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Sunday, 13 June 2021

Pakistanis celebrate with music and dance after Malala Nobel win

Joyful Pakistanis from the country's insurgency-wracked northwest Friday celebrated Malala Yousafzai's Nobel Peace Prize win with music, dance and cake, hailing her award as a victory for girls' education over Taliban violence

AFP, Sunday 12 Oct 2014
Malala Yousafzai (Photo: Reuters)

Joyful Pakistanis from the country's insurgency-wracked northwest Friday celebrated Malala Yousafzai's Nobel Peace Prize win with music, dance and cake, hailing her award as a victory for girls' education over Taliban violence.

Tributes for the 17-year-old, the youngest ever Nobel laureate, were led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who called her the "pride of Pakistan", while dozens of people from her hometown Mingora gathered at the main intersection to chant slogans and exchange sweets.

Marjan Bibi, 11, cut a white pineapple cream cake donated by a local bakery as onlookers clapped and cheered: "Long Live Malala". Bibi said: "Malala is a source of pride for us. I will also write like Malala and will raise my voice for girls education when I will grow up."

Ayesha Khalid, who was at school with Malala, said: "It's not Malala alone winning this award, the girls of Pakistan have won it...(she) is the light of our eyes and the voice of our heart.

"She has proved that you can't put a halt to education by blowing up schools."

The teenager, who entered the public eye after writing a blog for the BBC's Urdu service about life under the Taliban during their 2007 - 2009 rule over the Swat Valley, was shot in the head by militants two years ago while on her way to school.

Since recovering, she has addressed the United Nations General Assembly, written a best-selling autobiography, and pushed Nigeria's Goodluck Jonathan to do more to free hundreds of girls kidnapped by Islamist militants.

Friday's jubilant celebrations at the Mingora intersection stood in stark contrast to the Taliban's period of rule when girls were prevented from going to school and people accused of breaking Sharia law were beheaded at a roundabout a few hundred metres away.

In the city of Peshawar, the capital of the northwest Khyber-Pakhtunkwa area that has borne the brunt of a decade-long Islamist insurgency against the state, some 200 people gathered at the press club to distribute sweets and dance to a powerful drum beat.

"The award given to the daughter of this soil Malala Yousufzai is not only a recognition of her achievements for the peace but it is also an acknowledgement of our sacrifices in the war against terror continuing for the last ten years," said provincial governor Mehtab Ahmed Khan.

Malala -- who won along with Indian Kailash Satyarthi -- is Pakistan's second-ever Nobel prize winner after Abdus Salam, who won the physics prize in 1979 but was widely shunned for being a member of the country's persecuted Ahmadi minority.

She was awarded the EU's prestigious Sakharov peace prize last year, angering the Taliban who issued a fresh threat to murder her.

"She is getting awards because she is working against Islam," Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid told AFP at the time.

Last month, Pakistan's military said they had arrested 10 suspected Taliban militants accused of being involved in the murder attempt against her.

The Taliban are not alone in their opposition to Malala, with many critics from Pakistan's conservative and hyper-nationalist middle-classes accusing her of being a Western puppet who was damaging Pakistan's reputation abroad.

Since rising up against the state in 2004, Islamist militants have blown up hundreds of schools in the northwest and the restive tribal areas that border Afghanistan, partly out of opposition to secular and girls' education, and partly because the buildings were used as bases by the army.

The Pakistani Taliban's advance has halted in years following a series of military offensives, the latest of which began in June.

Education activist Mosharraf Zaidi said Pakistan's government should use the goodwill around Malala's win to prioritise the country's long-neglected public school system.

"There are 52 million children aged five to sixteen in this country, of whom about 25 million are out of school," he said, adding the breakdown was some 14 million girls and 11 million boys.

"If Pakistan cannot take advantage of this moment of a Pakistani winning the Nobel Prize because she is a campaigner for education and because she is so incredibly brave, then it'll represent yet another missed opportunity and also a tragedy," he added.

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