Malala’s Nobel Peace Prize – a different perspective

Not pro-Malala, not anti, just different …

To be fair to her, Malala did not ask for the Nobel Peace Prize. Nor did she lobby for it. But in all probability her handlers did, intensively; for what would be the crowning glory of 2 years hard work put into Project Malala. Intelligent as she is, I wonder if the thought has ever occurred to her in this period, for even a moment, that she has been cast in the lead role of a complex narrative which really has little to do with female education in Pakistan?

Malala, growing up was a precocious, innocent and sensitive Pakistani girl. Fine traits, but not unique; Pakistan has many such young girls, even if all do not come in the public eye. I believe her intentions then, and her intentions even now are …. noble. No pun intended. What I also believe is that once she was taken abroad for treatment, she was methodically and professionally put through a process whereby someone else took control of her still formative thought-process. Someone else has bewildered this girl-child with their effusive caring, their apparently selfless intentions, their professed enthusiasm for her cause, and their meticulously planned and executed promotion of her at forums which would enchant even the most urbane adult. As a PR professional I recognize the expert effort invested in her body language, her speeches and statements, her photo ops.

We actually lost Malala the day she left these shores. And this is what I lament; not her winning the Nobel Prize whereas it should have gone to someone else, but the fact that we have lost her to the machinations of the international establishment. The West has projected through a brain-controlled Malala that the Taliban are against girls’ education, and that girls’ education is a rarity in this country. Take a look at the accompanying photo. Is this girl in a government school uniform, taking 2 other girls to or from school, riding a bike to or from school, any less determined to promote girls education than Malala?

So by creating a specific perception internationally, Malala’s handlers have projected that the war against the Taliban is justified. Hence the drone warfare is justified, even if only 12% of drone victims have been identified as militants, as per a research report of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. (You didn’t know that, did you?) The rest, 88%, innocent civilians, are well, just ‘collateral damage’ we have to live with. Who comes up with these phrases anyway? The Malala handlers must be guzzling the bubbly in celebration even now, for the monumental PR coup they have pulled off. Pakistan is debased as a failed state globally, while Pakistanis are neutralized lest they react, by arranging the Nobel Peace Prize for a daughter of Pakistan.

Yes Taliban are against female education, but they are a minor impediment. The real enemies of girls’ education have been successive governments who allocate a pittance for education in the annual budgets. The real enemy has been the apathy of civil society, of people like you and me, who are now singing Malala’s praises but have personally done little if anything for giving the underprivileged, girls or boys, the opportunity to get educated.

The Nobel Peace Prize is given to those who have “done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

I wonder which work of young Malala fell within any of these 3 criteria?
Should she have refused the Nobel Prize, taking the higher moral ground that she did not really deserve it, in light of the criteria for the Prize mentioned above? Are Malala’s ‘achievements’ equal to those of the co-winner, Indian children’s rights activist, Kailash Satyarthi, pursuing his mission for 34 years since 1980? And reportedly freeing over 76,000 children from child labour? Should he not have been the sole winner?

Only one person has ever refused to accept the Peace Prize – North Vietnamese leader Le Duc Tho, who was awarded the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize together with Henry Kissinger for their roles in brokering a Vietnam ceasefire. Tho declined to accept the award, saying actual peace in Vietnam had yet to be achieved. US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had no qualms accepting it, even as the US was carpet bombing Cambodia at the very same time.

Is the Nobel Peace Prize anything more than a “thinly veiled political statement it invariably makes’, as the Times of India has written? I also ask, has at any other time, the citation for the Prize drawn specific attention to winners’ religions as it has done now?

We talk about the sinister and nebulous, yet ubiquitous, ‘establishment’ being behind all conspiracies in Pakistan. Well, then certainly there is an international ‘establishment’ too, pursuing an agenda that seeks to maintain and enhance world domination by certain countries. This international establishment fights its wars on several fronts. For example, the military front, in which a sovereign country like Iraq, can be invaded, taken over and ruled for 10 years, with a million citizens dying in the process, all on the basis of a lie about weapons of mass destruction.

