LONDON- Ziauddin Yousafzai, father of famous education activist Malala Youzafzai, claims his daughter is the victim of a “systematic propaganda campaign” in their home country, Pakistan.
"A small number of people who are supper active on social media criticize Malala and even hurl abuse at her," Yousafzai told the US-funded Radio Mashaal. "They are mainly critical of her international stature and role."
The invective often aimed at Malala on Pakistani social media and in comment sections of news websites reflects the ambiguous image the girls’ rights campaigner has in her own country, despite being lauded for her work in the West.
In recent weeks, Malala has been criticized for not being quick enough to publicly condemn the killing of Palestinian civilians in the ongoing Israeli offensive against Hamas in the Gaza strip. Her detractors complain she has been more involved in the effort to release the hundreds of Nigerian schools girls abducted by the hard-line Islamist Militia, Boko Haram in April than she has been in the Gaza conflict. "Did you just realize that Israel and Palestine are at war after you were strongly condemned for not speaking out earlier? Your fan ratings have seriously fallen," a reader going by the name Sana Imran commented on the online version of a story by a leading paper.
Another commentator, using the name “John M” accused her of being a “drama queen” and a “propaganda tool.” "I didn't buy the BS story anyway when she was allegedly shot by the so-called Taliban in the head,” he wrote.
Malala rose to prominence after she was shot by a Taliban gunman on her way to school in a 2012 assassination attempt. A Pakistani journalist's recent positive account of meeting Malala in Norway immediately attracted scorn. "She was picked to bash and humiliate Pakistan. It was a Western propaganda tool against Pakistan. She may get respect from the West [but] not from Pakistan," a reader, identifying himself as Abdul Rauf Akhtar, commented on the online version of the story in a Pakistani paper. A large number of negative comments on social media label Malala and her father as Western agents. In a recent post on Malala’s Facebook page, someone posting as Wajid Kamal accused her of fooling innocent Pakistanis "to make more and more money."
Malala’s father says that though the “campaign” of negative comments has been going on since she gained international notoriety after the assassination attempt, it has intensified since the release of her biography last October. "There were people who examined the book under a microscope to find flaws to magnify them as controversies," he said. "I am Malala" was intensely criticized by conservative commentators on Pakistani television talk shows and newspaper columns for describing Pakistani religious and ethnic minorities as disadvantaged and questioning the country's security forces.
Yousafzai said a lack of security prevented Malala from returning to Pakistan this year, and that threats from militants have prevented their Malala Fund NGO from funding major projects in their home district, Swat. "The reason she is being criticized is for opposing ideologies and policies that have pushed Pakistan into its current abysmal state," he said. "We have challenged the ideas and actions that result in further marginalizing underdeveloped ethnic groups in the country."