Malala Yousafzai touches the heart and soul of every progressive Pakistani. She symbolises millions of unseen scavengers reduced to nothingness and living with the dream of a progressive, egalitarian and resilient Pakistan. Still a teenager, she reflects a sea of emotions shared by hundreds of millions that hope is not forlorn; that temperate quality of willpower and simplicity of innocence can work wonders. When stars bow out to the rising sun, Malala is a dewdrop nestled on the jaded green, defying the blinding light and encapsulating the ball of fire in colours of refraction. Like a rainbow that tides hope, Malala brings the tidings that violence is not only fought back with guns but also love.

Her defiance is ever more significant. She hails from a remote, violence ridden area of Pakistan where the ugly face of militants ruled the roost through bloodshed and anarchic justice. Rather than be traumatised by the central death square of Mingora close to her house; where human heads hung with traffic poles; where the stench of decaying human organs was nauseating; or suffer the indignity of living in make shift camps; she registered her disapproval and defiance by becoming the legendary Gul Mukai. Malala conquered fear and opened a battle front where thinkers had been denied space and where national leaders had feared to dare.

But Malala has detractors. In the frontline are militants who have vowed to kill her at first opportunity. Then there are those for whom an egalitarian Pakistan was never a dream. These men of limited vision with a pipedream see Malala as a challenge to their cognitive construct of what Pakistan ought to be. Malala is seen as an exploitable commodity at the hands of Yahood, Hinood, Zionists, anti-Islamic forces and ultimately a Dajjal. They portray her as the one eyed anti-Christ; and one who must be sent to dungeons. Malala is a daemon who must be fought lock, stock and barrel in every dimension to rid Pakistan of its biggest security challenge.

Such insinuations are not new and will prove to be a fire through which the gold must shine. Despite her celebrity status, Malala and her admirers will have to pass through this fire to redeem the country of the ills that besiege it.

Qaid e Azam Muhhamad Ali Jinnah lived and died fighting these religion exploiting minimalists. Yet, in the interim, they managed to bury the legacy of the founding father with similar slogans abetted by military dictators and opportunist politicians. Right up to the 20th amendment, they have managed to manipulate political parties to supress fundamental human rights in varying descriptions.  They demonised men like Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Dr. M D Taseer (who buried Aleem ud Din Ghazi), Mian Iftikhar ud Din, Benazir Bhutto, Shahbaz Bhatti, Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Taseer. They have passed judgements on millions of Pakistanis since 1949; who either died at the hands of violence or left Pakistan for good. The ferocity of fear they instil is such that Pakistanis have refrained from celebrating and commemorating its only Noble laureate Dr. Abdul Salam. The narrative these minimalists propagate is an insult to Pakistan movement led by Qaid e Azam Mhammad Ali Jinnah. As Malala factor becomes viral and a cause for national celebrations, it defies their raison d’etre. They will retaliate, but like Malala, who braved all dangers, the good moments in Pakistan however far and few must be enjoyed with vigour and prolonged with relentless fervour.

In a country where politicians obliquely take-on terrorists; where judges are afraid of passing judgements; where witnesses are either killed or forced into submission; and where the system classifies crime as the good, bad and ugly; Malala has risen to become an internationally recognised icon and spokesperson of Pakistan. Critics who label her father as over ambitious and one selling his daughter to the West for few moments of glory ignore the instinct that every parent wishes his dreams fulfilled through his children. That Mr. Zia ud Din Yousafzai has groomed his daughter for a dream shared by Pakistanis is no crime. As a retort, the nation owes its gratitude to this father for a daughter who has become the humane face of her motherland. While Malala shares the limelight, we must acknowledge the parents who sired and mentored such an indomitable daughter to become an internationally acclaimed image of Pakistan.  

There are also speculations that Malala is a manufactured commodity elevated at an opportune time to subdue Pakistan into submission. These detractors must know that Malala’s injury was real. A part of her skull was blown away. The doctors in the neurosurgical department in the Swat hospital testify that she needed specialised medical care for rehabilitation. They suspected irreparable nerve damage. Fauzia Kasuri and Neelam Toru with many others were right there when she was shifted to CMH Peshawar. The squint in her eye and signs of facial parsley on the left side testify that she survived an assassin’s bullets. Though Malala will continue to carry the scars of injury, this face is also the pride of every Pakistani.

Malala’s iconic resistance and elevation provides Pakistanis a moment of introspection. In a society torn by ideological conflicts and political contradictions, her non-violent resistance to forces of tyranny prove that the temperate quality of willpower outstrips violence. If Pakistan has to revert to the dreams of its founding fathers, then it is the responsibility of every citizen to emulate Malala and make sure they matter. On the matrix of national psychology, Malala provides the needed high point to make Pakistan a credible, self-reliant and a proud country in peace at home and abroad. One lesson that must not be lost is ‘to overcome anger with love’.

Malala is Pakistan and the nation must seize the moment.

n    The writer is a retired army officer, current affairs host on television and political economist.