01/29/2014, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Peshawar authorities block the presentation of Malala’s book. Activists: "Shame"

by Shafique Khokhar
After a series of threats and intimidation Khyber Pakhtunkhwa authorities cancel the launch of the autobiography written by the young girl who has become the symbol of the fight against the Taliban. For activists and civil society the episode is worse than those carried out under dictatorships. Blame laid with Imran Khan, leader of the majority party in the province, who claims to be unaware of event.

Peshawar ( AsiaNews) - " Shame, shame , shame!": The Pakistani activist Tahir Anjum does not mince words in reacting to the decision by the provincial authorities of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to block the presentation of an autobiography by Malala Yousafzai. Last night at the the launch of "I am Malala" was scheduled to take place at the University of Peshawar's Area Study Centre.  The book was written by the young Pakistani girl who has become a symbol in the struggle for women's education and the resistance against the Taliban and Islamist violence . However, the previous day first the provincial authorities - two ministers ( Shah Farman and Siraj ul Haq ) then police approached the director of the study center, succeeding in forcing him to cancel the event for unspecified reasons of "public order and security." The University attempted to put up a stiff resistance, but mafia-style threats and warnings finally prevailed.

Pro human rights organizations and members of civil society promise that the event will be rescheduled in the next few days, but the bitterness remains for the abuse committed by the authorities and the blatant violation of freedom of thought. "Is this our democracy?" questioned Tahir Anjum, a reality in which "a book written by a girl cannot be presented?". He adds that the episode "dwarfs the acts of even the most ruthless dictators" and reflects "the progressive Talibanisation " of the country .

The incident has aroused great indignation in Pakistan and raised a fierce debate on freedom of expression and the progressive violation of the most elementary rights. The controversy has also touched the leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e - Insaf Party ( PTI ) , founded by former cricketer Imran Khan. Organizers claim the "direct intervention " of the provincial government is behind the cancellation. The PTI leader responded to the charges via twitter yesterday: "I am at a loss 2 understand why Malala's book launch stopped in Peshawar. PTI believes in freedom of speech/debate, not censorship of ideas".

However his response has failed to convince civil society and activists , furious at what had happened. Mohammad Tahseen , Executive Director of the South Asia Partnership - Pakistan (SAP -PK ) , told AsiaNews that it was "a clear attitude of politicians, who never take responsibility for their crimes." Before tweeting, the activist adds , he "should have consulted his ministers" and spare making himself look like a "fool". I have tried to contact the leaders of Piti on January 27 to get the go-ahead for the event, "but without success, and nobody listened to me ."

Malala Yousafzai - award winning national youth - October 9, 2012 was the victim of a Taliban attack in the Swat Valley, a mountainous area in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa , bordering Afghanistan , a stronghold of Islamic extremists . She was shot while on board the school bus that would take her home, at the end of her morning school lessons. The young girl, saved thanks to a an outpouring of international solidarity, became famous in 2009 at the age of 11, for a blog on the local language site of the BBC denouncing the attacks by Pakistani Islamists against girls and educational institutions for women.

The northwestern border is considered a stronghold of the Taliban, so that in some areas Shariah and the Islamic Courts are active, called in to judge disputes, as well as social behaviours and morality. There are hundreds of schools - even Christian - that have been closed in the Swat Valley, jeopardizing the education of tens of thousands of students and the work of about 8 thousand female teachers.

 

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