When gun-toting men stopped their school wagon in Mingora last Tuesday around 12.45 p.m. asking for Malala Yousafzai, [who came to represent the ‘voice of the girls of Swat’ because of her blog, written under the pseudonym Gul Makai, in which she advocated girls’ right to education during the Taliban reign of terror over Swat,] none of the three girls inside spoke. This, despite the terrorists threatening to shoot all of them if they did not identify Malala. Today, stirred by the braveheart who dared to stand up to the Taliban and her friends, Shazia and Kainat, who refused to identify her even under threat, girls across Pakistan are saying ‘I am Malala.’
This is happening not just on the social media – which offers a degree of anonymity and security – but on television and on the streets; some with their faces uncovered. ‘I-am-Malala’ has been trending not just in Pakistan but also in Afghanistan where girls’ education is equally at risk from the very same elements.
On Saturday, the Afghanistan Education Ministry organised a nationwide prayer for her at schools in solidarity with Malala. She is being likened to ‘Malalai of Maiwand,’ the ‘Afghan Joan of Arc’ who rallied the Pashtun army against the British in 1880.
In an echo of the Pakistan People’s Party pet slogan ‘kitne Bhutto maroge, har ghar se Bhutto niklega’ (how many Bhuttos will you kill, every house will produce one), the refrain across the country is “how many Malalas will you kill?’’ As daily vigils are being organised to pray for the speedy recovery of Malala and her friends, girls were coming forward; willing to stand up and be counted. Her classmate from the Khushal Public School in Mingora, asserted: “Every girl in Swat is Malala. We will educate ourselves. We will win. They can’t defeat us.’’
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