A strategic error... By Aqsa
18 October, 2012
When a Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) gunman stopped a school bus in the Swat valley last week and shot 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai in the head and neck — along with two other girls — it marked, perhaps, the TTP's biggest strategic error so far. Their intention was to make Malala a victim for her courageous advocacy of education for girls but what they did instead was transform her into a national symbol of resistance against their extremist creed. Proponents of the moderate point of view she espoused, when she first blogged for the BBC in 2009 about life under the Taliban as an 11-year-old, are readying themselves for a fight. So far, they have been a silent majority. The TTP's extremist creed and the military's insistence — despite occasional statements to the contrary — of looking outwards instead of inwards for the chief threat to Pakistan have shaped public discourse.
However, the brutality of the TTP's attack on Malala, and the callousness of statements made by the organisation's spokesman in calling her "the symbol of infidels and obscenity" and vowing to target her again if she survived, have prompted a widespread backlash. Fifty clerics from Pakistan's Sunni Ittehad Council have issued a fatwa against the gunmen. Demonstrations have been held in several cities. Political parties and the military have both been swept along by the tide of public opinion. Several suspects have been arrested and Army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani has been unequivocal in his condemnation of both the attack and the extremism that spawned it. It will not be easy to change the institutional structures that have seen extremist groups as useful tools and not threats but Malala's courage has provided us with the opportunity to do so.