Malala tells us how she learned to live a principled life. When she was seven, Malala suspected that a younger playmate, Safina, had stolen her pink toy mobile phone. In retaliation, Malala stole some of Safina's toy jewelry. After her parents found out, Malala was left devastated by their disappointment in her. Malala reports that she stopped stealing after that, and to this day, she wears no jewelry. Malala relates that Ziauddin was a great comfort to her during that time; it was he who taught her that learning from one's mistakes is the key to personal growth. Malala's appreciation for this lesson leads her to question the Pashtunwali code of vengeance for every wrong committed. She tells us that the rush to restore nang (honor) in disputes often led to bloodshed and senseless deaths in her Pashtun community. Malala reiterates the importance of living a principled life, and she condemns the corrupt practices of politicians in Pakistan. She tells us that Pakistan has had four military dictators. During her childhood years, General Pervez Musharraf became the fourth. General Musharraf continued the old feudal system that concentrated wealth in the hands of a few, and he filled his cabinet with members of this elite community.
In this chapter we learn how the Khushal School grew to eight hundred students under Ziauddin's capable leadership. Malala relates that despite their financial struggles, Ziauddin's compassion led him to provide free education to more than one hundred pupils. Her mother, Toor Pekai, frequently fed hungry children at their home and often convinced Ziauddin to provide free schooling to children who had to sell trash to provide for their families. To further champion the cause of the "children of the rubbish mountain," Ziauddin teamed up with Azaday Khan, an affluent philanthropist, to produce pamphlets that educated the community about them. Malala states that her father was not afraid to advocate for important but controversial causes: he spoke out about government corruption, fought for education for every child, and set up a "Global Peace Council" to protect Swat Valley's environment. As time progressed, Malala tells us, the aftermath of September 11 put Pakistan in favor with the Americans and the British. The Western powers came to depend on General Musharraf’s aid in their hunt for Osama bin Laden and their fight against the Taliban. Meanwhile, the general's ISI (Pakistan's intelligence services) continued to align itself with the Taliban while claiming to support the war against the terror group. Malala relates that Musharraf enriched himself at American expense while denying his poverty-stricken people aid.
In Chapter 5, we see how unusual Malala's childhood years were. Due to Ziauddin's influence, Malala received a broad education and was exposed to the philosophies of world leaders and influential historical figures like Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, who is often referred to as the “Muslim Gandhi” or the “Frontier Gandhi.” Like Ziauddin, Khan advocated universal literacy and rejected strict class hierarchies. In the 1930s, Khan founded the Pashtun Khudai Khidmatgar (Servants of God) movement; his soldiers were called Red Shirts. Khan's soldiers were pledged to nonviolence, and their main goals were to serve humanity, to promote universal education, and to abolish Pashtun blood feuds. The Khudai Khidmatgar also practiced nonviolence as a form of opposition to the British government. Khan was not in favor of the Partition of India, and he deeply supported Mahatma Gandhi's vision of a free, independent, and harmonious India. Despite his detractors, Khan envisioned a prosperous India shared by both Hindus and Muslims. Although he did not realize...
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his dream in his lifetime, his ideals continue to live on. It is noteworthy that Ziauddin's life philosophy closely mirrors Khan’s and Gandhi's. The mention of these influential figures reinforces how crucial Malala's early education was in forming the basis for her progressive beliefs.
In Chapter 6, we learn how ingrained the idea of class hierarchy is in Pakistan. Wealthy parents often pulled their children out of the Khushal School when they learned that Ziauddin also admitted children from the lower classes. The class hierarchy was not the only challenge facing Malala's Pashtun community, however. The people's beliefs often left them at the mercy of extremist clerics and corrupt tribal leaders. For example, many Pashtun clerics interpreted September 11 as a Jewish-American effort to make war on the Muslim world. The clerics and tribal leaders encouraged the people to adopt the Taliban's skewed perspective of world events. When Maulana Sufi Mohammad, the founder of Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Sharia-e-Mohammadi (TNSM), issued a fatwa against the US after September 11, almost twelve thousand young men from the Swat Valley signed up to fight for the Taliban. As a result, many were killed. In Pakistan, tribal councils can also order honor killings. To date, more than 90 percent of Pakistani honor killing victims are young women between the ages of seventeen and thirty-five. Thus, Ziauddin's campaign for universal literacy and women's rights demonstrates his commitment to breaking the hold of extremist clerics on his people.