Journalist, social and human right activist, and a leading female figure within the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement, Laiba Yousafzai interview with the editor of Dawat M. Tariq Bazger
Bazger: If you tell me who is Laiba Yousafzai?
Laiba Yousafzai: I was born in Risalpur district of Pakhtunkhwa, I basically belong to Swabi. I got my BA education from higher education institutions there and received my regular master’s degree in journalism from Peshawar University, I then joined the first Khyber News as a founder and became the first director, producer, script writer, and program anchor. Alongside this, I have also received M.E. English, B.E.D., and human rights. I have also worked as a senior journalist with Radio Free Europe Mashal from Islamabad., as well as BBC Urdu working from Islamabad as the head of flood project. I have worked as Deputy Director Nadira based in Islamabad and Pakhtunkhwa. I then joined the BBC world Service, Pashto department where I continued to work until 2017, and later worked for the Voice of America in the Urdu, Pashto, English, Pakistan, and Afghanistan department. I have written extensively for media as well as online for websites on countless topics. I have done Urdu Pashto news bulletin and women’s programs as an anchor for Pakistan’s national media such as Radio Pakistan, PTV, PTV World. Since 2009, I have been fighting for the rights of oppressed Pakistanis, women, children, and especially poor Afghans on social media. I am a member of the PTM central committee and the founder of Wak movement.
Bazger: You work in several fields, such as women’s rights, children’s rights, Pashtun rights, PTM, and media work. What are you doing now and what are you most busy with?
Laiba Yousafzai: I am Currently busy writing and doing interviews, documentaries, and reports for a news agency in Dubai. Meanwhile as a member of the PTM leadership Committee and Afghan women movement, I am the activist of both movements plus I am working in ” mafkoora” for Pashto language too.
Bazger: Why did you lose your last job? What was the reason?
Laiba Yousafzai: Most of the jobs that I have done would not last for more than 2-3- 4 years. The reason is the establishment of Pakistan, which keeps an eye on us in terms of our job as well as our activities when raising the voice of our people simultaneously. They create obstacles in the way of my progress and has removed me from my jobs on different pretexts. The cause of my removal from my last job was my protest at the Khar Kamar incident rally when I delivered a harsh speech on the occasion to the VOA. The establishment filed hefty accusations against me that ultimately led to my removal from my job.
Bazger: You are fighting for the rights of Pashtuns in meetings, rallies and also through social media and it seems that you do not care about anyone and you are not afraid of anyone. What is the reason for your bravery?
Laiba Yousafzai: Compelling circumstances have turned me into being a courageous person. I have empathy with oppressed people, and I have extreme empathy for my oppressed Afghans. Another reason is my family upbringing, my father’s views, and his impartial stance on male and female child in the family and his constant encouragement and support for the female children in the family that has had amazing impact on my upbringing. He would always say, there is no difference between being a boy and a girl. An educated girl should be braver and stronger. He would give an example that in the past wars, Yousafzai women provided graves for their martyred father and brothers. My father did not like coward people regard less. My father gave us more attention and love than to his male children. I have never felt a sense of inferiority of being a girl in my family. I was treated equal and a like with my male siblings, because of our parents’ high education background. By the way, I was born brave too.
Bazger: In Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan, where most of the residents are Pashtuns, the problem is that they are deprived of their resources and even their own language. What is the reason for this?
Laiba Yousafzai: This country has been created by the British for their ominous goals through shared force and skuldagry, guil and deceipt.They have enslaved a number of ethnic groups including Pashtuns in this country. Here they have been trying to keep them in the dark about their history, culture,language, their heroes and geography.They are being prevented from becoming united among themselves. This has been done through media, through educationl indtitutions sylebus and by the relentless religeous and hostile propagenda campaign launched by the Punjabi military against them in this country in an atemp to renounce their Afghan ethnicity and keep them unaware of their own means, geography, history,culture, their heros and the significance of their mother tongue.
