Pakistani TV channels often lack credibility in the rat race of earning rating. The recent example is how Mirza Kashif Ali, President of All Pakistan Private Schools’ Federation, former advisor to Governor and Chief Minister Punjab for education, and the author of “I am not Malala” was given airtime to spread misconceptions against the youngest ever Nobel Laureate.
He appeared in the shows hosted by Ahmed Quraishi and Dr Danish on December 26, 2015 and February 7, 2016 respectively. Apart from his baseless charges, it was alarming to witness how cleverly he tried to frame Malala and her father in religious controversy, as well as repeatedly bringing their nationalism into question — tools to malign and persecute anyone in the quickest possible manner.
Below is a response to his claims to set the record straight.
1- Mirza Kashif objects to the use of word ‘God’ in Malala’s book:
Firstly, Malala has certainly used the word ‘Allah’ several times in her book. Secondly, the objection makes no sense as ‘God’ is synonymous to ‘Allah’.
Below are a few excerpts from Malala’s book where Allah is used:
Also, Mirza Kashif needs to keep a dictionary with him.
2- Mirza Kashif objects there’s no salutation anywhere with the Holy Prophet’s (SAW) name:
In the first edition, the book has ‘Peace Be Upon Him’ with the Prophet in the glossary. Although it’s a publishing tradition that whatever is written in the glossary is applicable to the entire book, Malala still apologised for not adding the phrase in her content saying,
“It was the publisher’s mistake, which will be amended in the next edition.”
Since this mistake has already been addressed for future editions, there’s nothing to object to.
3- Mirza Kashif incites his audience by making false accusations about Malala with reference to Salman Rushdie and Taslima Nasreen:
He screams there’s a nexus among them, and that there is a photo of Malala with Nasreen, as well as some letters that she wrote to Malala.
This is all disinformation.
In truth, it is simply an open letter written by Nasreen on her website where she begged to differ with Malala.
The photo that Mirza Kashif talks about to misguide the public is, in fact, taken from an event where Malala was awarded the European Union’s prestigious Sakharov human rights prize in recognition of her fight for universal and equal access to education. There was a group photo with all the previous Sakharov Prize winners including Nasreen that Mirza Kashif is scandalising.
Here is how Nasreen has shown her disappointment,
“She (Malala) shook my hand with expressionless face. I came from the Indian subcontinent, almost from the same background, fighting religious fundamentalists for women’s rights, but her expression tells me that it means nothing to her.”
The person standing next to Malala is Martin Schulz, a German politician and president of the European Parliament. It is sickening to note that he has been posed as Salman Rushdie on social media. The same story was spread by the Pakistani Urdu press as well. For instance, Roznama Khabrain circulated such tales against Malala.
Being shocked by this irresponsible reporting by an otherwise seasoned journalist, Zia Shahid, I wrote an email to him. What was worse than the absence of any response was the happening of another hate column being published in the same newspaper the next day.
This was deplorable. I wrote an email to the columnist debunking all his lies. But as expected, I received no reply and neither did the newspaper exhibit any sign of responsibility.
Mirza Kashif presents the same lies.
4- Mirza Kashif objects to the phrase in Malala’s book where her father suggested writing a book in response to Rushdie’s controversial novel.
Does hypocrisy not ensue when Mirza Kashif ridicules anyone, let alone her father, for proposing the same reaction that he had to Malala’s book?
Protesting on roads, burning public and state property may temporarily vent one’s emotions, but it brings more harm than good. This is simply an intellectual discourse that inspires the world in our modern age. Malala’s father suggested exactly that.
Take a look below at the book that I have in my library. Will Mirza Kashif like to frame blasphemy charges on these gentlemen as well who wrote and translated this response?
5- Mirza Kashif objects to the starting lines of Malala’s book with a self-contradicting argument:
Mirza Kashif objects to the first line of Malala’s book. He says Pakistan was created on Lailatul Qadr (The Night of Power) and that claiming it was created at midnight is like criticising the creation of the country.
Of course, she was shot after midday, wasn’t she? And doesn’t ‘lail’ itself mean night?
So what is he really objecting to?
6- Mirza Kashif shamelessly compares victims of terrorism:
Mirza Kashif calls the Army Public School students brave while ridiculing Malala for leaving the country. It’s ironic that an individual who hasn’t uttered a single word against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) throughout his media appearances is calling Malala a coward, the same Malala who stood up against the Taliban at the age of nine and later escaped death by inches because of them.
It is actually sickening to witness the manner in which the victims of terrorism are being compared to one another.
Malala was targeted because of her struggles with activism regarding education rights that offended the Taliban. TTP has already threatened to target her again. This is not a matter of bravery or cowardice, but that of wisdom and need for time. Also note that Pakistan’s government and the then army chief were both on board in sending her abroad.
7- Mirza Kashif accuses Malala of badmouthing Pakistan in her interview with Javed Chaudhry:
Again, this is blatant distortion of facts. Malala, during her interview with Javed Chaudhry on March 13, 2014, in fact, defended Pakistan. When Javed Chaudhry questioned her about the negative image of Pakistan circulating internationally, she responded that she would like to inform the world that people of Pakistan promote peace and reject terrorism.
