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Interview: Former Collaborator Calls Malala The 'Voice Of Swat Valley'

Children light oil lamps at a school in Peshawar beside a picture of Malala Yousafzai, who was shot on October 9 by Taliban militants for speaking out against them and promoting education for girls.
Children light oil lamps at a school in Peshawar beside a picture of Malala Yousafzai, who was shot on October 9 by Taliban militants for speaking out against them and promoting education for girls.

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The Pakistani Taliban's Rationale For Shooting A Schoolgirl

In a letter issued following international condemnation of the shooting of Malala Yousafzai in Pakistan's northwestern Swat Valley, the Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan (TTP) states its case for the attack and threatens anyone who challenges its strict interpretation of Shari'a law.
As Malala Yousafzai clings to life following a gun attack by the Pakistani Taliban, people around the globe are paying homage to the 14-year-old's bravery in defending her and others' right to an education. One is Abdul Hai Kakar, a former BBC Urdu Service reporter and current RFE/RL Radio Mashaal broadcaster who helped bring Malala's message to the world's attention. Interview conducted by Frud Bezhan.

RFE/RL: When did you first meet Malala?

Abdul Hai Kakar: In 2008, the Taliban took control of the northwest Pakistan Swat Valley. They imposed a ban on girls' education. I was working for the BBC and floated an idea that I would like to start a diary from Swat that would be genuine, I mean from a Swat girl. [I wanted] to give a human touch and first-hand eyewitness account of the conflict, which was a very humanitarian conflict. Malala Yousafzai's father was my friend and he was running a school in the Swat Valley. I talked to him because [I was hoping] he could find a schoolgirl for me. He tried for days and called me back and said nobody was ready to talk because everyone was afraid of the Taliban. But he hesitantly told [me] that if I agreed, then his daughter could work with me. Then I contacted her and started the diary.

RFE/RL: How much risk was Malala taking in writing the online diary for BBC, a project she began at the age of 11? What measures were taken to ensure her safety?

Kakar: Anybody in Pakistan who speaks against the Pakistani Army and the Pakistani Taliban [is a target because] there is a jihadist paradigm, jihadist mindset, and jihadist narrative. Anybody in Pakistan who is countering this narrative is a target. I thought [Malala] would be like that because she was giving us first-hand information, her perspective, and she was representing Swat. That would [pose] a problem both from the Taliban and the army. There was an impression that the Taliban and Pakistani army were and are the same faces of one coin. Then we decided that her [pseudonym] name should be Gul Makki. Gul Makki in our folk stories is a heroine. I wanted to give an indigenous, symbolic attachment to Swat and so that the people could own it journalistically.

RFE/RL: You have said Malala was very close to you and your family. What is she like?

Kakar: [There] were two or three things I liked about her. She was very confident. Whenever she was talking she wasn't shy. She belongs to a tribal area, so, in our region it's difficult for the child to talk to their elders. They're shy, but she was not. The second thing was she had a very good political understanding of her area. She was influenced by her father, obviously, because he was a political activist and he was trying to talk to her to tell her the environment. So she had good knowledge of the area and she was trained by her father how to talk to the media. Thirdly, she was a very keen observer. When she was writing her diary, it was like the voice of Swat Valley. Everybody I met would say, "Wow, this is a very nice diary." And what we have seen in the content is all true.

RFE/RL: What was your role in the writing process and publication of her diary?

Kakar: I talked to her and told her, "You can tell me on [the] telephone what you did that day, what you thought, what were your feelings, and what you saw." So [I told her] just share with me and I will take notes and then I will write it down. So, from my wife's telephone number I would call [Malala] because her [my wife's] phone was safe. So we used to talk to each other for 30 minutes each night for five or seven days [in a row]. Then after that I would send it to BBC English and Urdu to publish.

RFE/RL: How important was it to publish Malala's diary? What kind of effect did it have in Pakistan?

Kakar: So when people saw [Malala's diary], it was appealing for them journalistically and also for the international media. I mean, the Pakistani media was not highlighting the humanitarian issues but trying to show the world that it was only a security problem. But this diary gave a humanitarian face to the tragedy. All the international media was lifting this story.

RFE/RL: What kind of effect has the attack on Malala had in Pakistan? Has it led to greater condemnation of the Taliban or the Pakistani Army, which many Pakistanis believe supports militant groups?

Kakar: This [diary encouraged]...people to hate the Taliban and they unanimously condemned them. All the people are with Malala -- I would say 180 million people [Pakistan's population] are with Malala. So, it [highlights] what she meant for the people. She was a kind of a celebrity for them and they have an attachment with her. She is symbolizing the rights for [girls'] education. She shook the entire country and [only] now the people are debating and talking about how to fix the Taliban, army, and jihadist mindset and the militants.
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Comment Sorting
by: aslam khwaja from: karachi
October 13, 2012 05:57
as happened in the WW ii the dairy of the Anne Frank gave us two things, do not loose your hopes and how much the forces of darkness (in that case the Nazis) are the enemy of the humanity. in Malala's case the same lesson can be learn. we plead to continue our fight against the islamic jihadis might be in the name of Taliban or Al Qaida

by: Nuurries from: Lahore
October 13, 2012 12:19
Malala was The 'Voice Of Swat Valley' now she is the voice of Pakistan. A powerful voice that can be heard all over the world. The voice, talbans, religious parties and other right wings are scared of.
In Response

by: DL from: Jessup Maryland
October 14, 2012 13:20
Malala is a very brave girl, to stand up for her rights and freedom, we should all be very proud of this girl.Maybe if we had more people like this our world would be a much safer place.

by: Smoke man from: Berlin
October 14, 2012 12:08
I don't get it,
One 14 year old girl is shoot by highly oppressed and uneducated group and Islam is to blame,
But when the Educated west uses drones and kills 100 of school children, and only thing is some dude in Washington comes up and says he is sorry,

"Death of one man is a tragedy. Death of a million is a statistic," Clear example of this quote.

by: sleeping nation from: Pakistan
October 22, 2012 06:58
i don't know why the nation doesn't think itself.. their approach and thinking has been control by media which is off course corrupt to the core.. no ethics just to make money they create hype n start campaign.. if Taliban is in northwest Pakistan Swat Valley and has such strong control then its the failure of our Pakistan force and politicians that they are letting them to to root themselves there and do whatever thay want.. an state within an state.. Our army and politician must take action.. what's the advantage of raising a 14 year girl's voice from there just against taliban proving their strong existence there.. media has taken this issue to such a hype that it grabbed international attention.. now everyone is using this issue for their benefit..
and we (Pakistani nation) also joined them in Malala Malala issue.. USA n UK is also using this issue to their own intentions..

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