Full Text of Malala’s Speech at UN

In the name of God, The Most Beneficent, The Most Merciful.

Honourable UN Secretary General Mr Ban Ki-moon,

Respected President General Assembly Vuk Jeremic

Honourable UN envoy for Global education Mr Gordon Brown,

Respected elders and my dear brothers and sisters;

Today, it is an honour for me to be speaking again after a long time. Being here with such honourable people is a great moment in my life.

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The ‘burnt Malalas’ of Balochistan — Yousaf Ajab Baloch

Following is a cross post of an opinion piece published in The Daily Times on June 26th 2013. The writer is a Baloch author and human rights activist. Currently, he is a sub-editor at monthly Bolan Voice Quetta, a staff writer at The Baloch Hal and a freelance online columnist.

The question is raised why national and international human rights organisations are silent on the incident in Quetta while the outrage for Malala’s case was extraordinarily tremendous.

June 16, 2013 was a day of severe suffering for the parents in Balochistan when they received the burnt dead bodies of their daughters, whilst the rest of the world was gifting flowers to their fathers on Fathers’ Day. In Balochistan. fathers, with immeasurable pain, were trying to identify their daughters’ dead bodies that had been burnt in the June 15 suicide-bomber attack on a student bus of the Sardar Bahadur Khan Women’s University, the only women’s university in the city of Quetta with 3,000 female students, established in March 2004.

The bloody incident occurred on June 15 when about 40 students and teachers from English, Mathematics and other departments were in the bus going home after classes. It was the last day of their examinations and thus it was a regular day, although usually the university remains closed on Saturdays. A woman bomber got on the bus and detonated the bomb she was carrying, causing extensive damage, killing several students; 22 students were injured by the powerful blast. After the attack when the injured were shifted to the Bolan Medical Complex, a male suicide bomber and other heavily armed militants struck the building and fired indiscriminately.

As a result of multiple strikes the death toll rose to 26. The students who were killed in the bus were identified as Shagufta Jamali, Rehana Aurangzaib, Sayeda Noor-ul-Hain, Sajila Shahjahan, Mehvish Asif Bangulzai, Seydtahia Bibi, Sadaf Murad Baloch, Abida Baloch, Soman Magsi, Zehra Ahmed Kakar, Nadia Durrani and Hirah Javaid Rajput. At least 12 people including four militants, four nurses and the deputy commissioner of Quetta were killed in the nearly four-hour siege of the complex where the injured students were brought for treatment.

The banned sectarian militant organisation Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) claimed responsibility for the June 15 attacks on the bus and at the Bolan Medical Complex, claiming revenge for a raid against the group by security forces.

The attack on the students is a clear message for the people of Balochistan that this already backward province in all spheres of life is clearly occupied by religious extremists, allegedly given a free hand by the secret agencies of the state. More than 1,000 people from the Hazara community have been killed and thousands injured in the suicide attacks in Balochistan, mainly in Quetta. Prior to this some attacks were carried out against the Hazara community, whereas this time the victims were students of a women university and were Sunni Muslims. The attacks on the Hazara community and students are most strongly condemnable.

The question rises on the control of religious extremists in Quetta city, and it proves the allegations by the victims of this religious extremism that they are encouraged by the state-patronised elements. It is debatable whether the state has failed, it is blackmailed by extremists, or it has deliberately planned to now start killing Baloch female students to frighten others to give up their education plans.

According to a lecturer and some students of the institution, the students belonged to middle class families, and some of them are daughters of daily-wage workers, who are now unable to bear their medical expenses. Balochistan, with the smallest population with a poor literacy rate is marked for backwardness; educating females is not less than a dream. Educational backwardness or poor development is because of unequal opportunities and deficient interest of the federation. Though it is claimed that the tribal system is the biggest hurdle in the way of development of the Baloch people, yet the tribal Sardars (chieftains) have always been part of government and are the pampered babies of the establishment. On the other hand, the religious groups have been creating obstacles for the development of not only female education but also boys education. The female students who were attacked belonged to far flung areas of Balochistan. The courage of their parents must be eulogised who sent their daughters to get an education, and their daughters are also role models for other girls in Balochistan. In fact, students who are getting education in Balochistan are the Malalas of this land. Malala Yousafzai is famous for her struggle for female education in backward areas, On October 9, 2012, Yousafzai was shot in the head and neck in a murder attempt by the Taliban gunmen, while returning home on a school bus. Her story received international attention .But the question is raised why national and international human rights organisations are silent on the incident in Quetta while the outrage for Malala’s case was extraordinarily tremendous. International human rights organisations and media groups are to be censured here as they claim to be human rights defenders. But their silence on the burnt Malalas in Balochistan becomes questionable. Even the UN Secretary General just issued a simple statement against this ugly attack.

It becomes the responsibility of the state to ensure protection of common people. Apparently, we witness the failure of the state when it comes to protecting common people, notably female, whereas development of the state is contingent on the progress of women. This horrible extremism must come to an end now. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Asian Human Rights and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan should not consider the reporting of the violence sufficient; they must also pressurise the state to bring the perpetrators to book.

I conclude my write up with a poem by Nausheen Qambrani, a well-known Baloch poetess and an English language lecturer at the Sardar Bahadur Khan Women’s University in Quetta. She has written this poem after being in the process of identifying the burnt dead bodies and losing her students.

History dried, religions melted/Wisdom burnt, civilisations buried/Lord of darkness dances around/Spaces tremble on the evil’s sound/O’ killer of innocence, you turn to existence/Look at your face in the blood of the mirror/You find yourself just a pagan/Maybe a Shia, maybe a Christian/Follower of wit or follower of love/Follower of dove/Had you felt the touch of earth/You’d have known the pain of birth.


Who will check this terror?

As I’m sure all avid readers are aware, in the past week there have been multiple attacks on Shias, Ahmadis, Christians and Hindus. It seems no one is spared. Just today a christian charity worker was shot dead. In this past month, more than 80 shias alone have been killed, a Hindu temple was destroyed and over hundred Ahmadi graves were desecrated among other incidences of violence. According to a report by Rob Crilly in the Telegraph, human rights campaigners are urging the government to do more in keeping safe the country’s minority Shia population. According to the same report, there have been more than 320 killings in a wave of attacks against the Shias. The same report also mentions that in 2012 more than 100 members of the Shia Hazara community being killed in Baluchistan region as well.

The response to these ongoing attacks against the nation’s minorities has been the almost deafening silence on the part of our elder leaders. It is a handful of young people who are proving to be the real courageous souls. Malala Yousafzai comes to mind, and so does the young 24-year-old Bilawal. In a public response to the recent attacks, Bilawal noted that “our forefathers did not give their lives for an intolerant‚ extremist‚ sectarian and authoritarian Pakistan. I appeal you to rise up to defend Jinnah’s Pakistan and my party will stand by you‚ shoulder to shoulder.”

Compare this to the actions of those who term themselves as self-appointed ‘defenders of Pakistan’. Qazi Hussain Ahmed quickly changed his tune against Taliban violence when he feared for his own safety.

The sad truth is different. We all know that Qazi was threatened by radicals after an interview in which he had criticised the violent policies of the Pakistani Taliban. The Taliban had later issued their rebuttal with a warning of a forthcoming attack on the former Ameer. In that situation, rather than taking the bull by the horns and realising it was time to show courage and resolve, Qazi, a former Senator, has regrettably tried hard to mend his ties with the extremists. Using the anti-American public sentiment and deliberately obfuscating the issue, he has consistently condemned the US for everything that has gone wrong in Pakistan, but has not mustered up the courage to go after the real perpetrators of the attempted assassination of both Malala Yousafzai and himself. In that way, he has stuck to the core ideology of his party where perhaps personal safety is the top priority even when the safety of the nation is compromised. What a shame.

The giants of Pakistani history have never been appeasers. Qaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah could easily have bowed down under pressure against the formation of Pakistan, but he persisted because he knew that the promise that “You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State” was a promise that India could not guarantee but must be kept at all costs. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto made the promise that we would not bow down under pressure of an Indian bomb but would defend ourselves at all costs. Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto spent years in prison and exiled from her homeland but refused to accept her country in the chains of dictatorship.

Who are today’s giants of Pakistan? Surprisingly they are being found in a 13-year-old school girl and a 24-year-old young man. As we sit quietly while our brothers and sisters are attacked and killed, we must ask whether we deserve these young giants.

Foreign Agents Spreading Fitnah

shariah4Pakistan poster

Before I saw the headlines, someone had emailed me the poster. I wish I could honestly say that I was shocked, but it’s hard to shock me these days. Certainly ‘Shariah4Pakistan’ is not a shocking conference name. We hear this regularly implied if not expressed openly on talk shows. Terming Qaid-e-Azam as a ‘Traitor of Islam’ is stupid, but even that is sadly not surprising as religious extremism has become more and more mainstream. No, the one thing I found interesting about the poster were the names of the self-appointed Sheikhs who are invited to speak.

Omar Bakri Mohammed, aka ‘Sheikh Omar’ as he likes to call himself, is a British extremist who helped start the Hizb-ut-Tahrir, which is banned in Pakistan, in the UK. Omar has praised terrorism and has even been convicted of terrorism in absentia by a court in Lebanon.

Another speaker is the Londoner student of Omar, Anjem Choudary, a takfiri who condemns moderate religious groups as kufr. In 2008, Anjem declared that the Muslim Council of Britain were ‘selling their souls to the devil’ after they condemned the September 11 and July 7 terrorist attacks.

This is the group that is holding a conference in Islamabad. They are, by definition, foreign agents. And according to their own words they plan to declare Qaid-e-Azam as ‘Traitor of Islam’, the Constitution as ‘Kufr’, and they plan to issue a fatwa against Malala Yousafzai for wanting an education. And they plan to do this at Lal Masjid, an obvious scheme to open old wounds in society and incite more violence in our country.

They are, by definition, foreign agents who are planning on sowing fitnah in Pakistan. Question is, who gave them their visa? Why are these anti-Pakistan foreign agents being allowed to come into our country and incite hatred and violence?

This is more than a mere academic question. Last month, Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) Chairman Maulana Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi condemned the attack on Malala Yousafzai.

“Islam is the only religion which strictly prohibits violence of any sort in the name of religion. Our Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) has strictly directed not to harm women, children and elderly and so much so has even directed not to damage trees and crops even during the ‘ghazwat’ that he fought against the infidels. How a person calling himself to be a Muslim can resort to such acts of violence and especially against an innocent minor girl of only 14 years? The perpetrators can not call themselves Muslims and this action of theirs has nothing to do with the teachings and preaching of Islam,” Maulana Tahir Ashrafi said.

He also urged the government to take every possible step to save the life of young Malala Yousafzai and at the same time take meaningful measures to promote the true teachings of Islam which preaches love, affection, tolerance, co-existence and abhor violence.

Will Maulana Ashrafi be made a fool of by these British Osama wannabes? Will the military stand by silently while foreign agents incite attacks and undermine our national security? Why are none of the self-appointed ‘defenders of Pakistan’ asking who issued these foreign agents their visas? How can we expect America to respect our sovereignty when we allow these militant ‘drones’ to threaten innocent girls?

These are not academic questions. They are questions of survival.

Jaahils and Jihadis

Following the barbaric attack against 14-year-old Malala Yousufzai, Taliban apologists have been working extra hard to split hairs and convince people that we should not unite against the jihadi elements that continue to carry out such attacks against innocents. The Taliban’s most vocal defender is Imran Khan, who likes to condemn specific acts, while at the same time defending the groups who perpetuate these attacks by pretending that there are no jihadis, there are only jaahils who are misunderstood. But two events this week prove him wrong.

