Provincial information minister claims ceremony was halted because organizers were trying to use it to get money from the U.S.
A launch ceremony for teenage activist Malala Yousafzai’s book at a university in Peshawar was cancelled after pressure from the provincial government, organizers and officials said Tuesday.
Malala survived a Taliban assassination attempt in Pakistan’s restive northwest in 2012 and has become a global champion for the struggle for all children to go to school. An event to launch her memoir I am Malala at the Area Study Center of Peshawar University on Monday was called off after police refused to provide security, said organizers. She had not been due to attend in person.
“We were forced to cancel it. We were pressurized by provincial ministers and university vice chancellor,” said Sarfaraz Khan, the Area Study Center director. “When I refused to follow this illegal order (to cancel the event) police refused to provide security.” Khan said he received numerous phone calls from two provincial ministers, followed by the university vice-chancellor, registrar and senior police officers.
Provincial information minister Shah Farman confirmed the administration had halted the ceremony. “It is true that we stopped them and there were many reasons for that,” he said. He said the venue was “not suitable” for the launch and accused organizers of using the event as a way to get money from the United States. “It was just to get more U.S. funding,” Farman said.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan leads the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government. In a message posted on Twitter, Khan condemned the cancellation of the book launch: “I am at a loss 2 understand why Malala’s book launch stopped in Peshawar. PTI believes in freedom of speech/debate, not censorship of ideas.”
The book describes Malala’s life under the Taliban’s brutal rule in the Swat valley in the mid-2000s and hints at her ambition to enter Pakistani politics. While it has had a positive reception around the world, reaction to the book inside Pakistan has been mixed. Some private schools banned it from their premises in November due to what they called its “anti-Pakistan and anti-Islam content.”