Officials in northwest Pakistan have forced the cancellation of a ceremony to launch world famous education campaigner Malala Yousufzai’s book in Peshawar.
The memoir I am Malala was scheduled to be launched at the University of Peshawar on Tuesday by the Bacha Khan Education Foundation, Strengthening Participatory Organization and Area Study Centre (ASC). A late intervention by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government and police led to its cancellation.
Professor Dr Sarfraz, director of the ASC, said that he was pressured by the university vice-chancellor.
“Police teams were sent to my residence and a senior police official also called me to cancel the event… The vice chancellor of the university was also pressured,” he alleged.
“Not only I was upset at this treatment, it also caused a lot of physical stress on my health,” he said.
Government spokesman Shah Farman defended the decision, saying that the Area Study Center, which was situated inside the university’s premises, was not a proper venue for the book’s launch.
“The ASC’s objective is to conduct research on Southwest Asia and Central Asia. Neither does this book have anything to do with the ASC’s curricula nor has Malala personally studied at this institution,” explained Farman.
Years of expanding insurgency in Kyber Province has made it one of Pakistan’s most deadly regions.
Khadim Hussain, the head of the Bacha Khan Education Trust, a local charity which was supporting the launch ceremony, said the event was cancelled to appease militants.
"They stopped us to please Taliban. We will soon announce another date for the book launching," Hussain told an AFP reporter.
Meanwhile Imran Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Justice Party (PTI), which is leading a coalition government in the province, appeared to distance himself from the controversy.
In a message on Twitter, Khan said: “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.”
Malala, who is known for advocating for rights to education and for women, was shot in the head by Taliban militants in 2012, but survived.
Pakistan: Police deployed to protect church, minority residents.