October 24th, 2012
10:56 AM ET

Pakistan on the cusp of change?

By CNN Global Public Square

For more “What in the World,” watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS" on Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET

Earlier this month, the Pakistani Taliban opened fire on a school bus. Two girls were shot. At first, it seemed a familiar story. The Taliban, after all, has bombed hundreds of schools, especially those for girls.

But here's what's new: Mass protests ensued against the Taliban, and in favor of women. That's startling and refreshing in Pakistan.

This past week, thousands of demonstrators thronged to the streets to protest the Taliban's brutality towards women. They're rallying around one person, 14-year-old Malala Yousufzai. Malala was one of the girls who was shot on that school bus. She was not an accidental target. The Taliban directly sought her out and shot her in the head. They wanted to kill not only Malala, but what she stood for. Here's why:

"I will show them the Koran, what Koran says. Koran didn't say that girls are not allowed to go to school"

Malala exposed the lie of Islamic extremists – and they were willing to kill her for it.

But she survived, and so has her argument. Her courage in taking on the Taliban has inspired moderate Pakistanis.

We've been waiting for this kind of moment for a while. What will it take for moderate Pakistanis to unite against extremism? For years now, fundamentalist groups have tried to turn Pakistan into a theocracy. They've scared girls into forgoing school, they've repressed women, they've pushed for draconian interpretations of Pakistan's blasphemy law. But where was the pushback? Just last year, when a state governor, Salman Taseer, spoke out against the misuse of the blasphemy law, he was gunned down. Outside the court, his killer was greeted with rose petals. Where was the public outcry?

Perhaps the last time we saw sustained public anger against the Taliban was three years ago, when a video of a woman being flogged circulated on the internet and on Pakistani TV. That moment led to mass support for military action against the Taliban.

So perhaps the tide is turning once again. Pakistanis often blame the West for their problems, protesting against America, against drone strikes, or even against YouTube. But the real enemy lies within. And it took a 14-year-old girl to bring that to people's attention.

Pakistan's youth literacy rate is only 71 percent; take South Asia as a whole and that number rises to 80 percent; it rises to 90 percent when you take the whole world into account. Girls fare especially badly in Pakistan. There are only 79 Pakistani schoolgirls for every 100 schoolboys. In South Asia that number is 95, and in the whole world it’s 97.

But you don't need a World Bank database to spot these trends. Just ask any schoolgirl in Pakistan.

Women are often seen as the stealth reformers of Islam. As they press for their rights, it will force a more liberal and flexible interpretation of the religion. And while politicians have been cowardly and hesitant, a 14-year-old girl has led the charge. Here's wishing her a complete recovery, so she can get back in the fight for her country and her religion.

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Topics: Pakistan • Taliban • What in the World? • Women • Youth

soundoff (628 Responses)
  1. krm1007 ©™

    We also remain extremely appalled and highly concerned about the continued medieval cultural and barbaric social practices prevalent in the name of Hinduism in India. Much to our chagrin, the human rights organizations are either turning a blind eye towards these injustices or are being paid off to look the other way. We are particularly aware of the victims of such practices, namely, young children and women especially those women who are pregnant and are bearing a female embryo. They are being mistreated or simply sacrificed in the name of their deities. To the civilized world such atrocious behavior is repulsive and is condemned in the strongest words. We urge the Indian Hindus to immediately cease and desist from such unacceptable norms. To them we say the world is watching and will see to it that justice prevails.

    October 27, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Reply
  2. krm1007 ©™

    The Pakistani and American people and congress recognize the symbolism and good will that Malala has created and desire to recognize her with a medal besides all the support they can garner. Malala's legacy has just begun. It is singular people like Malala who stand up to and bring down terrorism, hate and malice and bring changes to the world for the good. To our Indian brethren we say seize the opportunity and learn from it and change for the better. It is never too late. Shed your fabric of hate and negativity and medievalism and inculcate in yourselves the very essence of Islam and other religions of god that Malala stands for. Adopt a posture of positivity and non interference with your neighbors. Move forward with this changing world and pull your people out of poverty and struggle for existence quagmire that your people are stuck in. Let us help you help yourself

    October 27, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Reply
  3. tim wood

    good analysis from zakria though he is indian but i think still he does good job. home land has many dirty indians but zakria sounds logical. pakistani are comparatively neat and clean people we should stay away from dirty indians and support pakistan instead of rat eating indains.

    October 27, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Reply
  4. .

    Fareed Zakaria hasn't been right on anything yet. He's trying to hard to be the next Tom Friedman, but he just doesn't have the brains.

