Responses to Abbottabad Commission Report and Malala speech at UN highlighted the divisions in Pakistan
Malala Yousafzai speech at the U.N Youth Assembly and release of the unofficial version of the Abbottabad Commission Report by Al Jazeera were the highlights of July. Both captured the competing narratives and a polarizing debate that defines Pakistan today. Malala, having recovered from the brutal gun attack by Taliban, delivered a confident and inspiring speech. Composed and determined, she reiterated her wish for free education for females, defying the Taliban’s obscurantist and militant interpretation of religion. While she was lauded and praised internationally, back home the response was not as overwhelming or wholly welcoming.
Western leaders have heaped effusive praise for Malala but Pakistani government and politicians, by and large, maintained a rather conspicuous distance. Conspiracy theories about her have gained steam. Her critics are as vocal as her admirers. Some portrayed her as playing into the hands of the West, a puppet whose strings are pulled from afar. Education, however, must remain a priority, especially in a society that is beset by ignorance and intolerance.
The leaked version of Abbottabad Commission Report also elicited different reactions. Some saw the report as a damning expose of the implosion of Pakistani civilian and security institutions. The report did not directly affix responsibility on anyone. It remained unclear how Osama Bin Laden managed to sneak in the country comfortably and managed to live undetected in the northern regions. The explanations of the ease with which US Navy Seals crossed deep into Pakistani territory also appeared weak. Excuses of complicity or incompetence are equally damning. The PML-N government tried to hide its embarrassment over the leakage of the report by claiming that the original report is still unclassified and vastly different from the leaked version. It also asked the intelligence bureau to trace the official who leaked the report. In doing so the government has not acted differently from its predecessors who kept sitting on the report instead of making it public. This is a self-defeating defense and a futile exercise.
The country needs soul searching and come up with practical solutions to the malaise that is gnawing at its foundations. An open debate about issues is just the first step.
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