Bazger: What should be done for the Pashtuns to enjoy their rightful rights?
Laiba Yousafzai: The Pashtun on both sides need to come to gether and unite between themselves. To wait and expect foreigners to do something for us is mere a wishful thinking. Foreigners hold Afghans life cheap. Islamic world too is least botherd about our lives.I urge Afghans to support PTMand oter Pashtun movements.we need to protest agaist any wrong doing and the wrong doers. We need to stage uprisals and need to invite the international community to talk to us. We need to explain our Afghanhood, our way of life and tribal affairs. We need to explain to them that we want peace and self determination. We have to set up an Afghan think tank. We will provide educational facilities for our youth. We will send them to Europe and else where abroad for further higher education insuring that they come back home to serve their people after completion of their studies abroad.
Bazger: What is your opinion about the Jirga of Pashtuns and the last Jirga and what was the reason that this Jirga was held in which many Pashtuns were gathered?
Laiba Yousafzai: I have voiced social and tribal Jirgas ( grand asymblies meetings) of the Pashtun political leaders for many years. However After the martydom of Sardar Arif, I shared my article on social media platform caling on my people to come together in a grand asymbly know as Jirga .I said: Start off with holding meetings among yourselves on local level and than on a natinal level and finally on greater national level between the Afghans from both sides of the two main divides. The Afghans need to know about their tribes, their geography, history, culture and language. They need be made aware of the wars that foreigners have brought to us here to this land. They need to unite to withstand these wars. We need to over come our obstacles and find solutions to our problems. There has been a long (45 years old long war) war fought on our soil which has caused great many problems that may not be possible to resolve through one or two Jirgas as they are time consuming.
Bazger: Why is there a lot of religious extremism and terrorism among Pashtuns, and most of the victims of this religious extremism are also Pashtuns? What is the reason for this in your opinion?
Laiba Yousafzai: Pushtuns are religious people from the outset. Any religion that has made its way to this region historically, has been embrassed by the Pashtuns warmly in the course of history. Having said that there has never been any religious exteremism among them. However ever since the emergwence of British in this part of the world, the British and later the Punjabis have started manupolating the Afghans to become ligiously extrem by applying their clever and effective starategic agenda systematicly. After partition of India, and the departure of the British from this region, the Punjabis were handed over the same startegy to apply to the afghans that contiues to date. In order to reach their ominous goal, exploiting their ingnorance and lack of proper religious and contemporary world knowledge and understanding, they have been spreading distorted Islamic idias among the Afghans trying to divert them from the real true path of Islam which is based on peacfulful coexistance to resort to violence, religious hatred and extremism.
Bazger: Last year, the republican system was overthrown in Afghanistan and the Taliban came to power again. What do you think happened when the republic collapsed, and the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan?
Laiba Yousafzai: First of all, it was due to the republican regime itself that failed to emerge strong as it should have been. Economically too it remained weak. Taliban were supported by the US, Punjabis and other, including the Arabs such as Qatar. Sorting out the internal affairs of the Afghanistan was not an easy task either. Another reason was the existence of traitors and imposters within the Republic in plentiful. As a result, Taliban and the Republicans were never become able to sit together for a talk directly. This opportunity was denied to them by the fifth coloums. It is high time now to get rid of this fifth coloum elements, enable themselves to hold talks and convene a Jirga, and resolve their differences by way of a compromise.
Bazger: What is your opinion about the Taliban?
Laiba Yousafzai: Taliban are not alians, they are the sons of Afghanistan. Sometimes in a family you get some members that can be deviated and can o astry by way of enemy’s instigation. Having fought for 45 years, Afghanistan has no appetite and capability to fight yet another war and plunge into violence once again. Among the Taliban’s, there are alot who are willing to resolve their differences with their republican brothers through dialogues and peaceful negotiation in order to find a path to permanent peace in the country. Certain decisions will only bring destruction to the country such as the imposition of ban on female education depriving girls from going to school. Certain Islamic Sharia laws that are not compatible with 21st century’s demands, need to be reviewed by Islamic scholars what is called IJTEHAD in Islamic law, which has been allowed by the prophet of Islam.