    Not that Friedman is that smart, either.

    October 27, 2012 at 8:03 pm | Reply
  5. Brad

    In response to Shak

    Turkey is hardly an example of a Western style democracy. Christians are oppressed in Turkey; they can't even get permits to repair a church. Turkey is in much better shape than Pakistan. You can thank the aggressive campaign of secularism that Attaurk imposed; he hated Islam and recognized that Islam was ignorant and would retard Turkey's progress. We'll see how long it takes for the Islamist's that run Turkey now to roll back the advances that were made in the past.

    October 27, 2012 at 10:54 pm | Reply
  6. Rosstrex

    Why oH Why CNN do you constantly appease Muslims? Why the constant never ending propaganda designed to make us all believe that Islam is somehow reform-able and not simply what it is: A cult designed by a warlord to get what he wanted, followers that would kill and die for him.

    October 27, 2012 at 10:59 pm | Reply
  7. Iman Beyg

    I fail to comprehend who exactly is the enemy within. There are internal issues, but there are many external issues influenced from western countries. There is another perspective to acknowledge. Many of the people in Pakistan live in poverty, how do you expect them to rise and start engaging in battle against the Taliban. Protests will only bring trivial change. Unfortunately the mass is not educated enough to put one of intelligence in power.
    As far as the biased comments I have read above, ignorance has created your hatred between other religions. Please go and educate yourselves and then look at your own background before insulting others.

    October 28, 2012 at 4:42 am | Reply
  8. Habib

    I donot know the real story. One thing is clear that " the one who demands justice must come with clean hands". The reality is that thousands of other victims have been ignored and Malala is taken up...why? This has made doubt in the majority of Pakistanis.Goody bye

    October 28, 2012 at 10:27 am | Reply
  9. human

    How long you guyz will divide the Mankind in name of religion, region country sub sec in religion.... You do all this for personal gain ....in some country you say to shia that sunni is dominating you ... n make them fight against sunni and in some country you tell shia is dominating you and make them kill sunni.. where all sunni r their you tell they r moderate to fight with extremist etc..
    How long you guys will take to think beyond religion and consider human as human and care for their life...still 21 century will not make you human...just to defame Islam which only preach unity and luv for entire mankind... few vested interest are making this smear campaing on regular basis which is well recorded by all. Do remeber you cannot luv your creator until and unless you luv and respect god creations

    October 28, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Reply
  10. Reprinted With Permission ©

    Tragically, in India people are dying of hunger. Why are low caste poor Hindus prohibited from eating beef? People stop their cars, sit for hours waiting for a cow to clear the roadway, thinking it to be sacred. In India cow meat is cheaper than other available meats. Instead of these Brahmins taking care of the low caste peoples of India, they are doing their best to save their "holy" cows instead. This is evil. According to Valmith's Ramayana, God Rama "ATE" meat. So then "why" have these Brahmins given up beef-eating? It's hypocrisy within their own religion.

    October 28, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Reply
    • Eric H.

      Because the mainstream Hindus, with the aid of the more militant pan-Hindus, have done a great job at insulating their faith from the same winds of change that brought forth radical revisions in nearly every other world religion. The real question is why don't the lower castes take some initiative and do whatever necessary to improve their own situation?

      October 28, 2012 at 7:52 pm | Reply
    • Michael M

      I continue to read with interest the thesis presented on CNN that India is “Too Big To Succeed” in a socio-politico context. Although experts use this in an economic sense, its geo-political connotations are indeed powerful. Empowering subjugated minorities in India by splitting it into smaller states would trigger uber economic demand for western nations who have given so much financial and technology aid to India with no return to show for the investment. I concur with this approach and find the premise to be on solid footing. Central Asian States (CAS) are a case in point on this successful approach. We need to understand that India has an unmanageable large population mired in poverty and we are spinning our wheels trying to feed it. It is also too big of a geographical unit to govern and for democracy to take traction.

      October 29, 2012 at 9:57 am | Reply
  11. Jason

    What about the rights of non-Muslims in Islamist states, Mr. Zakaria? Do you wish for them all to disappear?

    October 28, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Reply
  12. Stop hinduism, lies.

