These are dark times for Pakistan. The country is in the headlines around the world almost every other day and hardly ever for the right reasons. It is bleeding a thousand cuts. Here, a war has been declared by those who are resolved to annihilate everything that the human civilization stands for. They stand to destroy the universal ideals of freedom, justice, education and anything, in any form, which represents progress. In Swat, the agents of this regressive ideology hung dead bodies from lamp posts, flogged women in public and blew up hundreds of schools depriving girls of their right to education. In that hour of terror and chaos, when grown men found their lips sealed with fear, there was one who spoke; a young Pashtun girl, Malala.

Malala Yousafzai’s long journey in this very short time is truly remarkable. The Taliban, heavily armed with bombs and guns, felt so threatened by a 15-year old girl campaigning for education for women that they decided to take her life. The misguided Talib, who shot Malala when she was on her way back from school, wasn’t aware that his bullet to the head will not be the end but, a new start. When Malala opened her eyes 7 days later in a hospital in UK, she had become an international icon. From then on, there was no stopping her. Until today, she has spoken at the United Nations, received several awards by esteemed institutions including Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought awarded by the European Parliament, Ambassador of Conscience Award by Amnesty International and Harvard Foundation’s Peter Gomes Humanitarian Award from Harvard University. However, the proudest moment came when she became only the 2nd Pakistani in history to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She didn’t win, but witnessing people from her country as well as from all over the world, coming together and rooting for her success has established one fact in stone: Nobel Prize winner  or not, Malala has won the hearts of the world.

The few but loud conspiracy theorists at home must realise certain things. Not everything in the world is defined in terms of east and west. There are certain principles and ideals that unite us. Malala is an embodiment of those values. She is a symbol of resistance in an hour of oppression, of knowledge against ignorance and of courage and tolerance in the face of violence and bigotry. If the world is looking at Pakistan because of her, they are looking not with censure, but with admiration for her as a young Pakistani woman. It is time to own her and adopt her cause. A 16-year old girl is struggling for us, all of us, but the question remains: Will we, as a nation, remain mere spectators or fight alongside with her?