Bazger: The Taliban has closed girls’ schools in Afghanistan and has prevented most of them from working.
Laiba Yousafzai: Closing the door of knowledge and work to women is a great disservice to our Afghan people and country. If the female section of the society is kept deprived of education, the country will remain in stone age and its progress will be blocked, both men and women are the two wheels of a locomotive of a society. In the 21st century, both wheels of the locomotive need to function and this is of paramount importance. A country that has spent 45 years in war and violence will have many widows and destitute women who will need to work to make a living. Working women play an important role in both the development of the country and the family income. It is a great injustice to close knowledge and work opportunities to Afghan women. And it will be also an injustice to this country If the Taliban continues to do so.
Bazger: If the situation continues like this and the development, education and work of women and junkies in Afghanistan are prevented, what will be the effect of this work on the future of Afghanistan and the Pashtuns?
Laiba Yousafzai: Innumerable problems will arise in the internal system of the country as a result and the domestic system of the country will suffer. Afghanistan has been already destroyed by continuous wars and with this, the country and the Afghan people will end up in the Stone Age. Progress is a big thing. Afghanistan will never be able to compete with the world. The Taliban will be blamed for this and accountable to the Afghan nation.
Bazger: A large number of Afghans are of the opinion that the regime and the achievements of the past 20 years destroyed the talks and agreements between the US and the Taliban in Doha. Submit by How far do you agree with this opinion?
Laiba Yousafzai: Basically, America, England and other countries have their own goals in this region of Afghanistan. There are countless valuable tools (rare precious elements) in this country. The great powers and the most powerful countries in the region are also thieves and are trying to steal this tool. The second important point is that other countries, especially Asian countries, are more importantly for trade through Afghanistan. There are two big powers in the world, China and Russia, China is ahead because of the economy. And they also try to do business in the Afghanistan region. Afghanistan and Pakhtunkhwa are the trade route in Asia. This is why both America and Europe are ready to impose another proxy war on the soil of Afghanistan and Pakhtunkhwa. Afghanistan and Pakhtunkhwa saw a regime change recently which is all part of the war game, there is no doubt about that.
Bazger: With the return of the Taliban, millions of educated young people left Afghanistan and are still leaving and are fleeing. In your opinion, what will be the effect of the departure of educated people from a country on the future of Afghanistan?
Laiba Yousafzai: Educated youth is the greatest force behind progress and defense of a country. The escape of educated youth from Afghanistan is detrimental and will damage the country tremendously. Because defense and development of the country depends on them. If they flee the country, their country will suffer and dilapidate.
Bazger: Is the war against the rule of the Taliban a solution or a peaceful struggle?
Laiba Yousafzai: War can never be a solution to a problem through wars alone, history is a witness that no matter how long wars have been fought, in the end these waring forces have had to settle their difference through talks and negotiation. Peaceful struggle is the way forward for the Taliban. The educated people and intellectuals of Afghanistan will wage their struggle to the end until the Taliban are forced to agreeing to a peaceful settlement and peaceful negotiation.
Bazger: Can a country like Afghanistan be able to respond to all the needs and demands of Madrasa Taliban, Mullahs, and Neemcha Mullahs, who are basically a fighting group? While they could not reactivate the banking system in their one-year rule, how will they manage the other affairs of the country? While Afghanistan is not a country with nuclear power, greedy and ruthless and located between strong neighbors.
Laiba Yousafzai: A lot of faults lie with the Taliban, I agree. Some of their actions are not acceptable, these people should not interfere in public’s personal jobs. because it is the 21st century, and this is the era of the development of science and technology, therefore people will not be able to tolerate the Taliban for a long time with their such behavior. They can’t stand them under these conditions. The Afghan people who are less educated, the problem is that they still need to meet the Taliban again and again. It is not time for a monarchy or a one-man show. Such governments can never run, the Taliban should take the leadership of a country, then they are political. And the opinion, consent or vote of the people is important in everything. They must refrain from making or imposing such laws that are harmful to the people, it will create conflict among them. They should treat the public with honor.
