It has hit us where it hurts the most. I did not quite realise that the one act of wilful targeting of Malala and her friends, with intent to kill, will bring out so much emotion. Even though one has gotten used to hearing terrible news all the time, whoever hit Malala has also hit at our complacency and blown it to smithereens. It has also brought us all together like nothing else has done in years. Nothing else seems to matter. All the cases that we have been following - the upcoming elections, the letter to Swiss authorities, PTI’s peace initiative (and the list goes on) have paled into insignificance after this. We have to study the realities on ground and take decisions. We have to call in the experts from wherever to our aid to tackle the issue, if we feel the need. We have to stop this attack on our fundamental rights as well as our faith in its tracks right now. Importantly, whatever side of the many issues that divide us, we have to be on the same side on this one. The ‘fatwas’ were late in coming, but are here finally. The attack on the little girls is condemnable and, under no circumstances, acceptable is the collective message from religious parties too. The knife that has been thrust into our very hearts is the final knife into the heart of the country too. Pakistan is just as critically wounded as Malala and struggling, just like her, for life. Malala is the symbol of the future. At one of the many protests to condemn the attack on her it was suggested that October 9 be celebrated as the day for the right to education of the girl child in Pakistan every year henceforth. A better suggestion is not possible to pay a tribute to Malala. I chanced to meet this lovely girl on March 8 earlier this year, at a ceremony on International Women’s Day in Islamabad, where awards were being given to five young girls, who had done remarkable work in different areas of life. While they were all so special, it was little Malala, who was the star of the event. Her composure, clarity of thought and the ability to speak with confidence were amazing for a girl her age. Her bright eyes sparkled with hope, as she spoke about her ambitions to become a politician and to bring improvements into the lives of the people of Swat. May Allah, in His infinite mercy, save her life so that she can fulfil her dreams!The drone attacks and the bomb explosions are also happening with impunity and driving home the same message that we are all under attack. Our way of life, our values, our culture are being targeted by those who do not want to see us as part of the civilised world and at peace with all our neighbours. The ‘Ghus-baitias’ wish to dictate to us the lifestyle we should adopt. These have become extraordinary times and call for extraordinary measures to purge the land of these scourges that beset it. It can only happen if we are able to be in complete agreement that what has happened to Malala and her friends is unrepeatable, unriskable and, in short, unforgivable. The entire leadership of the country elected, not elected, institutionalised or whatever has to come up with a strategy to make this happen. The time for just words and photo-ops and money cheques is long over. Postscript: I attended a seminar jointly hosted by Grammar School Rawalpindi (GSR) and the Sir Syed Memorial Society to discuss best practices in education in order to give well-rounded personalities to society. A required key factor, it was agreed, to meet the challenges of the new century is to focus on character building. The levels of intolerance and aggression that have seeped into our society have to be countered with structured teaching of peace education for which, the Director of GSR disclosed, books and curriculum have been developed.While the educationists discussed the best practices that had given results, I opted to daydream. If only we could form, amongst ourselves, groups of volunteers in every sector, street, district, city, mohalla and village and began classes for street children, underprivileged youth and anybody who wants to join, we could call it ‘The Malala Initiative’. The Malala Initiative would explain, through role play and simple exercises, the meanings of the following words: respect, responsibility, commitment, co-existence, rights of others and by inference democratic rights and tolerance. These few words, if understood and imbibed, have the power to transform. From an initiative it could become a movement and from a movement to a celebration - and all because of a blessed little girl called Malala Yousafzai. “Aie jazba-e-dil, gar mai chahoon,Har cheez muqabil aa jai,Manzil kai liye do gaam chaloon,Aur samney manzil aa jai.”The writer is a public relations and event management professional based in Islamabad.Email: