In a Pakistani hospital, 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai clings to life – unaware that her story has inspired people around the world and moved millions of weary Pakistanis to pray for her recovery.
One of them is Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Hina Rabbani Khar.
In a Canadian exclusive interview with The Globe and Mail, the country’s 35-year-old stateswoman voices her solidarity with this victim of a Taliban attack, who was on a hit list for promoting girls’ education.
“It is very pure what she represented. It is very strong – that is only word to describe it.”
What are you feeling about Malala?
I think this is truly one of those incidents where no matter what language you try to express yourself, you find you don’t have the right words to express the depth of feeling and also the depth of both anger, disgust and just the realization of the enormity of the challenge that we face.
The act itself would be the worst thing for anyone, and for anybody anywhere. But more importantly, these people admitted to it and felt that they could sell – because in today’s world the possibility of selling something is very important – so they felt they could sell the justification for shooting a 14-year-old girl whose only demonstrable cause was to stand up during a time when war was being imposed, to stand up for her right for education.
You are a Muslim, a woman, a mother. This must have affected you on several levels.
What is clear is that, first of all, they do us all a favour because in this [attack] they reveal that they follow no Islam. Because the teachings of Islam are the opposite of what they did –what the Prophet Mohammed taught us, what the Koran preaches. What they have done is, in a very stark manner, dissociated themselves [from Islam] by taking the wall of Islam to defend them – that wall has come crashing down.
At some level, I think I fear we make everything too Pakistan-specific. Unfortunately, today, because we have this war of the mindsets, so to speak, I think nobody is safe – not only in Pakistan but elsewhere.
What we need to do is to ensure that society itself builds those walls of protection around girls like her, children like her, around normal citizens.
You say there is a tendency to make it “Pakistan-specific,” but for people living outside Pakistan there is an impression of a country that cannot protect its citizens from violent militants. How do you explain otherwise?
I think my country has already suffered at the hands of terrorism. We have 30,000 civilians who have died, 6,000 soldiers – and yet, despite those sacrifices and despite actively fighting against it, you find Pakistan makes news more for what it hasn’t done that what it has.
I think that has been one of the fault lines. What has become starkly clear is the two futures which are ahead of Pakistan. One future is the one that Malala Yousafzai represents.
It is a future of hope, it is a future of development, it is a future of everybody being able to self-actualize. … Then there is a future that is trying to be imposed by these [Taliban] groups.
Does Pakistan blame the drone policy as a cause of extremism?
As far as drone policy is concerned, we are very clear on it. We don’t support the drone policy. We think it is completely counterproductive because, today, if there is something that is coming in the way of uniting all Pakistanis, it is those Pakistanis who are able to ask the question: “What about the deaths that result, what about the girls who lose their lives because of drone attacks, which is also a reality?”
So when the Pakistani government says this is unlawful, it is illegal and it is counterproductive and must be stopped, this is the reason why we say this – because anything which is unlawful, whether it is used by a country or whether it used by an insurgent group, must come to an end so that we can ensure we can beat this mindset.
Malala may recover; you may one day meet her. What will you say to her?
That she is my hero.