by Khadijah Ali (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 53, No. 6, Muharram, 1445)
If readers do not recall who Nabeela is, we would not blame them because most people get their information from the western media. Crescent International readers, however, should know better. Nabeela was eight years old when two hellfire missiles fired from a US drone on October 24, 2012 evening injured the little girl as well as her four siblings.
On the eve of Eid al-Adha, their grandmother, 68-year-old Mamana Bibi was picking okra in the family field for their evening meal. The children were playing nearby eagerly looking forward to celebrating Eid. The youngest child, three-year-old Safdar was on the rooftop of their mud house. He was thrown 10 feet below to the ground. His ribs, arms and legs were fractured.
The US drone strike on the remote village of Ghundi Kala in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal region blew the elderly grandmother to pieces. The family’s three cattle grazing in the field were also killed. The family’s Eid celebrations were turned into mourning.
When the smoke cleared, the children, badly injured, rushed to see their grandmother. Her body parts were widely scattered across the field, according to Nabeela, who herself was injured with shrapnel lodged in her arm and bleeding. They collected her body parts in a cloth and took them inside the house.
By now the children’s father, Rafiqur Rehman, a school teacher had arrived. It is not difficult to imagine his devastation at seeing his mother’s body in pieces and his children badly injured and traumatized. They were rushed to the local hospital in Miranshah but there was no doctor to tend to their wounds.
Their ordeal will be discussed shortly but first let us recall another episode on October 9 in Mingora, Swat Valley. Malala Yousafzai, 15, was riding a bus home from school when a member of the Taliban shot her in the head and face. Two other girls sitting beside her were also shot and injured.
It is safe to assume that few people in Pakistan would remember the names Shazia Ramzan and Kainat Riaz. Shazia followed Malala to England in July 2013 while Kainat joined her three months later at Atlantic College in Wales. Both girls are now nearing completion of their education at Edinburgh University in the healthcare field.
Malala and Nabeela were injured two weeks apart but the world knows a great deal about Malala and virtually nothing about Nabeela. Why? Is Nabeela less worthy of attention and sympathy?
Malala was airlifted for treatment to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in Rawalpindi and then flown to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England for reconstructive surgery. Nabeela’s poor parents were left to fend for themselves, getting whatever little medical treatment they could afford with their meagre resources.
Government-run hospitals in Pakistan are poorly equipped and staffed. Most people, however, are too poor to afford treatment at private hospitals in major cities like Peshawar or Islamabad.
Malala has been showered with international awards and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. She shared it with a 60-year-old Indian lady, Kailash Satyarthi.
Malala was top of the list for the 2014 award, according to a spokesman for the Norwegian committee, surpassing even Pope Francis and Edward Snowden. The west-doting Pakistani elite were naturally on top of the world at hearing this news!
Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie put Malala’s name on her bareback so the world would remember her name. Speaking at a women’s summit in New York on April 5, 2013, Ms. Jolie said: “There was always something special about Malala.” Of course, there was: Malala was and remains the west’s poster child for promoting secular values in deeply religious Muslim societies.
With Angelina Jolie carrying Malala’s name on her bare back, who could ignore it? The Hollywood actress also headed Malala’s charity to promote girls’ education in Pakistan. One wonders how much money, if any, has been donated to this undoubtedly noble cause in Pakistan since 2013?
Malala also has a 276-page book titled I am Malala. It was written for her by Christina Lamb and contains a lot of anti-Islamic material that no doubt pleases the anti-Muslim and Islam-hating west. Has Malala read the book, and if so, whether she agrees with its anti-Islamic content?
She met such international figures as the late Richard Holbrooke (US point man for Afghanistan and Pakistan) who had little or no time for heads of state, then UN Secretary General Ban Ki moon, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown (leading western crusader on her behalf) and former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
President Barack Obama welcomed her to the White House as did Queen Elizabeth II, now deceased, to Buckingham Palace. How many girls or even presidents and prime ministers of Pakistan would get anywhere near Buckingham Palace?
It is not to denigrate Malala’s campaign for girls’ education but her promotion by the west stands in sharp contrast with the treatment of thousands of other Pakistani girls and boys that have suffered much worse fate.
While we will not go into the details of all of them, we cannot help but reflect on the complete dismissal of the other Pakistani girl, Nabeela. What was her crime and that of her grandmother to be attacked by missiles from a US drone?
The children survived because they were some 100 feet away from their grandmother but they all sustained injuries with shrapnel lodged in their tiny bodies. Nabeela, then 8 years old, her sisters Asma, 7 and Naeema, 5 were also injured in the twin blasts.
Their oldest brother Zubair’s injuries were the most severe as were those of three-year-old Safdar. The family had to choose between treating Zubair or Safdar. It decided to get treatment for the older boy because he would become a helping hand for his father sooner than little Safdar.
Zubair required specialist medical care but it cost too much money. The family had to sell its small plot of land and after visiting several medical centres they found one in Peshawar (180 miles away) that was willing to carry out the operation for whatever the family could afford.
Nabeela, with a pretty face and large hazel eyes, has still not received an answer to the question: why her family was targeted. Amnesty International report into the drone attack said some US actions (targeting civilians in Pakistan’s tribal region) constituted war crimes. The White House spokesperson Jay Carney dismissed Amnesty’s report the same day (October 23) insisting US actions were “perfectly legal”. Do US crimes become “legal” because the world’s self-proclaimed superpower carries them out?
On October 29, 2013, Nabeela, her brother Zubair and father Rafiqur Rehman appeared at a congressional hearing in Washington DC. Their appearance was sponsored by Florida Democrat Alan Grayston who opposed US drone strikes in Pakistan.
When Nabeela and her family arrived in Congress, only five members were present to hear her story! Do Obama, Brown or any of the other international celebrities even know her name? She did not get the education that Malala says she is promoting. A Japanese NGO sponsored her education in Peshawar. The US that murdered her grandmother and injured her siblings has not even bothered to tender an apology much less pay any compensation.
The US is not in the business of paying compensation to its victims. That would amount to trillions of dollars. Instead, it murders those that it can in the name of the “war on terror” and kidnaps and incarcerates others in horrific conditions in places like Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere.
Dr Aafia Siddiqui is one of them who has suffered torture, rape and prolonged incarceration in US dungeons. The British-American human rights lawyer, Clive Stafford-Smith continues to fight on behalf of Aafia Siddiqui for her release (see also here).
Unfortunately, successive Pakistani regimes starting with the bounty hunter and dictator Pervez Musharraf and his henchmen have frustrated all attempts so far to get her released. The British journalist Yvonne Ridley is quite blunt. She says she had arranged for Aafia’s release in 2013 in exchange for the American prisoner, Robert “Bowe” Bergdahl held by the Taliban. When the Pakistani intelligence agency, the ISI, got wind of it, they pressured the Taliban to scuttle it.