Taliban should avoid making such laws which violating people’s dignity, their cultures, or norms.
Bazger: In a country where the doors of knowledge and development are closed, how do you think the future of this country will be?
Laiba Yousafzai: Every country needs literate people who are professionals in every branch of life, such as engineers, doctors, experts in different subjects, representatives of schools, colleges, high schools, universities, technical experts in every branch, electricity system. There are thousands of experts in the country, and thousands of experts are needed. In such a situation, Afghanistan is a war-torn country, which is surrounded by geographical hinderance and nuclear-powered countries, Afghanistan needs countless technical experts, not just its own countrymen. Rather, experts in every field should be brought from other countries. There are educated and technical people in the Taliban.
Afghanistan will face further destruction unless the Taliban call the professional people of Afghanistan back to work to develop and run the country’s systems. Soon, Taliban officials will face big problems.
Bazger: What do you hear from inside Afghanistan through your contacts, what people say and what they want? Have you ever talked to the Taliban?
Laiba Yousafzai: Taliban are governing the people not their walls. They will have to win over their hearts and mind as soon as possible and gain international recognition and legitimacy for their government. Failure to do so will fail the Taliban. Thus, their government will not last long. There will be no use crying over spilt milk.
If the doors of education and progress are closed, obviously such a country will never develop. It will be ruined. It can lead to its total disintegration. Afghanistan’s neighboring countries are hostile and so are even Europeans and the Arabs, despite that, Taliban are focusing on Islam only while other Islamic countries are treating Afghanistan with contempt. Afghanistan needs to compete with other countries of the world and need to possess a strong disciplined Army, powerful economy, and strong central government. It must be able to rebuff any attempt of foreign intervention to impose wars on the country. Afghanistan should be able to safeguard its natural wealth/ resources and gain autonomous control of its own trade routes.
Bazger: What do you hear from inside Afghanistan through your contacts, what people say and what they want? Have you ever talked to the Taliban?
Laiba Yousafzai: The people of Afghanistan want to see the doors of their elementary, secondary, and high schools and universities open forever. They want to see Afghan women allowed to work and make progress. The Afghan people hate harsh treatment of the Taliban authorities, they are afraid of their own security, and such governments will never continue if the people are afraid of them. Afghan people want the Taliban and other Afghan political groups to unite by calling a Jirga. The educated people of the Taliban also want to hold a Jirga with their Afghans. They also want to make sure that all educational institution remains open for girls’ enrolment and education in the country. Taliban must lift their ban on female education immediately. Everyone demanded the same when they were talking to me.
Taliban have acknowledged the receipt of several suggestions and advice presented by the people and have acted upon some already and promised to implement the rest soon. They are also ready for forging unity and peace talks with Afghans. Afghans want to be united among themselves.
They are ready for convening a grand assembly known as Jirga. They support peace and reconciliation efforts among the Afghan population so that any divisions and hatred between the people and the Taliban are eliminated. The media must also stop their hostile propaganda campaign against certain members of the Taliban.
Bazger: What is your message especially to Afghans living abroad?
Laiba Yousafzai: First, the Afghan public must unite among themselves, so that to form their own groups. Once this is done successfully, then they must call the Taliban for a Jirga. Because our senior old people have a saying that the third party, the mediators always destroy the house. Don’t bring other countries into your midst. Other countries participation in the Jirga will always bring ruins because they are pursuing their own self- interest. They will never favor peace & development for Afghanistan. So, Afghans should sit down with the Taliban and make a compromise. In the end, no matter how many mistakes have been made on both sides in the past, it will affect all Afghans. Knowledge deficits on either side can then be compensated and the two side can then come more closer to each other than ever. The country will be united, and the third-party imposters will be avoided forever, and you will be more united among yourself. A united population will blossom and prosper.