Or this establishment can resort to an economic war, with trade barriers, boycotts, sanctions, freezing of assets and what have you. A third avenue is a political war, fought one on one, or in the guise of a coalition, or even through controlled international organizations.

Whichever route is taken, the guiding principle, time-tested from early colonial days, is ‘divide and rule’, applied in a variety of ways – cause lingering friction between different ethnicities of a target country; create class-based divisions within one nation; or, select, groom, glorify and skillfully exploit ‘brand ambassadors’ from within a target country, to credibly and widely disseminate your messaging, and try and create mass support for it.

Remember Mukhtaran Mai, the darling of the West not so long ago? She suffered a level of debasement which no one should ever suffer. The West took her over, projected Pakistan as a country no woman is safe in. Then Mai, having served their purpose, has virtually disappeared from public discourse. Is rape endemic to Pakistan? Did you know that there are about 90,000 rapes in a year in the USA? That’s about 250 rapes every single day. And that’s only the reported ones.

Or take Aung San Suu Kyi, built up by Western media into the Gandhi of Myanmar, and also awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, which incidentally was never given to Gandhi. Something that all agree has been the Peace Prize Committee’s greatest ever failing. But I will forever remember Suu Kyi for something else – her deafening silence over the atrocities unleashed on Rohingya Muslims, on which the CNN queried, ‘Has the Lady lost her voice?’, and The Guardian wrote, ‘It seems impossible to resist the impression that “the Lady” is a paragon no more – and certainly no human rights defender.’

Now if promoting female education is the criteria for winning the Nobel Peace Prize, and if the process is fair, transparent and with no hidden agenda, then may I be permitted to say that the winner should have been The Citizens Foundation? This education NPO in only 16 years has established over 1,000 schools across Pakistan from scratch and is educating about 150,000 students, half of whom I dare say, are girls. Not to mention the thousands who have already passed out, many going on to get higher education, even at Harvard, and countless having taken their families out of poverty and going on to become responsible and useful members of society.

If 22 organizations can be awarded the Peace Prize previously, why not TCF now? Because no one from TCF was orchestrated to speak at the UN, or got to spend some time with Obama, or have an audience with the Queen of England?

Anyway, what I wish now is for Malala to grow up still remembering her roots, understanding the world as it really is, finding out even who created those very Taliban she is fighting against, forming her own ideas on how her mission should be followed up and finding friends and supporters within her own people.

I want Malala to come back to Pakistan to actively pursue her mission. I want Mr. Naya Pakistan to guarantee her security. Surely he can do at least this for her, if he is the one to bring radical betterment as he professes. I want her to donate her prize money (she is already a millionaire without it) to TCF, for without any doubt this organization is doing the most for female education than anyone else, individual or organization.

And to all self-proclaimed and vociferous Malala supporters, I say please do something more for her mission than just trying to outdo each other in extolling her. Otherwise, like Mai and others, Malala and her mission too will soon be forgotten by the very country she took a bullet for.


The Ignoble Nobel Peace Prize has not been without controversy. Some previous examples:

In 1973, US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger won the award with North Vietnamese leader Le Duc Tho (who refused the award), at a time when the USA was carpet-bombing Cambodia.

That’s not all. Before, during and after his acceptance of the prize, Kissinger would be implicated in assassination, war crimes and the slaughter of civilians in a number of countries: East Timor, Pakistan, Greece, Cyprus, Chile, Argentina, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. He was also a part of the alleged U.S. complicity in Operation Condor, a mid-1970s campaign of kidnapping and murder, coordinated among the intelligence and security services of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Two Norwegian Nobel Committee members resigned in protest at Kissinger being awarded.

The 1992 prize was awarded to Rigoberta Menchu, for “her work for social justice and ethno-cultural reconciliation based on respect for the rights of indigenous peoples”. The prize-winner’s memoirs, which had brought her to fame, turned out to be partly fictitious.

