Peace activist and girls’ education advocate Malala Yousafzai may have become a global icon for standing up to the Taliban but back home in Pakistan, she continues to evoke mixed reactions including fear.
Fearing a backlash from terrorists, students of a college in Saidu Sharif in the Swat valley boycotted classes and tore her posters on Wednesday after their institution was named Government P.G. Malala Yousafzai Girls College. For many the main apprehension was that the name would draw terrorists’ ire and make them a target.
Others present at the protest argued that while she was safe in the U.K., it was they who were living in Swat fearing terrorists. Referring to reports that Malala - who was shot in the head by terrorists on October 9 - would remain in the U.K. for at least a year to undergo treatment and that her father had been offered a job at the Pakistan mission there, the gripe of the students was that the family had fled Swat; leaving the others to deal with whatever terrorists had in store for them.
While this protest against renaming their institution after Malala drew international attention as does everything associated with her, some locals were skeptical about the real reason for the objection to the rechristening. Based on the fact that many of the girls who took part in the protest were wearing the `niqab’ whereas the `chaadar’ (shawl) is the preferred head cover among women in Swat, questions are being asked if the protest was orchestrated by right wing organizations opposed to what Malala has come to represent.