The dastardly shooting of a 14-year-old girl in Swat by the Pakistan Taliban shows that they will stop at nothing to impose their world view, which they pass off as sharia rule. Malala Yousafzai is a threat not merely because she challenges this world view by fighting for her rights as a child and as a girl, but also because her courage has made her the rallying point for those who have been left to fend for themselves by a spineless government. Her age is of little consideration to those who have made school buses and children their regular targets. Like those attacks, the bullet through Malala’s head was intended to spread fear and shock. It has, but it has created a far greater magnitude of revulsion. This is most intensely being felt within Pakistan, where Malala is being hailed as a heroine even by the religious parties. It is shameful that a nation should be brought to its senses only after bullets have pierced the body of a child. And yet this child, over the past several years, has worked tirelessly to draw attention to the plight of several other children like herself, whose families, homes and childhood are being destroyed by the Taliban. Her country has listened to her, but only with half an ear. It has driven out the Taliban from Swat, Malala’s homeland, but left open all avenues for them to return. From Pakistan’s grey borders with Afghanistan — the place which serves as a sanctuary for the Taliban because the State will not endanger its regional strategy by decimating all terror groups, some of which fight its proxy wars — the Taliban have returned to assail those who refuse to listen to their diktats.
Malala presents Pakistan with a moment of truth, just as the discovery of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad had done last year. Pakistan lost that moment when it took refuge in the polemics of ghairat or honour to avoid looking deeply into its flawed policy of dealing with terror. It should not repeat that mistake.