    Expect nothing better but mayhem among humanity by following of hinduism, denial of truth absolute, Allah, and following of hindu pagan Mithra ism, savior ism, neither commanded, nor allowed in Islam as a religion, but Theen Allah, consti tution of truth absolute. Foundation of American consti tution.
    hindu Mithra ism, savior ism invented little over 100 years after Sydana Mohammad pbh by tribes of Kujar of north Africa and imposition as Fatmid Khalaphit by force by denial of Hidth and Quran, justified by hindu Judaism, pagan secularism to impose hinduism, racism by hindu, fabricated relationship with Family of Syadana Mohammad pbh to justify existence of hindu criminal Kings, a violation of fundamental commandment, human equality under the LA. truth absolute Allah. Cause of conflict among Muslim's and cause of down fall of Muslim's and Islam in Spain.

    Sunisim, invented by Turk's by corruption of Quran and hidth to justify existence of hindu King's as Khalipha, after death of Ruler Mohammad, but later renamed, Mehmmat, wisdom of spirit of truth by siblings from his Armenian wife, follower of hindu pagan Mithra ism, savior ism in 13th century.

    Christianity, invented by hinduism,. corruption of truth absolute by hindu Pharisees, pagan self centered, follower of hindu filthy pig ism by corrupted Torah, known as Greek Torah, translated and commented by Ben Asheer in 250 AD in Yiddish, secularist, self centered language, also known as Old Testament, part of book of Mithra ism labeled as Bible. A way to justify hindu criminal Kings and self proclaimed Prophets, fortune tellers as god's to rule over humanity.

    JUDAISM, Self center ism, pig ism, or Atheism, invented by hindu's pagan's of Egypt by corruption of truth absolute in Torah to Justify hindu pagan Pharaoh's and their hindu pagan Santans, goons as god's to rule over humanity with impunity.


    October 28, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Reply
  13. Casper

    Every one knows the character of Fareed Zakria. Plagiarism is one and being an Indian tout, he is always chasing Pakistan and never talked bad about his own country India . The hunger and miserable condition of Indian people never discussed by him. I was in India and shocked to see how vast is the difference between poor and rich. More over India is the only country in South Asia who had problems with all its neighbors. Staring from Pakistan, China, Sirilanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhotan, which country did not have regional (including wars) and Geo political issues with India. Pakistan is mostly a corrupt country and its current leaders( Mullas and politicians) just want to have fill their pockets. We can' t blame every thing on Pakistan, It is an open secret that who sponsored all these Jihadi networks in Pak Afghan areas starting in early 80's and when the desired results were furnished Pakistan was left behind to deal with the Afghan mess. It is easy to criticize but we all need to read history before pointing finger towards Pakistan for the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    October 28, 2012 at 7:27 pm | Reply
    • RON

      Pakistan keep sending terrorists into India and you say India should not have problems with Pakistan. Pakistan started all wars against India and still India should not have problems with Pakistan. Bangladesh people infiltrate into India either for some terrorism or illegal entry and India should not have problems with Bangladesh. China has border issues with India. China occupied India's land in 1962 and you say India should not problems with China. I can discuss about other countries. There is no smoke without fire. If Pakistan is stable and does not interfere with India, India does not have any business with Pakistan. Instead of throwing blame on every other thing, introspect and worry about your own country

      October 29, 2012 at 4:42 am | Reply
      • DON

        We now need to focus on India. The American invasion of Afghanistan brought to the forefront the irrelevance of India as a nation. With a population of over 1.2 billion people there was no value that this nation could bring to the table. Their soldiers (ragtag) 1.2 million continue hiding in the trenches scared from Talibans. A few teenage Talibans invaded the country and held it hostage for days on end showing how useless India is. It was embarrasing for the world to observe this humiliation of a nation that was being touted as a regional power.

        October 29, 2012 at 9:56 am |
  14. Casper

    Sorry for got to add Mauritius and Maldives in the list of neighboring countries where Indian interference is highly objectionable.

    October 28, 2012 at 7:38 pm | Reply
    • Casey

      Gentlemen, you will find the postings of @krm1007 below very interesting. Also, please Myanmar in your mix where India has now started meddling also.

      October 29, 2012 at 10:04 am | Reply
  15. Zahid

    Mr. Casper Mauritius and Maldives are also in the list of neighboring countries where Indian interference is highly objectionable. Being from Maldives I know how much Indians are interfering in our internal matters. Mr. Zaqkria would you like to put some light on Indian role in its neighboring countries including Afghanistan which even don't have border with India.

    October 28, 2012 at 7:44 pm | Reply
    • Casey

      @Zahid.....you will find the postings of @krm1007 below very interesting. Also, please add Myanmar in your mix where India has now started meddling also.

      October 29, 2012 at 10:05 am | Reply
  16. Eric H.

    Every time I see Fareed Zakaria I think of the "KALI-MAH" dude from the second Indiana Jones film.

