Let a million Malalas bloom



Then stretch our bones in a still gloomy valley;
Nothing’s so dainty sweet as lovely melancholy.

– John Fletcher (1579-1625)

Malala in Pashtun means melancholy, a word that lies on the border of poetry and philosophy, and means more than just grief.

In the austere, cold deserts of Aghanistan, Malalai, a variant, is still widely remembered as a folk heroine in oral history. Her tale has passed on over smokey pipes of rugged men huddled in jirgas, or traditional village-level conclaves. Malalai is said to be the plucky lady of the Maiwand battle in 1880 (part of the Second Afghan War against the British), who lifted her veil to shame Ayub Khan’s wilting warriors, rousing them to victory.

There must be something about the name. People dwelling in areas strewn across the Afghan-Pakistan borders still name their daughters Malala in the hope that they grow up to be special.

On way to London last month, I flew over these very jagged and deep valleys. Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl from Swat shot by the Taliban in the head for asserting her right to education, must have picked her steely resolve from these unshakable hills. Only a doughty spirit as hers made her survive what should have been a fatal wound.

In the craggy mountains of Swat, a district in the tribal Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province where Malala hails from, Maulana Fazlullah’s men came raiding like a pack of hyenas, razed schools and lured locals into an international conflict through a combination of threats, money and Islamic rhetoric. Few resisted.

Swat, which I visited during a trip to Pakistan this April, was overrun in July 2007 by Fazlullah, a Taliban leader nicknamed ‘Mullah Radio’ because he had launched a private FM station for jihad. Osama bin Laden vacationed here while the residents were building his Abbotabad home.

Swat is called Asia’s Switzerland, and not for nothing. At Kabal tehsil here, heavenly vistas unfold before your eyes. Rolling green meadows merge with the Korakoram range, towering into the skies. Snowy carpets sweep down entire slopes, where Western vacationers would come to ski.

A blast brought down the higher secondary school for girls in Kabal tehsil, where seven-year-old Taiba Sajid Hamid used to study. “Why on earth do you need girls’ schools?” Fazlullah thundered on ‘Mullah FM’ one fine morning from the Malam Jabba resort, which he had converted into his stronghold after blowing up the skiing facility.

Finally, when all hope seemed lost, Hamid and her younger sister, Hafsa, were packed off by their mother, Fazilat, on the back of a trekker – those gaudily decked-up vehicles you find in rural Pakistan – and taken to Lahore.

The family of three formed a part of the 2,50,000 people who fled the Taliban siege, becoming Pakistan’s largest number of “internally displaced people”.

Today, Swat presents a best-case scenario for Pakistan’s war on terror. After over 8,000 offensives – big and small – the army retook Swat in 2010. Nearly 3,500 militants and 416 soldiers died in the operation. At the heart of this success lay support from local people, Fazilat being a case in point.

“Mashallah, I’m happy to be in a brand new school,” Taiba told me. At the biology lab of the reconstructed school, girls in full-face hijab waited for us to tell their stories. Sixteen-year-old Nausheen Hadi says she has regained her window to the world – Bollywood movies. Not to mention her favourite star, Akshay Kumar.

Though Swat was once one of the most literate areas of the province, around 53,000 children quit schools between 2001-08, says Brigadier Bilal of the 19 Division, which led the anti-Taliban offensives.

Swat has regained its ski resort, and Pakistan its favourite holiday destination. The 19 Division likes to call it the ‘Spirit of Swat’, branding the phrase on gifts, souvenirs and shopping bags. Last year, it also launched the ‘Spirit of Swat’ festival – celebrating freedom of speech, expression and action. Freedom from the Taliban.

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  • Karan

    Sujata, you obviously don’t know that the MNS got over 1.5 lakh votes in Mumbai South.

    “I do not think the MNS has any presence in South Bombay”

    It’s shameful that HT has resorted to publishing pieces by useless simpletons like you who couldn’t even spell politics

    [Reply]

  • Anil Chopra

    Having been part of the fashion week’s journey over 12
    years, my comments; Lakmé India Fashion Week (LIFW) started in year 2000, prior
    to which there were no fashion weeks. LIFW met with a huge response from
    designers, buyers, media, sponsors and end customers of fashion products. LIFW
    for 6 years was held once a year rotating between Delhi & Mumbai. By 2005
    it gave an opportunity for 35 shows with 50-70 designers showcasing. Most
    designers were established names showing year after year, with little
    opportunity for new & young designers. Talent consisted of 32 models, 3 choreographers
    and 3 makeup artists along with 100+ buyers & select media attending. The
    event became a rich source of sponsorship revenue for FDCI. With interest in
    fashion rapidly spreading across the country, the event did not provide
    adequate opportunities for designers who wished to participate, particularly
    the younger and emerging ones.

    Lakmé Fashion Week (LFW) was launched in 2006 at Mumbai.
    Certain vested interests at FDCI saw this as a threat to its monopoly and
    employed many unfair means to stop LFW from succeeding. LFW and FDCI moved into
    two fashion weeks a year in keeping with seasonal requirements. Hence, from one
    LIFW a year it became four, two LFWs in Mumbai and two Wills – FDCI in Delhi.
    There was huge uproar created by ‘interested parties’ stating there was no room
    in India for four fashion weeks. This was proved to the contrary by the response
    to all four being immensely successful. Inspite of this, efforts continued to
    scuttle LFW, till the MRTPC verdict against FDCI and several senior designers
    supporting initiatives of nurturing young and new talent at LFW. The success of
    Gen Next shows at LFW has become a rich source of young talent which over the
    last six years has produced many an outstanding designer who compete
    effectively with the old stalwarts from the LIFW days.

