Saturday, October 19, 2013

Malala: The Forgotten Child

Malala Yousafzai, the precious flower of a child, thrust under the glaring spotlight of meteoric stardom. She has become a study in opposites. The world loves her, the world hates her. There are those who see her as the next Prime Minister of Pakistan, the next Nobel laureate,the next world leader-- and then there are those who want her dead. There are those who believe that she is a crusader and there are those who are insulted by her portrayal of Pakistan. But in all this babel we tend to forget the sixteen year old kid who got shot in the head.

If a child is  harmed,  the parent invariably suffers enormous guilt, whether it is their fault or not. This is their burden to bear as parents. But, one would think, any parent, whose child gets hurt spearheading their idea of activism would be besides themselves in grief and remorse.. They would be ready to give up everything if it meant saving their child.
Any parent would have rubbed their knees and forehead raw in supplication thanking Allah that not only had their child been given a second life but also a future. A future that once was too great even to be a dream was now within the grasp of reality. This child, who almost died for her education, now stood at the head of a road where the possibilities were endless.

The biggest revenge against the animals that attacked this innocent child would have been a life sheltered from the media, focused on letting her recover from the trauma and being a kid. Yes, there would be a burden on her shoulder to wage war against illiteracy and inequality--but that would come later. She would step into the role of an activist and warrior after she armed herself with the knowledge and education she needed and then step out as the voice of the oppressed...not before.

In her appearances, Malala oversimplifies matters by repeatedly stating that education will change everything. In fact, education is only one factor in a myriad. If it was the only factor, the highest educated nations would never be a part of any violations of human rights and we all know how much truth there is in that. But the sweeping statements and the repetitious rhetoric shows an innocence that is expected but, also, a naivete that is unacceptable on this platform

In the end of it all, we should always remember that Malala is only a sixteen year old child who is not armed for the battle that she is being tasked to fight. If we strip away the big machinery that surrounds and choreographs her every move., we will find a child who wanted to go to school and claimed that it was every child’s right to play. She should be  playing tag in the playground. stuffing her backpack into a locker, exchanging secrets with her best friend at lunch and sitting in class, while the principles of physics are demystified for her on a smart board. Instead, she has to make endless appearances in a neverending stream of interviews during the school year. If I could talk to Malala’s father, I would ask him, “When does your little angel go to school? When does she play?”

Monday, October 7, 2013

Safety...At what cost?

On September 17th, the European Organization for Nuclear Research or CERN, approved Pakistan for the process to be an Associate Member. This status, when instated, will not only allow Pakistani scientists to be a part of projects at CERN but it  will also allow the country to send a certain number of students to the facility for research work.  

This news is not only a point of pride for Pakistan but opens a portal for amazing opportunities. Our children will be able to work at the forefront of  scientific research. They will be participate in and be witnesses to great discoveries. In doing their share, the government should stop at nothing to make sure that when the time comes we have our brightest ready to rise up to whatever challenge the world throws at them. So, what do they say to one of these potential scientific geniuses  when he/she is unable to access a video about the large hadron collider? Sorry buddy, no YouTube for you!  

Success can only be achieved by providing resources--not taking them away.  It has often been said that safety at the cost of freedom becomes a little less desirable. The shutdown of YouTube has been in place for an entire year. It has also been a year where Pakistanis have been deprived of an extensive and undeniable teaching tool.  Now there are further proposals to block even more websites in the name of safety. Apparently militants are able to facilitate their nefarious plans through these applications and blocking these apps will make them throw up their hands in frustrations, shake their fists to the sky and go home and chill. Genius!

Protesting disgraceful videos and curbing terrorism can be done without taking away the few liberties that citizens have. These decisions are made without any consideration to the damage they can potentially do. Protesting a vulgar video on YouTube will make a point..but what purpose does shutting it down indefinitely serve? Did it bring YouTube to its knees and taught it a lesson? No! The only thing it did was deprive a country of a valuable resource and made the ones who took this decision look like petulant children.

But it seems that no lessons have been learned as now there is a chance that other applications may be blocked too--and all behind the excuse for thwarting terrorism. Well, what else have you tried, I ask you? Have you secured the borders? Have you stopped the illegal sale and use of firearms? Have you arrested past perpetrators? Have you exhausted all possible avenues of law and order before you made this decision which will do more in the way of inconveniencing law-abiding citizens then it will bother the criminals and terrorists?
Here is another thought...and I’m just spitballing here...won't the organizations, that are terrorizing the world,  be able to go around this problem if it stands in their way? Bilawal Bhutto has a way around it and he shared it with all and sundry when he tweeted, “anyone using iOS and looking to get around the YouTube ban I suggest downloading VPN One Click.” So, I’m guessing the more unsavory types might be able to figure this out too!

Dear government, I really don't think you get the gravitas of the situation. Blocking terrorism in Sindh by blocking Skype, Tango, Viber, etc. is like bringing a knife to a gunfight-- it aint gonna work. So put on your thinking caps and eat your badaams and come up with a viable plan. Meanwhile let the people of Pakistan message and talk to their loved ones while they enjoy a video on YouTube.