    I felt that needed to be said...

    October 28, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Reply
  17. rehabmax

    Don't hold your breath about this one. Pakistan is a cesspool. One drop of chlorine doesn't clean it up.

    October 28, 2012 at 9:01 pm | Reply
    • Sherri

      LOLZZZ.... sounds like ganges river in India where people bathe and excrete !!! I was there last week. What a filth India is.

      October 29, 2012 at 9:50 am | Reply
  18. Naeem

    Mr Farad

    you are internally full of farad.
    you are writing such article intentionally.

    October 29, 2012 at 6:24 am | Reply
  19. Phoenix

    Some of the People commenting here obviously are not part of Mankind with a sound mind. Can't differentiate between them and the atrocities of violent extremist muslims. Seems like some of you have to insult violently, be rude in order to feel they have a worthwhile comment.

    October 29, 2012 at 7:22 am | Reply
  20. jonp

    I am curious. Where did zakaria steal these ideas from?

    October 29, 2012 at 9:45 am | Reply
  21. krm1007 ©™

    In repsonse to those Indians who hide behind secular names, let me say this. India has become a dinosaur. A Smithsonian specimen. Like humpty dumpty even USA, NATO and the entire free world are having a tough time holding it together. Living in the shadows of Pakistan, defined by China, haunted by Kashmir and punctuated by Terror Organizations such as Shiv Sena, India is struggling to find a meaning for its existence and a place in the new world order. How can it stand up? Certainly not on its feet .....perhaps on its knees to seek redemption for double crossing USA in Afghanistan and Iran.

    October 29, 2012 at 9:54 am | Reply
    • Pedro

      Well said. Your views are much appreciated and very balanced. I fully agree with your analysis and viewpoint.

      October 29, 2012 at 10:32 am | Reply
  22. krm1007 ©™

    “I see skies of blue..... clouds of white
    Bright blessed days....dark sacred nights
    And I think to myself .....what a wonderful world.

    But when I look to the east or west… I see Indian Hindus and a medieval cultural sight
    And in the neighborhood… doom and blight
    And I say to myself what a miserable world….
    But what a wonderful world it could be if India was sliced, diced and whirled.
    And I say to myself indeed that would be a wonderful world… what a wonderful world !”

    October 29, 2012 at 10:02 am | Reply
    • Robert Beauchamp_West Virginia

      India is a bully and a bad influence in the region. It cannot lead. Need to cut it up into smaller pieces. That is the only way to peace in the region and the world. That is my honest assessment and I have lived and travelled in the region extensively since WW2.

      October 29, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Reply
  23. St. Charles au Pierre

    I see billions of downtrodden
    Rotting in the bowels of India
    I see nothing but despair in their eyes and soul
    And I say to myself .. turn india into a dust bowl.

    October 29, 2012 at 10:35 am | Reply
    • St. Charles au Pierre

      The above comment was in response to @krm1007"s posting. Pardon moi .

      October 29, 2012 at 10:37 am | Reply
    • Robert Beauchamp_West Virginia

      If you can't fix 'em....break 'em up. Not complicated at all.

      October 29, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Reply
  24. TaliBanned

    Malala is no reformer nor is she an activist. Her father has put her up to it all and should be ashamed as well as charged with child endangerment. If he wants to play activist, go ahead, but he should leave Malala out of it. Don't hide behind her innocence. You only get one chance at a childhood and her father has effectively ripped that away from her. He lamented that she almost died. Well now she's brain damaged and he wants to continue the abuse or have her eventually killed by taking her back to Pakistan? He really is no better than the Taliban – he is doing the same thing, recruiting others for his dirty work. He needs to step up to the plate and be a REAL dad and start protecting her instead of placing her in harm's way.

    October 29, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Reply
    • Pundit Hari Lal Gandoo

      Ram,,,Ram...Ram...Child such things can only happen in Bharat aka India. Now listen to this.

      In Devadasi system in India young girls are sold to s@x slavery to older rich men when they are infants

      Also, in some Haryana villages in India, the young girls are routinely threatened, abused and killed all under Khap (tribe/clan) verdicts. It is acceptable for the families to feed pesticide pills to the teenage girls and then dispose off their bodies by burning them without any police records.

      October 29, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Reply
      • TaliBanned

        India...Pakistan – two sides of the same coin!

        October 29, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  25. Jason Telly

    How ironic a reporter like you with no integrity who was caught stealing content of other writers is commiting on a story of a person of such integrity as this young brave girl. What a contradiction!!!!

    October 29, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Reply
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