Continuing the official policy of disowning and discrediting Malala Yousufzai, the PTI led government in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa (KP) stopped the launching ceremony of Malala’s book “I am Malala”. The ceremony was scheduled in University of Peshawar’s area study center on January 28 with the collaboration of Bacha Khan Trust Education Foundation (BKTEF) and Strengthening Participatory Organization (SPO). The ceremony was cancelled when the law enforcement agencies refused to provide security and the organizers were pressurized by the government officials.
The area study center’s Director Sarfraz Khan told that he was pressurized by the Vice Chancellor and the government officials to withdraw. Khadim Hussain, the Director of BKTEF, condemned it by calling this incident against the spirit of freedom of expression and promotion of education.
“It was to get more US funding”
The Information Minister of KP government Shah Farman accused BKEF’s support for the launch of Malala’s book as a move to get “more funds from US”. He said that the venue was not suitable for the launch as the government is against the use of educational institutes for political gain. “Government is ready to support them but using educational institutions for political gains would disrupt the educational environment for the students.” He said.
Government’s plea of not using the campus for ‘political gains’ faced a backlash two days after the cancellation of the ceremony when many students protested against the visit of Shireen Mazari, the official spokesperson of the ruling party PTI. The protesters were incensed at the cancellation of the book launch and administration’s hypocritical role.
“They stopped us to please Taliban”
The Bacha Khan Foundation criticized the government and stated that KP government’s decision to stop the book launch was a move to please Taliban. “They stopped us to please Taliban, we will soon announce another date for the book launching.” Khadim Hussain, the Director of BKTEF told AFP.
The spokesperson of the teachers association at Peshawar University Dr. Jamil Chitrali has opposed the government’s actions saying “It has brought a bad name to the university.”
Students Divided on Malala’s book: “not suitable” versus “an inspiration for all”
The opinion of the student community about the book is divided. Many students at University of Peshawar favored the cancelation of the book launch as they thought that Malala was promoting the “Western agenda” in Pakistan. A student named Saifullah talking to The Laaltain said that Malala is not a hero and he thinks that her book contains “un-Islamic” content which is not suitable for us. When asked if he himself has read the book he said, “I have heard this from many people that it is not suitable for reading.”
A student on the condition of anonymity told Laaltain that Malala’s book is an inspiration for all of us in this time of distress. She stated that Malala’s story gives her the courage to stand and speak for her rights.
Feroz Khan, another student at the University was of the view that Malala should be the symbol of our struggle against extremism and terrorism instead she has been neglected and abandoned by the state and the people.
In November last year the All Pakistan Private Schools Management Association (APPSMA) had already banned Malala’s book from private schools of Pakistan. The decision was taken as the association thought the book was “inappropriate” for the students. The president of APPSMA, Mirza Kashif objected on Malala’s views about the status of women and freedom of expression calling them against the Islamic ideology.
Some of the renowned Urdu columnists such as Oriya Maqbool Jan and Ansar Abbasi have also labeled this book un-Islamic in their writings. Earlier the booksellers in KP have refused to put “I am Malala” on stalls feeling themselves under threat for selling the book.
On the other hand, rights activists and education experts have showed concern over the threats posed against the forums of education and public debate. They opine that people generally and the government in particular are not willing to oppose the growing radical extremism which is affecting the education sector the most.