8- Mirza Kashif claims that Malala’s BBC diaries have been ghost written:
He claims that Malala has admitted in her book that it was Abdul Hai Kakar, a BBC correspondent, who wrote the diaries.
This, again, is a distortion of the facts. Malala, in her book, in fact, has written that since she was unable to access the internet, she had to speak to the BBC correspondent on the phone so that he could write her diaries by listening to her.
9- Mirza Kashif accuses Malala’s father of receiving money from General Athar Abbas:
He questions why he received the amount of 1.1 million rupees from the then DG ISPR? The answer is quite clearly provided in Malala’s book, if he ever actually read it he would have known.
10- Mirza Kashif blames Malala’s father of tampering the electricity metre:
It was, in fact, the metre reader who demanded a bribe by fraudulently claiming that the meter was rigged. Like a gentleman, Malala’s father refused.
11- Mirza Kashif questions the right of Malala’s father to demand that Shakeel Afridi should be handed to the US:
12- Mirza Kashif blames Malala of having secretly met with Richard Halbroke:
This again is false. It was just an event organised by UNICEF that was permitted by the government of Pakistan where Halbroke spent some time meeting with human rights activists including Malala. She, in her turn, requested him to help Pakistan in the education sector.
13- Mirza Kashif objects to Malala finding it difficult to get up in the morning:
Malala, in her book, has simply written that (like all kids) she (too) used to find it difficult getting up early in morning. Mirza Kashif, on the other hand, twists her statement and accuses her of speaking against the Azaan call.
14- Mirza Kashif defends Gen Zia’s legislation:
According to the Hudood Law, a woman who has been raped should stay silent if she cannot produce four male witnesses. Otherwise, she will be penalised. It is not difficult to understand that this law by General Ziaul Haq is a man-interpreted law and has been cause for debate. As I understand, the Quran asks for four witnesses, but in an entirely different context. For example, Surah An-Nur asks those to produce four witnesses who question the chastity of a woman. In Surah An-Nisa, four witnesses are required for blaming one of zina (adultery/fornication). Rape is a different case altogether. Asking a rape victim to produce four male witnesses is a travesty of justice.
Malala, in her book, has just made a passing remark on the aftereffects of Zia’s so-called Islamisation. Contrary to the claims of Mirza Kashif, she certainly has not questioned Islam.
15- Mirza Kashif exhibits anger towards the mention of Ahmadis in her book:
Mirza Kashif keeps misrepresenting Malala’s book by distorting the facts. Contrary to his claim that she advocated for them, Ahmadis are mentioned only once in the book and that too as a minority.
16- Mirza Kashif even refuses to acknowledge that the Taliban shot Malala:
Mirza Kashif, along with the host Dr Danish, continued to compare, in a disgusting manner, Malala with the APS students, going as far as to imply that Malala was not even shot.
17- Mirza Kashif misrepresents Malala’s letter to God:
He, once again, tries to incite religious sentiments by calling Malala’s letter to God blasphemous.
This, in truth, is a beautiful letter written by her when she was hardly 9-years-old. She prayed to God to help her make this world perfect.
18- Mirza Kashif speaks against Christina Lamb:
He blames Lamb, co-author of Malala’s book of working for anti-Pakistan agenda. Hold on, and let’s take a look at what she herself has written in the book:
Would Mirza Kashif dare to question the patriotism of men in uniform as well including the then DG ISPR of facilitating an “anti-Pakistan” journalist to visit Pakistan and work on the book?
19- Mirza Kashif believes there are 68-billion dollars in Malala’s bank account:
In remote places, we may find such uneducated people who still believe that the earth is flat. Similarly, Mirza Kashif believes that Malala’s bank account has 68-billion dollars, and Dr Danish presents it as the gospel truth. What’s the source of this ridiculous claim – these two gentlemen don’t care.
20- Mirza Kashif makes fun of Malala’s disfigured face:
After being shot in the head, and going through extensive surgeries, the left side of Malala’s face is now disfigured and she cannot even smile and blink her eyes properly. Mirza Kashif is vicious enough to mock her disfigured face. My ethics and sense of humanity forbid me to elaborate or disclose with whom he physically dared to compare Malala to.
This marks the end of the charges that Mirza Kashif put forward against Malala in his TV appearances on the shows conducted by Ahmed Quraishi and Dr Danish. In both his appearances, he never uttered a single word against the TTP; instead he persistently questioned the religious credentials and patriotism of Malala and her father. Dr Danish, along with two other guests, namely, Fayyaz ul Hassan Chohan (PTI) and Ajmal Wazir (PML-Q), added fuel to fire.
Are there any ethics or a code of conduct that the media follow? This was a one sided propaganda (and that too ungrounded) along with the display of a deep rooted hatred against someone who is not only a national hero but someone that has inspired the world. It is shameful and disheartening to have witnessed such a sham of an interview. A few years back we lost Governor Punjab as a results of a similar kind of hate campaign. While it is appreciated that Pemra has taken notice of this hate speech in Dr Danish’s show, the damage is already done. Like Dr Abdus Salam, second Nobel Laureate is also made controversial.
At the end of the day, such lies hurt the country and any efforts in making education accessible to all. This is what the Taliban wanted as well.
Note: This is the summarised version of the Urdu blog written by the same author and posted here.
All photos: Nayyar Afaq