Originally appeared in The News Tribe on 1 st may 2013.
According to a news item Malala Yousafzai, the schoolgirl-turned-icon of Taliban resistance from Pakistan is among the record 259 nominees for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
For all the reasons good or bad reasons, Pakistan is a darling of global media, as it is always full of happenings. Since the attacks on Malala Yousafzai by extremist elements in October 2012 she had become a worldwide phenomenon. From Madonna’s song dedication to world leaders’ magnanimous appreciation, Malala is now a household name across the globe.
The passion for Malala took an interesting turn when number of activists launched online petitions for her Nobel peace prize nomination. This caught eye of main stream media and voice became stronger with thousands of people pouring in to show their support including Gordon Brown, the UN special envoy for education. A large number of Pakistanis mainly influenced by print and electronic media supported this cause and can be called as the first group.
The second group, which mainly took its inspiration from social media, has a different opinion. Initially within Pakistan support for Malala was unanimous .However with the passage of time, confusion took over mainly due to posts and items on social media and as of now, this group has its reservations. Two common arguments by the group include:-
If becoming a victim of terrorism is the criterion than Benazir Bhutto, a leader of global stature also deserves the nomination for Nobel peace prize. She like Malala was shot in the head and unfortunately could not survive.
How about 40,000 plus victims of terrorism in Pakistan including innocent civilians, women and children who died in suicide and other bomb blasts, and can be nominated for a posthumous “Collective Nobel Peace Prize” .
Then there is a third group that does not opposes Malala’s nomination but argues if Malala, than why not Bilqees Edhi, who has been serving the deprived people of Pakistan, including millions of women and children, for decades along with her husband.
Since the possible nominees from Pakistan are all women so let’s dwell deep into the history to identify the relation of Nobel Peace Prize with women.
Nobel Peace Prize was initiated from 1901 onward as per the will of Alfred Nobel, the famous inventor of dynamite in Sweden. Although other prizes of Physics, Chemistry, Medicine and Economics are managed in Sweden, the coveted Nobel Peace prize is decided by a Committee in Norway .Until 2012, a total of 93 peace prizes have been awarded. The award has been given so far to fifteen women. Out of these, Mother Teresa from India (1979), Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma (1991) and Shirin Ebadi of Iran (2003) are more renowned. To date, the youngest Nobel Peace Prize Laureate is also a woman. 32 years old Tawakkol Karman from Yemen co shared it with two others in 2011. She was only 11 days younger than Mairead Corrigan, a lady from Northern Ireland who received the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize.
Every year, the Norwegian Nobel Committee sends out thousands of letters inviting a qualified and select number of people to submit their nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize. The names of the nominees cannot be revealed until 50 years later, but the Nobel Peace Prize committee does reveal the number of nominees each year.
The five members Norwegian Nobel Committee appointed by the Norwegian Parliament is responsible for selecting the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates. A nomination may only be submitted by any person who meets the nomination criteria and the deadline is usually in February. The Nobel committee then shortlists without revealing and in October laureates are chosen.
With this background, a Nobel Prize for Pakistan is fine but who deserves the most? Benazir Bhutto, Mala Yousafzai or Bilqees Edhi remains debateable.
Although awarded on merit yet there are other “subsidiary factors” that influence the selection of a Nobel Peace Prize. The case for Malala Yousafzai is stronger due to multiple reasons. Her cause is more “suitable” to the International community.
Should the most coveted peace prize go on emotion, international support, political suitability or the “objectivity” should play a more pivotal role -no matter what the public perception is. This brings in the key factor of “credibility “of Nobel Peace Prize. Although majority of peace prizes have been universally accepted and lauded particularly that of 1993 awarded to Nelson Mandela and 1991 to Aung San Suu Kyi, over the years fingers has been pointed on few recipients. The impartiality of judges, the Norwegian state involvement and the recipients themselves has been criticized publically. Interestingly Adolf Hitler was nominated for the “Peace Prize” in 1939! The prize of Issac Rabin and Arafat in 1994, the 2009 nomination of President Obama, as well as that of Dr Sheern Abadi of Iran in 2003 have been labeled politically motivated.
A Pakistani Nobel Peace prize is long overdue keeping this nations struggle and sheer determination against violence and terrorism. And not one but three potential candidates, who are all Pakistani women of courage, are the deserving nominees.
However in my humble opinion, Benazir Bhutto was exceptional, hats off to Malala Yousafzai but Bilqees Edhi should be the winner!