In 1994, the Nobel Peace Prize was shared by Yasser Arafat, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres for the Oslo Accords. Of these Shimon Peres was a man who started several wars. He also played a major role in helping apartheid South Africa procure weapons when it was under an international embargo. Yet Peres was one of the winners and Mahmoud Abbas, who had signed the Oslo Accords together with him, and who had worked for years for Palestinian-Israeli peace was ignored.

The 2010 Prize went to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, “for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China”. Liu was perhaps also a ‘brand ambassador’ of the international establishment, for earlier he had participated in organizations that received funding from a US organization.

Then the world gasped in shock when Barack Obama won the prize in 2009, “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples”, at a time when he had been in office just eight months! The New York Times euphemistically called it ‘a stunning surprise’. And since winning the award, Obama’s peace-promotion record includes signing the National Defense Authorization Act into law, making it legal to indefinitely detain US citizens, increasing deadly drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, waging a war in Libya, escalating the war in Afghanistan, and to top it all, a secret “kill list” revealed this year by The New York Times, which grants a select few American officials the option to mark perceived national security threats – foreign citizens or otherwise – for assassination.

2 Responses to Malala’s Nobel Peace Prize – a different perspective

  1. Faryal says:

    A very very well written article and one that i agree with 100 percent. Giving my own two cents, yes, there are far more worthy people who deserve the peace prize as compared to Malala. As you have mentioned in your article, i also have my reservations on the events that unfolded after the attack on Malala and her role in the ‘education promotion n awareness’ … In fact, when i settled in the US from Pakistan and started working (i am a journalist), i had well educated, learnt journalists professing their surprise on my education, general knowledge, english … Basically my overall personality … Thanks to the media, many Americans thought women in Pakistan are tortured, locked at home by the male members of the family and completely discouraged from gaining education. What they had heard or read, was further endorsed when Malala was attacked and made international headlines. But despite alllllll of this and more, the fact that Malala is a Pakistani, has brought some positive outlook. The day after she won her award, i was in NYC for a social event and during dinner, a gentleman asked me where i was from (i wear an abaya and hijab so i was clearly standing out amongst the guests) and i said Pakistan … He had this loud, booming voice and he went like “oh congrats. Malala won the noble peace prize. That shows there is good in that country and not everyone is a terrorist” … Rather than being offended at his closing words, i smiled and said, “you will be surprised at the misconception people have about our country.” I then went on to explain the positives. Many people around us may not have heard what i said, but they had heard what he had said in his loud voice and after dinner, many came up to me to congratulate me on a Pakistani winning the award. When Malala was attacked, i suffered from people’s misconceptions … When she won, i rejoiced and basked under the attention and smiles i got from people … My own personality helped to further dissuade people from their thoughts about us … With how our country is faring in international politics and media, Sometimes its just good to take things on face value and enjoy the good things that come out of them …

  2. Hunaid says:

    Nobel Prize committee are made of human beings and they are prone to biases as we all are – it is quite obvious that some are awarded for political significance and the most obvious case being Obama. I believe that it is an incorrect surmise that all is based on merit – if that was the case, we can discuss the objectivity of merits. They have realized that many a times, Africans, Muslims, Hindus and seemingly other minorities don’t get recognized. It is easier to give a Scientist such an award than it is to a civil right activist in their own country.

    Just like Obama’s award, Malala has not strived towards anything – she is too young and may do so in the future. She has endured tremendous hardships and as many say, her handlers have worked with the Western media to exploit a certain situation. Personally I believe, if exploiting a situation brings about some good, let it be! Why stand in the way?

    I will leave this thought. The Nobel Prize is high in stature but the financial reward is just 1 million dollars. Many wealthy individuals in Karachi can afford it. Why does the Muslim world wait for the Norwegians to validate all they are doing?! Maybe, an organization of several wealthy individuals in Pakistan can award a similar prize and set up a committee of well traveled, well read folks who can award prizes on just a few categories and show the world that they too can recognize the achievements of individuals in other religions, cultures and countries without waiting to be recognized by the West.

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