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Malala but not Afia

Malala but not Afia

by Syed Atiq ul Hassan | Sydney
November 14, 2012

Today, November 11th, 2012, has been declared as the ‘Malala Day’ by UN Special Envoy for Global Education and former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. In the west, people are also recommending ‘Nobel Peace Prize’ for Malala Yousuf Zai.

Whether Malala deserves a Noble Peace Prize is under debate as thousands of people are calling on world leaders to support their appeal. Nevertheless, the attack on Malala was highly condemnable and responsively the people of Pakistan including the Pakistani media demonstrated remarkable support for Malala with unity, which was praiseworthy. As the attack on Malala was heavily condemned by United States and the Western Capitals, Pakistani government also found free space to use the attack on Malala as a tool to build support from Western Capitals.

The admiration and importance to Malala from the United States and United Kingdom is understandable as Malala serves as a symbol of the continuous fight for the freedom of education for girls in Pakistan. Nevertheless, it is creating an impression that the education to girls in Pakistan is banned. Otherwise, the fact of the matter is that except some tribal areas of Pakistan, Pakistani girls are given equal access to education as to boys by the government and private sectors serving in education. Girls are found in equal number of ratios, in schools, universities and colleges across Pakistan. Pakistani girls and women are found serving in almost in every profession and industry in Pakistan. In a large male dominated society, gender equality and equity is an issue faced by women traditionally across many generations across South Asia, and Pakistan over the years has strengthened its female workforce and has empowered women through education, and is making steady progress.

If all the admirations and sympathies for Malala are because she was attacked by Taliban brutally and threatened to death then what about Dr. Afia Siddiqui who has been sentenced to 86 years jail by United States? Dr. Afia Siddiqui is also a Pakistani married woman with children. She is a neuroscientist from the United States.

Dr. Siddiqui was not convicted for any terrorist-related activities or being associated with Al Qaida or the Taliban. She was arrested by United States on the charges of being a part of Al-Qaida network but in fact, she has been sentenced to jail for 86 years for attacking an US soldier in the Afghan province of Ghazni.

When the people of Pakistan, Pakistani media and the government of Pakistan have shown so much unity and solidarity for Malala; why all of this has not been shown for Dr. Aafia Siddiqui? Is it because Dr. Aafia Siddiqui has been in the custody of United States on the charges levelled by US agencies? Why isn’t the Pakistani media seen as united and as lauded as for Malala?

For those who are not yet familiar with Dr. Aafia Siddiqui was born on March 2, 1972 in Karachi. She studied in USA and became a neuroscientist. She left United States in 2002. She was arrested by a joint team of FBI and Pakistani security officials in Karachi in 2003. She was immediately shifted to Bagram (Afghanistan) in Kandahar. According to Dr. Afia’s family, one of her three children died when the child was thrown on the floor by an investigator during her detention.

Afia Siddiqui’s defense lawyers argued that their client had shot at the US officials in a panic and said the crime lacked any connection to terrorism. During the hearing, it was heard by the trial jury that Afia Siddiqui, the day after her arrest grabbed an M-4 rifle in her interrogation room and started shooting ‘death to America’.

On Nov 5, 2012; A US appeals court upheld the conviction and 86-year prison sentence of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui for shooting at FBI agents and soldiers after her arrest in Afghanistan. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said a lower court judge had not erred in allowing Siddiqui, 40, to testify in her own defense at trial and in allowing certain evidence against her. Dr. Aafia Siddiqui was convicted of attempted murder, armed assault and other charges, in September 2010, by a New York federal jury, announced by district Judge Richard Berman.


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