She came to public attention in January 2009 when her blog appeared on the BBC Urdu website about life under Taliban in the war torn valley of Swat, using the pen name Gul Makai and it gained popularity.
Later she appeared in a documentary for The New York Times website. Malala Yousufzai, a teenaged school girl rose in the public eye as she appeared on TV channels and attended conferences and seminars where she spoke eloquently advocating peace and education especially for girls. Since then she has remained in the limelight to champion her cause.
In October 2012 Malala was again in all headlines when she suffered bullet injuries in a targeted attack on her by the Taliban. She was shot at point blank while returning from school in broad daylight. In her book she narrates “I come from a country which was created at midnight. When I almost died it was just after midday.” The attack left her with a brain injury, a broken skull, a damaged nerve and a permanently impaired hearing. She was not expected to survive but miraculously she did. Her world, however, has changed.
It was not just an attack on a young teenaged girl; it was an attack on a voice that refused to be muffled by the mindless atrocities of the Taliban and their terrorism.
Immediately after the attempted assassination, sympathies for her survival and condemnation against her perpetrators poured in, as did speculation. Malala was initially treated at the local hospital but given to her critical condition she was shifted to the military hospital in the garrison city of Pakistan. The doctors were putting in their best efforts but her brain injury was extremely serious and there was very little hope for recovery, whereas the Army Chief himself was taking keen interest in the matter. A decision was taken to shift Malala to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. Malala writes, “Nobody consulted my parents on what should happen to me. All decisions were made by the Army.”
Gradually the news story of the attack on her was not a headline story anymore in Pakistan. The sympathy for her turned into apathy, Malala was flown out of the country in a critical condition as she fought for her life.
From the day she was attacked all types of conspiracy theories were being propagated but with the decision to air lift her to Birmingham for treatment, the pace at which these theories were coming forth almost doubled. Malala aptly writes in her book that “our people see conspiracies behind everything”.
There are theories like she is an agent planted by the West working against the interest of Pakistan and on anti-Pakistan agenda or that the attack on her never took place at all or that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) never orchestrated the attack, and that there are many more angles and perspectives to Malala.
In Pakistan, a country where news channels are more popular and have a large viewership as compared to the entertainment channels, the propaganda against Malala has never stopped. A large number of TV talk shows have elaborately discussed and debated Malala and many self-proclaimed scholars and analysts have been extremely vocal propagating baseless rhetoric against her and her family in an attempt to taint her image and declare her to be a dubious character with ulterior motives having an anti-Pakistan agenda. However, all these allegations have been levelled without any proof whatsoever.
The social media has been streaming with all types of theories and stories based more on fiction than facts and smear campaigns have been actively injected to influence the mindsets of the public. An overwhelming majority, indeed, has been filled with a negative image of Malala and hatred for her.
Malala who has strongly campaigned for the right to education, for peace in the region and against the TTP has been projected as an anti-Pakistan figure and a Western agent. It seems that people with strong anti-Malala sentiments would have been glad if she had died in the attack on her and her assassins would have been the real heroes who had silenced an alleged Western agent, regardless of the fact that this voice has been speaking only in the long term interest of Pakistan.
However, all this negative publicity in her own country and every attempt to taint her image has miserably failed and Malala has emerged as a global symbol of peace and the youngest ever nominee for the Nobel Peace prize as well as the youngest Nobel Laureate in the history of this most prestigious honor.
It seems that not just all criticism against her has failed and she has risen to gain respect as a symbol of courage and determination globally, her resolve to fight against the tyranny of her oppressors has remained undeterred. In her own words, “If you are afraid you can’t move forward”.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee’s decision to co-nominate Kailash Satyarthi, an Indian children’s rights activist, along with Malala has perhaps further offended her critics. They might have despised her less if Malala would have shared this honor with someone else. At the state level Malala has been referred as the pride if Pakistan, yet it is surprising to see how she is still mocked, despised, hated and disliked by certain segments of the society who appear to still dwell in the dark ages, centuries behind the world though hours ahead in time zone.
Malala’s efforts for education and peace are unmatched so more power and glory to Malala. For her achievements and heroic role in education empowerment, the hate, humiliation and spite towards her is understandable as a large number of Pakistanis do not treat their real heroes according to their worth. The first Pakistani Nobel laureate Dr. Abdus Salam was alienated by his own people and now its Malala’s turn.