Q&A with expert after Pakistani girl Malala Yousafzai attacked by Taliban for blogging

14-year-old schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old schoolgirl shot by the Taliban in Pakistan for her pro-Western views, will survive.

“Malala is considered as an icon of hope and enlightenment in Pakistan and is respected and honored for her courage and determination,” a Pakistani government spokesman told Metro. “The extremist mindset which led to such a grave incident is only limited to a few fanatics.”

Metro spoke with Sajjan Gohel, the Pakistani-born International Security Director of the Asia-Pacific Foundation.


Metro: Is this a one-off incident, or are the Taliban gaining strength in Pakistan?

Gohel: Unfortunately this is not a one-off incident. It will happen again. I’ve been warning for a long time that women will be the biggest victim of the Taliban ascendency. This brutal attack and the medieval ideology of the Taliban once again reiterates the naivety of those who advocate talking and negotiating with them, even considering allowing the Taliban a role in governance.

Do Pakistani girls now have to worry about their safety?

Yes. The Taliban are determined to deprive women, including young girls, even basic human rights. It is very depressing when young Pakistani women, proud of their nationality, want to aspire for equal rights such as in education but are targeted because of it. Women’s rights have improved in some parts of Pakistan but not in the rural areas of the country. The Foreign Minister is a woman but that’s an aberration. She represents the urban elite and not the rural masses. In addition, she had the benefit of being partly educated abroad. Most Pakistani women don’t have that option. And any person, not just women, who wants to further the rights of women and girls is a potential target. The Governor of Punjab was a prominent advocate of women’s rights. He was targeted for that.

Is the Pakistani government doing enough to counter extremism?

No, it needs to do more to protect women. But on the positive side, it’s far better to have the civilian government in charge than the military.  However, condemning acts of violence are not enough. The perpetrators have to be prosecuted to the full extend of the law. Far too often individuals behind the attack are rounded up and then quietly forgotten.


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