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Heroine Malala Saluted, Villain Taliban Damned

Pakistani activists in Lahore carry candles to pay tribute to gunshot victim Malala Yousafzai and protest against the attempt on her life by the Taliban on October 10.
It is not news anymore that Malala Yousafzai, a 14-year-old children's rights activist and education advocate, was on her way back from school in Swat when gunmen opened fire on her and two other girls in her school van.

The Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) took responsibility for the attack, accusing her of "secular" thoughts, "propaganda against the group," and "considering U.S. President [Barack] Obama as her ideal."

For her courage and determination in fighting for girls' right to education, Malala Yousafzai is being compared by many to the Afghan heroine Malalai of Maiwand, who helped lead Ayub Khan's army to victory against the British troops in the second Anglo-Afghan war in 1880. The difference is that then the enemy was foreign troops, while this time it was Malala's own countrymen, who tried to justify attacking Malala for being "pro-Western," popularizing Western culture, and speaking against the Taliban.

A comic drawn by Bill Mauldin depicts Mahatma Gandhi addressing Martin Luther King, Jr. and saying, "The odd thing about assassins, Dr. King, is that they think they've killed you." Similarly, the insurgents think they can kill a cause by killing a person. But in fact, be it Malala Yousafzai of Swat or Malalai Kakar -- the most high-profile policewoman in Afghanistan, who was assassinated in Kandahar in 2008 -- their legacy will never die.

The assault on Yousafzai has deeply saddened people on both sides of the Durand Line and across the globe. As soon as the news of the attack spread, Afghans in a massive numbers, showing solidarity with Yousafzai, changed their Facebook and Twitter profile pictures to that of Yousafzai. Since Afghans have a rich culture of literature, as seen on many such occasions, writers and poets from both sides of the border have been writing in condemnation of the attack on Yousafzai. Famous Pashtun poets paid tribute to Yousafzai through their touching poetry.

Most of the poems applaud Malala's courage, naming her the second Malalai and condemning the Taliban as barbarians. One of the examples of such poetry is by renowned Afghan poet Abdul Ghafoor Lewal, "Flag and Lamp":

Malalai of Swat got her neck bloodied
A bullet exhausted on a red bouquet

There was an outcry in the valley with the sound of firing
Malala's sobs echoed in heavens

Books dropped out of Malala's hands
Even the Swati Mountains are trembling with shame

Malala's blood stained the white pages
Red wild berries are quivering

Malala is drained out of strength
Like the flames of a lamp flutters in the wind

Malala's blood is dripping
Oh mother! Ask the heaven for help tonight

Each drop of her blood will give birth to a thousand suns
They will give warmth to girls sitting next to their books

Salutes to your pennon, O' Malalai of Maiwand
But your children are still not allowed to get education

A pain is lingering on in Pashtun Mountains
the shriek of this or that Malalai

One stood for national honor
the other for enlightening

God created two Malalais in this nation
beacons for the country and knowledge

May your blood drops turn into gems, oh Malala
May your enemies get destroyed

Let's go together towards light
Towards the awakening of this nation

Thousands of Malalais will follow us
To be manifested as gleam in Kabul and Swat

The attack on Malala Yousafzai has captured international attention because she was a well-known, award-winning teenager who was outspoken -- with predictable consequences expected from the Taliban -- about girls' right to education.

It is no shock that even children and women are targeted by the insurgents; critics mention that no such attention is directed toward those hundreds of Malalas of the Pashtun nation who daily die in such attacks at the hands of the Taliban. Where only little has been written against unfortunate occurrences in individual cases, the war and insurgency has undoubtedly reshaped Pashto literature, which proves the public and literary circle's aversion and condemnation of such incidents in general. And well-known faces can be the center of attention for media and writers in such cases.

The wave of denunciation of the attack on Yousafzai from all sects on both sides of the Durand Line demonstrates the solidarity of Pashtun people against their common enemy, the terror of the Taliban. And yet again an act of terror, in the shape of the attack on Malala, has united them to voice their hatred of war and insurgency.

The Taliban has committed suicide by attacking an innocent teen girl, as people from every sect and ethnicity have turned against them, writing, condemning, and protesting not only on both sides of the border but internationally, too. For their part, political parties in Pakistan, some very openly and some only to an extent, have criticized and condemned the Taliban.

The attack on Malala Yousafzai also shows how it is the Pashtuns who have suffered the most at the hands of the Taliban, who have greatly damaged a people's future generations, identity, culture, society, and traditions. It is also clear that the Taliban is still active in the Swat Valley, even after a three-year Pakistani military offensive.

One more thing is clear: well-deservedly, Pashtuns have hailed Malala a as heroine and -- not for the first time -- denounced the Taliban as villains.

-- Malali Bashir