Bazger: Recently, Afghans in Peshawar, Baluchistan, Sindh and Punjab are being harassed, insulted and treated very badly. What is the reason for this?
Laiba Yousafzai: One of the reasons why Taliban are accused of and demonized is that Taliban’s failure to serve their people successfully and deliver their promises. That is why Afghan nationals are looked down upon abroad. They don’t know that the people and the government in Afghanistan at current junction are at logger heads with each other causing the Taliban’s government to weaken. Moreover, the former regime of the republic too failed to build any good standard hospital to treat their patients in the country. The relation between the two sides of the Pushtun were not amended enough to look after the Afghans crossing over to their side for medical treatment. These affairs were carried out by the Taliban. They also failed to organize and get a solution for the treatment of their population abroad in Iran, Pakistan or Turkeya.
Bazger: As a brave Pashtun journalist, can you tell me what problems Pashtuns are facing in the field of media and what they should do for their strong media?
Laiba Yousafzai: There are a lot of rich business men among the Afghans in Afghanistan and across in Pakistan. Unfortunately the Afghan masses do not realise their plight due to foreign invasions and the choronic instability and violence that they are experiencing. In the 21st century , media is suppose to play a dominating role in serving their communities by mass communication sharing their voices and spraeding awarenessurging people to Stand up for their democratic rights and fight back agaist tyranny and repression. Foreign invasions too are using media lauching propaganda campain in an attemp to cause false delusion and distort historical fact and deny people their historical heritages , history, culture and traditions and in stead impose their own idaes and agenda and ideologies in order to enslave them further. Afghans are the prime victims of such hostile propaganda following several invasions of their homeland by foreign powers. Every upheaval in the country had entailed a fallout and disunity and division along ethnicity, linguistic, political, ideological lines and so on in the country.Such upheavals have cost Afghans dearly losing all their spiritual , intelltlectual and material wealth, leading the country to the brink of total disastar and disintegration. Media can also unite the people and defuse tentions and hostile propagadas and bring ing about cordial and brotherly relations among different ethnic groups of the society for a common, national cause of peace, stability, tranquality and ecnomic developement safeguarding their national wealth, national interest, national teritorial intergrity and both ecnomic and political independence.
Bazger: PTM, which raised the voice of Pashtun rights and woke up the Pashtuns from their deep slumber, pointed out the enemy of Pashtuns. And you are also a leading figure of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement. How do you see the future of PTM?
Laiba Yousafzai: The Pashtun rescue movement PTM has brought a lot of awareness to the Afghan people enabling them to know how they will point out their enemy, how they will highlight its geography, history, culture, heroes, and language and impart their knowledge to the new generation and stand up for their human rights and bring their plight to the attention of the world. Protests, uprisings, jirga, talks, are taking place, so the future of the movement is very clear. With this, Afghans and Pashtuns will unite and rise. Because the power of the people is the power of God. When God makes a people strong enough, they reject slavery, this amounts to creating movements, we have witnessed the fact that human movements have been able to awaken people in many countries to unite and rise against slavery and repression and gain their independence successfully.
Bazger: What is the biggest problem for PTM?
Laiba Yousafzai: The biggest problem among the Pashtuns is the inconsistency among the people, and they are exposed to the hostile propaganda of hypocrisy by the enemy. They need to trust each other rather than suspecting each other. The PTM movement is still very young, and it is not seen its bad days and has not experienced its problems, however it is still growing and expanding. Its slogan is now used by other oppressed communities in Pakistan besides the Pashtuns. With time, the trust of the oppressed is increasing. Only the political leaders need to stand firm. This is the demand of the sincere Afghans. Because this is the way forward to freedom and independence of the people.
Bazger: If you tell me about Mr. Manzoor Pashtun’s struggle, how is his personality in your opinion and what is the difference between him and other Pashtun leaders?
