Mirza Kashif Ali and his so-called association, All Pakistan Private Schools Federation (APPSF), badly wanted some attention, and now they’ve got it. It is yet another case of old men losing sleep over the achievements of a young girl, of a single book threatening to ‘destroy’ Islam, its followers and the world as we know it, of victims of paranoia discovering the ever-present conspiring hidden hand attempting to choke and kill, of orchestrated smear campaigns deliberately misrepresenting and misquoting a person in a bid to rouse emotions to counter intellectual discourse, of attention-craved groups and individuals brazenly demonising a universally acclaimed education activist for short-lived relevance. In many ways, it is the story of Pakistan’s finest heroes; revered and hailed around the world, marginalised and unacknowledged at home.

The APPSF ‘I am not Malala day’ stunt didn’t need much time to be exposed for what it really is; a publicity stunt. Other, far better-known and credible private schools’ associations have come forward and denounced the APPSF’s shenanigans as “uncalled for” and its claims, “nonsensical”. There was never any plan, put forth by schools or the government, to include Malala Yousafzai’s book in the curriculum. It would appear that the APPSF was passionately opposing a move that was never going to take place in the first place. As far as banning the book in school libraries is concerned, the limited scope of their influence will ensure that the book will not go unread. There was never really a need for Mirza Kashif Ali and friends to clarify that they are not Malala. One can’t imagine if anyone in their right mind would ever accuse them of being her, or anything like her for that matter. Never will they achieve half of what Malala has. Courage, character and intellect – they fall dramatically short on all accounts. Perhaps their campaign should be viewed as a cry for help; the sort that only invites pity. In that case, the more appropriate slogan could have been, “Why am I not Malala?”

It would be in error to dignify oft-repeated conspiracy theories floated by the self-appointed defenders of faith and homeland with a serious response. ‘Engagement with the opposition’ is overrated, and often misinterpreted. There was a time when heated debates used to take place between people who believed that the Sun revolves around the Earth and those who were right. Now, we entertain such ludicrous claims with ridicule or a medical prescription, if necessary. Conspiracy theorists should not be lent credibility by treating their arguments and fantastical claims with seriousness. It is reasonable to be concerned about the mental state of Mirza Kashif Ali and other members of APPSF, and efforts ought to be directed towards rescuing our children from their hands.