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Where it all started: ‘A diary that highlighted Swat’s human tragedy’

Published: October 12, 2012

Malala’s diary was an attempt to creatively and objectively portray the situation on ground in Swat. PHOTO: PUBLICITY


Malala Yousafzai was only 11 years of age when she became the “voice of Swat” through her diary entries on the BBC Urdu website.

While Abdul Hai Kakar, the brains behind Malala’s diary, admits that the attack on the 14-year-old was a possibility, he maintains that her blogs played a crucial role in highlighting Swat’s human tragedy.

Kakar, a former BBC Urdu journalist from Peshawar, spoke to The Express Tribune via Skype from Prague, where now he works for Radio Mashal, a Pashto service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).

“I covered the Swat conflict extensively for the BBC and observed that reporting in Pakistani media was clichéd and missed a humanitarian angle,” he said.

Kakar said that Malala’s diary was an attempt to creatively and objectively portray the situation on ground in Swat.

The idea occurred to him when the Taliban outlawed girls’ education in the valley, and he felt finding a local girl who could express her feelings and emotions would be appropriate.

“Girls were victims in Swat’s war and this diary would bring forward their perspective and at the same time document their experiences as first-hand witnesses,” Kakar said.

He approached Malala’s father Ziauddin Yousafzai to find him a girl who would be willing and able write such a diary.

Ziauddin, who runs a school in Swat, told Kakar he had two candidates in mind but their families would not permit them.

Ziauddin then hesitantly asked if his daughter, Malala, who was 11-years-old at the time, would be up for the job. Kakar said that Ziauddin was even willing to let Malala use her real name; however, the BBC was opposed to the idea and used a pen name.

The name Gul Makai – a heroine of Pakhtun folktale – was chosen as an apt pseudonym meant to strike a chord with the local population so they could easily identify with Malala’s blog, he added.

Starting from January 3, 2009, Malala’s diary was published for 10 weeks by BBC Urdu and English. Kakar recalled he would have a conversation with Malala on the phone for 30 minutes every day, during which she would narrated to him what she saw, felt or heard that day.

He said the impact of Malala’s diary was huge, as it was written by a girl at a time when the girls of Swat were being denied their right to education. “It was regarded as the voice of Swat,” he said.

When asked about his reaction to the brutal attack on her Kakar said he had feared the eventuality as whoever tried to talk against the security establishment was chased to their ultimate end.

“I feel really sad for her, as we had developed family relations over time,” he said.

Kakar said not revealing Malala’s identity could have averted the attack. However, her identity was revealed when her name was filed for the International Peace Prize.

It was her father’s decision, not the BBC’s, he reiterated.

Correction: The word diary had been misspelt in an earlier version of this article. The correction has been made.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 12th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (5)

  • Zubair
    Oct 12, 2012 - 10:41AM

    Some people object on the media coverage to Malala. They want to our concerns for unnoticed atrocities to other childrens around and i agree…. But, i think, Malala is not an individual now, its a right, innocence, courage and ideology that is being attacked.


  • Ayaan
    Oct 12, 2012 - 2:16PM

    Thanks to the journalist & publisher for highlighting this account, and providing background to the Gul Makai (Malala’s) diary.

    Not to take anything away from the story or the recent tragedy that has unfolded; but it’s “diary” and NOT “dairy”.

    I can see at least 4 instances of “dairy” in the article itself, plus one in the photo caption.
    ET, please correct the mistake.


  • Mohsin Kamal
    Oct 13, 2012 - 1:44AM

    I dont know whether i should appreciate or critisize the role of media on this matter..they gave too much importance to a single person who was just injured..why? for she was known to the world for her efforts..what about the other millions innocent people who has been killed by drone attacks or taliban?they were not human?they were of no immportance?I dont say that they should not have highlight Malala but they should have do the same on the murder of other innocents,specially due to drone attacks,to force US to stop this bloodshed,as the US does so when one thier men been killed here..its time for the media to understand his role.They should become the voice of pakistan..If they remain silent so there will be no one to take Pakistanis out of this miseries..Recommend

  • shir
    Oct 16, 2012 - 6:28PM

    Mohsin Kamal: you cant talk about every person who died in the media because then you would have to have a special channels just for funeral announcement… and if you chose to talk about people killed in wars why stop there? wern’t all the people killed by car accidents human? and what about people killed by cancer, or a hart attack? do they not cry, do they not laugh, do they not bleed?
    the reason the media made such a big deal about Malala is that she is a symbol, and she swept hundreds of people all around the world with her. she was a symble before she got shot. her blog was not only for her, people read it all around pakistan. it may not mean alot to you and me because as far as i know you don’t speak hindu, but it was popular. and for good reason it is writen quite well, you should give the translated parts a read -


  • Yasir Khan
    Oct 20, 2012 - 1:55AM

    I wonder what innocent Malala will like to do in her future life if she recovers from the present sufferings. This attack should have a very serious impact on her psychy and future life.


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