Laiba Yousafzai: Manzoor Pashtun is young, however, he is very knowledgeable. He does everything with prudence and care. His deliberation is rationale. He talks and deliver speeches with reason and are logical. Wherever he goes and whoever he meets, he presents and argue the case of Pashtuns and Afghans explaining to them with examples based on reasons and facts, that is why even Sindhi, Punjabi, Kashmiri people listen to him carefully and become his followers. Manzoor has no fear. He is persistent. He has a lot of patience and reasoning advocating non-violence. There is an old saying, slow and steady win the race. He is a good listener. He is not apposing anyone. He is very friendly and trying to be friends with everyone. He is very respectful of everyone. There is a lot of struggles on his had ahead based on non-violence and his politics are calling for freedom, but he still needs time to gain more trust and confidence. His learning and observation habit are very strong.
The difference between him and other leaders lies in the fact that he listens to everyone carefully and has a lot of respect for everyone. Manzoor also advise his followers not to go against any Pashtun leader, nor any one in politics. He is constantly trying to unite Pashtuns.
Bazger: What is your version for the unity of all Pashtuns and Afghans?
Laiba Yousafzai: Unity is the only way forward for Pashtuns to achieve freedom, independence, progress, and peace. They need to put an end to disunity among themselves. The scholars will have to and must join in, so must the young men and women and decide the solution. Not any single class or section of the society should be excluded. It must engulf all, every laborer, every artist, every branch of people must help each other. They need to be motivated, at present, there is no motivation for hard work, whether it is an artist, craftsmen, carpenter or barber or potter, all these works are worthy of pride. All Afghans are motivated by work. It is important to give respect to human beings and human dignity and the happiness of Afghans.
Bazger: In general, what is the message to all Afghans that every Afghan has a responsibility towards his country and people and what should he do in this sensitive and difficult time?
Laiba Yousafzai: Every Afghan is facing problems nowadays, but everyone is an Afghan, they share the same history, geography, culture, heroes, language, and race. What we need is that they should respect each other and agree. They should also show respect and consensus with their own generation. And in times of trouble, they must join hands and should help each other. For this to achieve, they need to organize themselves in small organizations and communities and fulfill their responsibilities.
Bazger: If I ask a little personal question, what are you busy with and how do you pass your days?
Laiba Yousafzai: Currently, I am the founder of my women’s movement “Wak”, which makes Pashtun women more aware of their political, social, economic, human, and Islamic rights. We will highlight our history, culture, geography, heroes, the same stories and people, and the current situation on the international level, especially the Pashtun Afghan women’s problem. Apart from this, I am fighting through PTM protests and social media. Sometimes also write about Pashtun-Afghan problems for foreign media.
Bazger: What do you think about Dawat Media Center, which has been doing cultural activities in Norway for 34 years? And how can we (Dawat Media Center) provide our media services in a good and efficient way to our citizens inside and outside the country?
Laiba Yousafzai: Dawat Media does its job in a sincere and professional manner. Alongside this, DAWAT is introducing Afghan scholars, political fighters to the Pashtuns and to the Pashtun diaspora abroad highlighting their concerns, problems, and their calls. DAWAT is also trying to connect Afghans across the work and establish a wide networking of the Afghans and Pashtuns prominent making them known to the Afghans. DAWAT is urging Afghan scholars to carry out their research into the Afghan quagmire and plight to find valid and practical solutions. DAWAT help Afghan intellectual for their self-development and help raise their, cultural, social, political, and historical awareness. There is no doubt that DAWAT is vigorously working for the intellectual development of the people. Can you support DAWAT? Afghans living in any country can contact them. The working people inside and outside the country should serve it. And the same applies to international politics. Thank you.
Dawat Media Center administration is very grateful to Mr. Faheem Nazimi for translating Ms. Laiba Yousafzai’s interview from Pashto to English in a very short and narrow time.
Thank you Nazimi Sahib
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