Historical roots of Pakistan

Lecture 4

Pp. 80-120

Two Editions of I am Malala

One of the major differences in the two editions is the actual description of shooting between her actual publication versus the reader’s edition, which we are using in class.

Why do you think there would be two different versions of the same memoir?

Pakistan’s culture and history

Even though it is easy to read Malala’s memoir as someone who is the victim of their cultural practices, this reading is problematic because it erases the complex lives of women who are a part of the third world.

How would you define the “third world”?


Malala’s Background and context

Malala’s memoir should be read as part of this tradition of critique and million Hindus and Sikhs left Pakistan for India, and 7 million Muslims left India for Pakistan. In this, as in other moments of ethnic conflict, women became targets of terrible sexual violence, mutilation, abduction, and commodification.

Subsequently, as feminist historians Ritu Menon and Kamala Bhasin detail, from 1948 till 1956, both India and Pakistan agreed to forcibly repatriate and “exchange” the over 100,000 women who had been abducted, regardless of the women’s own wishes.

They were also forced to leave behind any children they had after their abduction. Enacted at the scale of the nation-state, this dehumanizing action formally cast women as property that “belonged” to both the ethnic community they were born in and the nation. This idea that women are not equal citizens but rather that they “belong” to the nation and community—also operative in other conflict zones from Bosnia to Rwanda—has continued to shape women’s experiences during conflic

Historical roots of Pakistan

Mohammed Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan, had originally intended for Pakistan to be a Muslim country but a constitutionally secular state in which all communities— Hindu, Christian, Parsi, Sikh, Muslim—lived peacefully, and women and men had equal rights. Unfortunately, he passed away shortly after independence.

After 1947, ethnic minorities including many Hindus, Parsis, Jews, and Sikhs left the country, fleeing religious persecution. After Jinnah, successive political leaders colluded with the Army and religious groups as they jockeyed for political power.

The historical roots of Pakistan

TThe period from 1977 to 1988 under the military dictator Zia ul Haq saw a mass movement sweeping the countryside and the cities of Pakistan that argued for the radical Islamization of both state and civil society.

While religious parties were able to consolidate popular support from a largely uneducated and unemployed youth, as there was little industry in the fledgling nation to support the growth of a middle class, the Harvard- and Oxfordeducated political elite often made compromises with the Army and the religious parties to preserve their power.

Girls and Male Privilege

Culture: A culture can be arguably defined as a historically changing set of learned and shared ideas and practices, this understanding better helps us understand how the cultural privileging of boys manifests itself in different ways across the world.

Malala’s memoir shows how poor families in Pakistan and many other parts of South Asia endeavor to ensure that the boys get some kind of education and often care less if their daughter remains illiterate, because she does not need to be educated to assume the expected role of wife and mother

It’s a girl (2012) documentary

It’s a Girl (2012) shows that female infanticide has generated a massive gap in the population ratio of men to women across a large part of Asia, where, according to the United Nations, an estimated 200 million women are missing due to gendercide.

The social organization of South Asia’s many communities is largely patriarchal.

Many believe that the son will eventually care for the parents when they are old, providing a safety net for the future in a society without any state-sponsored social security.

The son therefore is to be prized; the daughter, however, will marry and leave for her husband’s family. She is thus often seen as an economic burden, even as she performs unrecognized but valuable labor in the fields and the home for her family.

South Asian Patriarchal System

These patriarchal ideas that the son is superior to the daughter prevail in middle-class and wealthy families as well. It is not uncommon therefore to see, as Malala describes, the husband and son in the family getting the choice meats at dinnertime, or more food, more milk or eggs, which is expensive, while the daughter-inlaw or daughter gets less or none.

Malala is able to cast a critical lens on this, because her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, who is educated, liberated, and fair-minded, rejects this genderbased way of treating girls as less, and she embraces his perspective. Because of his education and support, she is able to challenge gender inequality within her culture. But many others are not so fortunate

Discussion Questions: pp 80-120

Part of Malala’s story is reminiscent of “1984” by George Orwell and “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury. In a 1944 letter Orwell wrote, “All the national movements everywhere… seem to take non-democratic forms, to group themselves round some superhuman fuhrer [a German word meaning “leader”]… to adopt the theory that the end justifies the means… With this go the horrors of emotional nationalism and the tendency to disbelieve in the existence of absolute truth, all the facts have to t in with the words and prophecies of some infallible fuhrer.” Do you believe censorship is ever appropriate? How does that compare with parental control of TV, movies, books, and music? Who should be able to decide what you can read or hear? How does censorship work in Malala’s universe?

On page 87, Malala says, “war and terrorism had become a child’s play”. She describes the “almost daily” bombings of schools and other buildings in Swat. When a young person lives in a war-torn area, how does that influence attitudes, beliefs, and emotions?

How did the Taliban terrorize the people of the Swat valley? What type of restrictions were placed on men and women? Refer to chapter 15 and provide a specific example to justify your response.

The ineffective response from the army and government to the Taliban’s violent activities in Swat was a mystery and a grave disappointment to Malala and her family. Why would the government of Pakistan tolerate the Taliban in the country, when they were clearly causing numerous deaths, destruction to property, and fear among the residents in Swat?

First the Taliban took our music, then our Buddhas, then our his- tory… When Fazlullah came there were no more school trips. Girls were not sup- posed to be seen outside,” Malala wrote. In what ways are the rights of women limited in other countries? How might this be changed (if you agree that the rights of women should be changed)

Who was an outspoken opponent of the Taliban and assainated in 2007? Why did this person impress Malala? Name 10 heroes in the world. What makes a hero? How many are women? What are the characteristics of heroic people?

Documentary: He Named Malala (2015)

2015 documentary, directed by Davis Guggenheim

The documentary was shortlisted by Academy awards

Purchase the answer to view it


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