1. A tribal jirga traded girls to settle blood feud. This represents the jihaalat mindset and must be addressed.

2. A young man stopped a bus and asked for someone to identify Malala Yousufzai. He then proceeded to shoot Malala to stop her political work. This represents the jihadi mindset and must be stopped before the jihaalat mindset can be addressed.

Imran Khan likes to say that liberals are mistakenly equating the Taliban and the tribal mindset. This is not true. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Liberals who call for a strong defence against the Taliban by shutting down jihadi militant groups are not equating the Taliban’s political violence with outdated tribal customs, Imran Khan is.

Tribal customs do not include bombing Sufi shrines, murdering Shia pilgrims, killing schoolgirls, and attacking military and police posts. Suicide bombing is not a tribal custom. These are the legacy of a twisted interpretation of religion that goes as far back as the medieval era when Ibn Taymiyyah introduced the takfiri ideology as a justification for carrying out jihad against Mongols even though they had converted to Islam. To get around this problem, Ibn Taymiyyah appointed himself as God and pronounced his enemies as fake Muslims, arguing that they can’t be real Muslims, ironically, because they have a jihaalat mindset. This jihadi ideology was reintroduced in Egypt by Sayyid Qutb in the early 20th century when he began preaching violent jihad against Muslim governments that he believed were too subservient to Western powers, and has been propagated by later writers like Jamaat-e-Islami founder Maulana Mawdudi and al Qaeda’s Ayman Zawahiri. These men do not preach any tribal customs – actually they are against tribal customs and the jihaalat mindset. Imran Khan thinks they are the same because both have roots in medieval thinking. But there is a big difference.

Taliban and other jihadi militants hide behind the language of religion, but their real interest is politics and power. They want to be unquestioned rulers, not saints. Like their ideological ancestor Ibn Taymiyyah, they are simply twisting religion to justify violence as means of consolidating their power. Actually, the tribal jirga is a perfect example of how the tribal leaders and the Taliban are fundamentally different. A jirga is based in reason and compromise. The tribal elders who sit on the jirga might have jihaalat mindset, but they are at least willing to sit and discuss the situation and try to work out a solution that fits all parties. With jihadis, on the other hand, there is no room for discussion. You either accept their rule, or you are declared as wajib-ul-qatl.

People with a jihaalat mindset can be reasoned with. They can be educated. And, over time, tribal customs and thinking can be brought into the modern era of reason. This does not mean that they will lose their way of life or religion. It just means that certain customs – like trading girls to resolve blood feuds – will be replaced with more humane ways of resolving conflicts.

People with a jihadi mindset cannot be reasoned with. Ironically, many of them are already very educated. Certainly the jihadi mindset is spread through some madrassas, but these are mostly educating the poor who accept these lessons in exchange for food and shelter. But what is the excuse of people like Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh – an Aitchisonian with links to militant groups including Jaish-e-Mohammad, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and the Taliban? What is the excuse of Osama bin Laden who had everything handed to him, only to turn into a mass murdering maniac? Or our own young who attend English medium schools, travel the world, live urban, Western lifestyles…and support militant jihadi groups?

Imran Khan thinks that, to change the jihaalat mindset, we should first let the jihadis take power over the tribal areas. This makes no sense. If jaahils are living under the threat of jihadi violence, there will be no room for cultural evolution. The tribal areas will not just be frozen in time, under the jihadi regime, they will be transported backwards even further. This was demonstrated by the Afghan Taliban who, far from being a force reacting to the US invasion in 2001, had controlled Afghanistan in a reign of terror since 1996. When the Soviets left Afghanistan, the Taliban didn’t go back to being simple tribal villagers, they carried out a murderous reign of terror against their own people.

This time, as the Americans are preparing to leave, the Taliban see an opportunity to not only re-take Afghanistan, but to expand their control over Pakistan also. Will we defend ourselves or continue to hide our heads in the sand? Only time will tell who is the real jaahil.