    Between these four events it now generates opportunities
    for 200+ designers to showcase along with 100+ models, 8-10 choreographers and makeup
    artists, stylists and host of support talent such as set designers, lights/sound
    & music experts. The attendance from buyers across the country including
    small towns has multiplied with each event getting 200+ registrations. Media
    interest has been enormous, with 350 registrations for each week. This has
    attracted several sponsors too. From a ‘boutique’ event 10 years ago with
    limited potential, the LFW & Wills events have become an industry
    generating business and employment for many. This can be sustained, like in any
    other industry, when there is sufficient demand from end customers of fashion products
    across India.

    On the issue of new fashion opportunities or weeks, in a
    free and open market the end customer will decide whether it is a success or
    not. Already some have succeeded while many failed. The market place & end customer should be the one taking this
    call and no one else. Those using unfair means to stop a new initiative should
    look back into history! Anil Chopra

    [Reply]

  • Mullah

    Bad Breaking News for the Muzzies: Please forget your magical concept of heaven, hell and 72 virgins. Near-death experiences occur when the soul leaves the nervous system and enters the universe, claim two quantum physics experts. Please Google for ‘Quantum Physics dailymail’ and click on the first search result. This has opened the doors for reincarnation. Also, check out hinduismworldwide(dot)in for Western Science’s validation of Vedanta. All the best Muzzies.

    [Reply]

    Human Reply:

    Hope.. your vedanta also has scientific validation of how people born from Brahmma’s various body parts and only suthra born from penni. :)

    [Reply]

  • Spot on

    Mia, this news article of yours is for consumption of Pak citizens, please migrate their as your ideology and mindset more suitable for living and working there.

    Lately you have become intolerant of India. Now you have started writing about neighboring country that’s good as we Indian are spared of usually being anti muslim.

    [Reply]

    Azhar Hussain Reply:

    little praise or positive news about Pakistan you people start barking at the writer. Relax we should arrange trips for more you to have your open eyes and minds. Cheers

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    shimr choudhary Reply:

    hindus are bunch of idiots their minds are closed.victims of brhmnst/zoinist propaganda machinary.least knowledged english speaking gang of idiots.live on propaganda,pass their life on hoarding and stealing.

    [Reply]

    Faulitics Reply:

    Here comes another arabized idiot. There are just too many of these types for comfort.

    Faulitics Reply:

    What’s positive about a bunch of fanatics preventing girls from going to school and blowing up girls schools? Do you want such people where you live? Your brain seemed to be wired differently. Strange one.

    [Reply]

  • Spot on

    Mia, this news article of yours is for consumption of Pak citizens, please migrate their as your ideology and mindset more suitable for living and working there.

    Lately you have become intolerant of India. Now you have started writing about neighboring country that’s good as we Indian are spared of usually being anti muslim.

    [Reply]

  • Spot on

    Mia, this news article of yours is for consumption of Pak citizens, please migrate their as your ideology and mindset more suitable for living and working there.

    Lately you have become intolerant of India. Now you have started writing about neighboring country that’s good as we Indian are spared of usually being anti muslim.

    [Reply]

  • fairworldwide

    Malala Yusufzai deserves sympathy for her suffering like other girls who suffer just like her or even more in FATA. Behind all this hype, she is a propped up leader created by a power hungry father out of an ordinary girl whose sole merit is her looks. The statement “Malala Yusufzai symbolizes Pakistan” is a metaphor. She symbolizes the lies, deception, hypocrisy, and duplicity of Pakistan. Her father possesses the Pakistani skill to dupe the world and reap benefits for his daughter through parroted instructions, while secluding his wife, like any fanatic Muslim. Pakistani government manipulates this incident to cover up all their evil activities and bask on reflected sympathy. They succeeded in making the world forget that they are protecting the terrorists as a state policy. Propping up a leader out of an ordinary girl lacking much virtues; by money and influence is a deplorable precedence. There are plenty of children all over the world with more virtues than Malala Yusufsai. The hype attributed to her is an injustice to many deserving children manifesting more kindness, compassion and selfless motivation. Please look at the video clip youtube.com/watch?v=9F5yeW6XFZk and reason out whether this girl have virtues, to justify the accolades being bestowed up on her.

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    aswathy Reply:

    Her cruelty to her so called pet reveals her mean mentality. Her father demanding fees from parents when the whole place is war ravaged shows his merciless nature. good video. dont know why people praise them. she is a mean girl to demand ice cream in such times.

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    Iac Thiruvananthapuram Reply:

    The way she shouted “valley valley swat valley” is as mechanical and insincere as Chaprasi Singh or Sonia reading a speech. That courageous girl who tried screening Malala with her bare hand and severely damaged her hand deserves a thousand times more appreciation than this propped up leader.

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    Faulitics Reply:

    Dude, Taliban are real and they are fanatical murderers. It needs courage to openly say things against them. This girl has a lot of courage. I would go as far as saying that this Pakistani girl has more balls than all the Pakistani males put together.

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  • REX

    for 6 years sared hindu zoinists were planting the bombs and muslims were blamed and cursed.at the end they are cught and and imprisoned.SAME WAY ATTACKERS OF MALAL ARE ZOINISTS NOT TALIBANIS.TRUTH WIL COME OUT SOON

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  • vijay !

    I have only heard of malala from newsreports.

    She could be a symbol of hope of the hapless tortured woman of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The voice agaisnt the hopeless Sharia and the geder unequal Muslim personal law.

    I hope she comes out of the injury and takes on the mad fanatic Mullahas who want to convert the world and repress women into medieval ages.

    [Reply]

  • Plumbline

    Jesus Loves the World………

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