The northern areas of Pakistan are inhabited by illiterate people whose mindsets are similar to those who lived in the stone Age. I was in Swat with my wife and two daughters when a cleric in the adjoining district of Malakand asked his followers to kidnap any unveiled women in the area and bring them to him. He said he would immediately give the unveiled women in marriage to their kidnappers. Needless to say, I hurriedly left the place and have never gone there again.

So it wasn't surprising that the wild-eyed, heavily bearded Taliban captured Swat and the adjoining districts to impose their own version of Islam and Sharia on the hapless populace. The biggest damage they did to the country was in persuading women not to get their kids vaccinated against polio. They also banned education for girls, burning down many schools in the process.

Before Taliban rule, Swat was quite different from other places in the northern areas. So it was only natural that female literacy was higher in Swat than in the adjoining districts. This must have irked the Taliban, who believe that women are meant to be baby-producing machines, to be confined inside their houses twenty four hours a day and 365 days a year.

In this claustrophobic climate for women, Malala started writing about the atrocities committed by the Taliban. She was already well-known to the outside world before she was shot in the face by the Taliban. After treatment abroad, she was awarded the Nobel prize, the second Pakistani national to be so honored. It was for this reason that most Pakistanis became convinced that she is an agent of the Western powers and is therefore hated so much. An ex-professor I know also says she is an enemy of the country. 

Yesterday, someone objected to her photo in a book prescribed for schools in KP, and the book was banned. Before that, her book launching ceremony two years ago was not allowed to take place. And now that the Taliban are expected to conquer Afghanistan soon, our leaders want to assure them that Pakistanis are as good Muslims as they are, so they have started taking steps to prevent Malala and other prominent women of Pakistan from being projected as good Pakistanis. 

I predict that in the years to come, it will be people like Malala, Sharmeen Chinoy and Hamid Mir who will be regarded as our heroes. But that will be at least fifty years from now.