illustrated portrait of Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai

I Am Malala

by Malala Yousafzai

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Chapters 15–16 Summary and Analysis

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Chapter 15

Malala documents her family's wrenching journey out of the Swat Valley. She recounts that those who fled became overnight IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons). Knowing that the journey would be difficult, Malala had been obliged to leave behind her beloved schoolbooks, while her brothers had to abandon their pet chickens. Malala relates that the exodus out of the Swat Valley was the largest exodus in Pashtun history. The Taliban allowed for only one path out of Mingora; all other roads were blocked off. Although many refugees were housed in Mardan and Swabi, Malala tells us that her family made their way to Shangla.

Meanwhile, Malala's father made his way to Peshawar to alert the authorities that the Pakistani army had done little to secure the safety and well-being of IDPs. On their own, Malala, her brothers, and her mother made their way to Karshat, Toor Pekai's village. In Karshat, Malala attended school with her cousins. There, she was considered an anomaly because of her independent ways. As the days progressed, the Pakistani army managed to wrest control of Mingora from the Taliban. Malala recalls that the family eventually reunited in Peshawar and traveled to Islamabad, where they stayed with Shiza Shahid's family. Later, Malala attended a meeting with the American ambassador Richard Holbrook to discuss the raging conflict in Pakistan. Malala sadly recalls that, in the midst of the turmoil, no one remembered her 12th birthday.

Chapter 16

Malala documents her family's return to Mingora. She relates being shocked at the damage inflicted on the city. The Pakistani army and the Taliban appeared to have fought to the death on the streets of Mingora. Malala reports that her home was largely intact and her books unharmed. Her brothers were not as fortunate, however; their pet chickens had starved to death. Meanwhile, the Khushal School survived the conflict, albeit with anti-Taliban slogans written across its walls. Malala recalls fondly that, upon her graduation from Stanford, Shiza Shahid invited twenty-seven girls from the Khushal School to participate in workshops in Islamabad. In Islamabad, Malala was honored to be introduced to Muslim women in various professional settings and to meet Major General Athar Abbas, the Pakistani army's chief spokesman and head of public relations. Although the general did not provide conclusive answers about the army's failed campaigns against the Taliban, he reassured Malala that he was ready to help anyone who needed it. So, when Ziauddin found himself without funds to meet teacher payroll expenses, he applied to the general for aid. Athar Abbas sent 1,100,000 rupees in response, and this allowed Ziauddin to fulfill his obligations.

Malala also shares that she was proud to be elected Madam Speaker at the District Child Assembly in Swat and to work on the Open Minds Pakistan project at the British Institute for War and Peace Reporting. There, she and two classmates learned how to write effective journalistic papers. Meanwhile, the Swat Valley slowly returned to normal, and people celebrated peace festivals with music and dancing, activities once forbidden by the Taliban. The peace did not last long, however. In July 2010, the monsoon rains caused the Indus and Swat rivers to flood the valley; it was one of the worst floods in Pakistani history. While the American and Pakistani armies sent aid, the majority of the aid came from members of Islamic groups, causing people to worry that the Taliban would again return to the valley. Despite the fears, there was every indication that the Taliban had never left. The destruction of more schools, the murder of Christian foreign aid workers, and the assassination...

(This entire section contains 1092 words.)

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of Dr. Mohammad Farooq, Ziauddin's friend, reinforced the fact that the Taliban continued to be an implacable and enduring foe.


In Chapter 15, Malala tells us that her family became IDPs on May 5, 2009. The rise in IDPs began in 2004 and peaked in 2009. Much of the movement of IDPs across Pakistan constituted population shifts from the FATA and Swat district to the Shangla District. By 2015, IDPs numbered 1.8 million; the majority made living arrangements among host communities, while a minority found shelter in one of three IDP camps in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province: Jalozai, New Durrani, and Togh Sarai. Families like Malala's were fortunate to be welcomed by family members living in the Shangla District. Pakistan's IDP problem stemmed from sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shias as well as prolonged warfare between the Pakistani army and the Taliban.

In this chapter, Malala laments the government's disinterest in the plight of IDPs. Today, state officials continue to show a callous disregard for IDPs who struggle to obtain the necessary IDP identification cards that will allow them access to tents, monthly rations, and cash reimbursements. As in past crises, militants have exploited the government's disinterest in civilian welfare for its own gains; extremist groups are now the first source of aid for many IDPs. This sets up a very dangerous situation: those who have no host families to live with must rely on extremist groups like the Jamaatud Dawa (JuD; formerly Lashkar-e-Taiba) to help them navigate life in an IDP camp. Subsequently, grateful IDPs who pledge loyalty to these extremist groups increase the ranks of militants who will fight the Pakistani army. This chapter reinforces the need for the Pakistani government to acknowledge its deficiencies in its war against extremism.

In Chapter 16, Malala documents the army's inability to eradicate the Taliban threat. Instead of concrete evidence pointing to a clear victory, civilians had to rely on rumors to sustain their hopes. Again, we see the theme of compromised agenda at play: throughout the book, the Pakistani army's conflicting public stances and policies speak of its double-minded resolve. As a strategy, the Pakistani army must rely on militant groups like the Taliban and JuD to keep the Indian military at bay. Key points of conflict between India and Pakistan include India's energy alliance with Iran (which threatens Pakistan's position in Central Asia) and Pakistan's control over PoK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir), which marginalizes India politically. Thus, it is clear that the Pakistani army and ISI are dependent on extremist groups in Pakistan/Afghanistan to push back against the Indian military. Additionally, increased Indian influence in Afghanistan is fueling Pakistan's fears that the Indian/Afghan alliance poses an inevitable political and social threat. Yet, groups like JuD and the Taliban are notoriously fickle in allegiances; while they appreciate government largesse, they will never acknowledge the Pakistani army's precedence in religious and political matters. So, the Pakistani government's compromised agenda is a main reason for its inability to root out extremism within its borders.


Chapters 13–14 Summary and Analysis


Chapters 17–18 Summary and Analysis