Vancouver Sun

Taliban’s shadow looms large over peace award

- Haq Nawaz Khan, The Washington Post

MINGORA, Pakistan — No one expected the news from Oslo this time. Last year, supporters of Malala Yousafzai in her native Swat Valley defi ed possible backlash from Taliban- backed militants and organized events to await word on the Nobel Peace Prize, which went to an organizati­on seeking a ban on chemical weapons.

On Friday — just after the second anniversar­y of the gunshots by Taliban militants that changed her life — word raced through Mingora: The 17- year- old Yousafzai was a co- winner of the prize for her global advocacy for education for women and girls.

“I am speechless on awarding Malala with the Nobel,” said Ahmad Shah, 45, an educator and close aide of her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, who ran a public school. “I am happy that now our Swat will be known by Malala’s Nobel Peace Prize and that is more than everything.”

But there is still the shadow of the Pakistani Taliban and its backers in the Swat Valley, a region of stunning beauty and bloody ideologica­l struggles in the tribal areas along the border with Afghanista­n.

Years of offensives by the Pakistani military have signifi cantly loosened the once-tight grip of the Taliban, but militants have shown some signs of resilience with attacks on political figures and other opponents.

“Before militancy, Swat was known for its beauty and education,” said Shah, who runs a private school in Mingora. “And, thanks God, this award will help the revival of education in Swat. This is a huge victory for not only Swat, but Pakistan.”

Not all agree. In the past, some in Mingora have criticized Yousafzai’s worldwide fame as manipulati­on by the West. Threats have prevented Yousafzai from returning home since her recovery.

One girls’ college in Mingora town was named after Yousafzai shortly after the attack, but the students protested that they could be vulnerable to violence. The name was removed.

“Some people are silent as they don’t like her and her father, but others are quiet due to the possible threat from the militants,” said Aftab Ali, a 41- year- old businessma­n.

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