Why are Baloch ‘Malala’s’ Denied Education?

One wonders why the destiny of Baloch “Malala’s” is denied when it comes to education.

By Zahid Ali Baloch, Fulbright Fellow

Zahid Ali BalochLast year, I was placed in the State University of New York at Plattsburgh as part of Global Undergraduate Exchange Program 2013, sponsored by the States Department. The program was basically aimed to create cultural understanding between the people of Pakistan and the United States.

I was the only Baloch student from Balochistan, a province of southwestern Pakistan, with 100 other recipients of the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program.

In terms of landmass, Balochistan is the largest province of Pakistan covering 44 percent of the country, and it has now become a hotbed of insurgencies, sectarian violence, kidnapping for ransom, extra-judicial murder and a safe heaven for religious thugs. Since 1948, there has been at least five on-and-off insurgencies centered on the provincial autonomy and control of the natural resources.

My preconceived stereotypes of Americans and the United States was doubtlessly true. Very few people in US can locate Balochistan on the map. However, what I figured out was the curiosity of the people in getting to know about others regardless of not knowing them.

Surprisingly, most of the questions I was asked during my stay in Plattsburgh were germane to girls’ educations, mainly onMalala Yousafzai despite the fact that she does not hail from Balochistan. I often answered something like like,

“Malala is a great educational activist, and she should be highly venerated for standing up against the religious zealots. She has done a tremendous job in bringing the attention of International community towards the rights of women’s education in Pakistan. But I am from Balochistan region of Pakistan, and it is free from religious fanaticism, and Baloch society generally discourage any attempt that tend to stop their girls from going to schools. They have great passion in educating their girls, and they want a bright future for them.”

Moreover, it seemed like Malala had completely hijacked our program even when I moved to Seattle, Washington in March 2013. The curiosity of learning about my ancestral place and the right of women’s education has not stopped. One day I was sitting in a cafe on the avenue at the University District Seattle, Washington, and I was frittering my time away by listening to some random Balochi music.

An American lady began to ask me about my country of origin. I replied that I was from the Balochistan region of Pakistan. Without a moment delayed, she began to ask me about the plight of girls’ education and Malala Yousafzai. I was in the belief that the overwhelming majority of Seattleites do not generally care about girls’ education in my region. Since the story of Malala was fresh, they only want to know about the status of women’s education in Pakistan.

I went on and explained to her that Malala is a great torch-bearer of girls education. I truly adore her vision, and she is a great ray of hope for the oppressed females whose basic rights to education is denied. I was also pretty much despondent when I gave her an incongruous answer when I hard the tragic bombing story of Sardar Bahadur Khan Women’s University in Quetta city of Balochistan on June 16, 2013.

It is only the Women University in Balochistan with an enrollment of more than 3,000 thousands female students. I told her that many people asked me this question when I was undertaking my study in the New York State University at Plattsburgh. And, I used to tell them that Baloch people greatly respect the women’s right to education, and they actually do. But it is very unfortunate that today we have lost at least 26 Baloch “Malala’s” in the hand of an underground religious fanatics group.

Shortly after I got to know that Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) claimed the responsibility of the reprehensible attack, and warned to continue such bombing attack in future. LeJ has claimed the responsibility for killing countless Hazara minorities in Quetta.

Hatred against women’s education has dramatically intensified in recent months. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reports that the raise of extremism against women’s education is extremely alarming in Balochistan. The militant groups pose grave threats and send threatening letters and intimidate teachers to stop educating girls.

According to a local newspaper at lest 35 private schools and 30 English Language Centers with an enrollment of 2,500 students were shut down because of the warning they have received from religious extremist groups.

One English Language Center where I was teaching students from my hometown prior to coming to the United States has also been shut down. A close teacher friend said that some masked assailants dropped a threatening letter to the school office in broad daylight. The letter clearly stated that girls’ education is against the Islamic norms, and if they did not follow the rules prescribed in the letter they would face severe consequences.

While recalling my days back in Pakistan, I have never imagined that the contagious disease of the terrorism in Pakistan’s Swat Valley would spread into one of the most secular region of Balochistan. The Baloch parents must be deeply disappointed and concerned about their girls’ future. As a language instructor, I have always experienced love of Baloch parents for their daughters. On every weekend, the parents were in touch with us, and they were trying to know about the progress reports of their daughters.

The international community has given vociferous support in response to the abductions of girls’ students by Boko Haram. Many people have bolstered Malala Yousufzai in her vision in promoting girls education, which is a great symbol of hope and aspiration indeed.

One wonders why the destiny of Baloch “Malala’s” is denied when it comes to education.

Zahid Ali Baloch, a Fulbright Fellow, writes on Pakistan and Baloch issues for The Daily Dawn, The Daily Times and The Baloch Hal ( A newspaper banned by the Pakistani government because it reports on Baloch issues). He can be reached at zahid.sajidi@yahoo.com.



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