Secretary
of State Zbigniew Brzezinski later admitted that the Americans decided
to aid the new government’s enemies in order to suck the Soviet Union
into ‘a Vietnamese quagmire’ in Afghanistan. Through its surrogates, the
CIA launched a campaign targeting civil servants and teachers,
especially those engaged in educating women.
The narcotics trade to finance its operations. The lorries and mules
used to transport US weapons into the country took opium out. The CIA
recruited ‘Islamists’ such as Gulbeddin Hekmatyar - who had begun his
political career at University throwing acid into the faces of women who
were unveiled - as opium suppliers as well as ‘resistance fighters’.
Another CIA-backed terrorist was Yunis Khalis, a former Royalist
civil servant who established control over the heroin supply from the
Eastern Nangahar Province, and who gave shelter to Osama bin Laden in
1994. His deputy Jalaluddin Haqqani, a CIA ‘asset’ who received millions
of dollars from the US, first helped Osama build up his mercenary force
in the 1980s.
Mohammed Omar, who founded Taliban, fought for a period under Khalis.
Later, as Taliban drove the Rabbani forces back, both Khalis and Haqqani
joined it, the latter as a minister following the fall of Kabul, being
appointed Taliban military commander in 2001.
Congressman Charlie Wilson, who facilitated funding for the rebels,
described Haqqani as ‘goodness personified’. Parenthetically, Wilson was
responsible for the supply to Afghan insurgents of ‘Stinger’
anti-aircraft missiles, some of which ended up in the hands of the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
When Taliban captured Herat in 1995, restricting the rights of women
and expelling thousands of girls from schools, (as with Rabbani’s edict,
earlier) the US was silent. This was consistent with America’s Afghan
policy, which was to back obscurantism and the suppression of women’s
rights insofar as US interests were served.
The death of Malala Yousafzai must be laid at the door of this
opportunist policy of providing succour to terrorist forces which sought
the elimination of women’s basic rights. America sowed the wind, but it
is the innocent women of Afghanistan and Pakistan who must reap the