Prior to the award announcement, no one I spoke with at the Norwegian Nobel Institute expected Malala to be the winner. Nonetheless, the disappointment was so apparent in the air when the official announcement was made. It seemed as if everyone had secretly hoped for a miracle, that despite all, the committee will pick Malala. But this did not happen.
‘What heritage do you have,” asked the foreign journalist who was sitting next to me, in quite a politically correct fashion. We had a few hours left before the Nobel Peace Prize winner for 2013 would be announced. I had arrived three hours in advance of the announcement. An early bird would not only secure a nice spot for the video camera but also could chat with Geir Lundestad, the Director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute. Lundestad would appear in the announcement hall from time to time and many journalists would make desperate attempts to make him spit out something that could help them to infer who was going to be the winner.
‘I have my origins in Pakistan,” I replied to the fellow journalist. ”Ahh, Pakistan! Do you think Malala is going to be the winner,” he out rightly threw the question at me. The fact that Malala and I both share somewhat the same origin has left me in a dilemma: whether to be proud of Malala or be ashamed of what happened to her in the country of my origin. The monologue continued in my head as he asked me the question. ”What do you think,” I threw the question back at him. It was the safest thing to do. ”Well, I don’t think so. But she would make a great peace prize laureate.” said the fellow in a plane voice.
Then I came across a local journalist. ”I really don’t think Malala will win the peace prize. She is too young. But she definitely deserves the award,” said the young lady smilingly.
The news had leaked about two hours or so prior to the planned time for announcement that OPCW was the winner. There was a sense of disbelief in the ambiance after NRK broke the news about the leak. ”It would be such a boring decision,” said another local journalist. ”But if NRK has broken the news, this must be true,” he said with a disappointed look on his face.
And finally came the moment of truth. This was indeed OPCW. There was no clapping, no cheerful screams, no joy and no fun. Thorbjoern Jagland’s voice echoed in the hall with almost no response from the audience. So, it was a boring decision after all. Or so it was perceived.
During the press conference, a journalist confronted Jagland with kind of a question as direct as it could be. ”Why Malala did not get the prize,” asked the journalist. ”We never discuss individuals who did not get the prize,” replied Jagland. ”Was it her age,” the journalist insisted. Jagland spent the next five minutes or so explaining and justifying the decision and that it was not the age factor due to which Malala did not get the prize. He really did not have to do that. But he did. Nevertheless, he had to make it clear that it is not the media hype that decided the winner but the committee’s own principles and guidelines.
”A peace prize is no good prize if it does not spark a debate,” Jagland had said in an interview published in the local Norwegian media in the morning of the same day the award was to be announced. Much can be said about the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s decisions in recent years and the reputation the prize itself has started to develop. Few would agree that the award to President Obama was the best decision ever made by the committee.
The peace prize probably is overrated given the list of controversial peace prize laureates. But this too is true that from time to time some of those also get the award who actually have contributed substantially for the betterment of humanity and who are by no means controversial. Who would argue about Mother Teresa and Wangari Maathai winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Peace in the 21st century can mean many things other than stopping wars.
Now, when it comes to Malala, she is determined to achieve what she had set out to do at an age as tender as 14. Whether she deserved it or not, the prize comes not only with fame and money but also obligations, probably too heavy for Malala who has not even reached the age of suffrage according to Pakistani law. She is just 16. It is said that Mr. Yousafzai had named his daughter after Malala, the brave Pashtun girl who had fought against the British troops in Afghanistan in the late nineteenth century. Malala Yousafzai seems to have something special – sort of a charisma tied to her age, the Pashtun origin and the determined look. No doubt she has become the apple of everyone’s eye – well, with the exception of the Taliban and Taliban sympathisers, and the conspiracy theorists and their followers. Regardless, most pakistanis seem to be proud of Malala and had hoped for her to win the Nobel Peace Prize. It was really the hottest theme in the Pakistani media last week.
Prior to the award announcement, no one I spoke with at the Norwegian Nobel Institue expected Malala to be the winner. Nonetheless, the disappointment was so apparent in the air when the official announcement was made. It seemed as if everyone had secretly hoped for a miracle, that despite all, the committee will pick Malala. But this did not happen.
Jagland later told Associated Press that Malala was a deserving candidate. “She is an outstanding woman and I think she has a bright future and she will probably be a nominee next year or the year after that,” he said.
So, Malala’s fans have enough reasons to have hopes for her to win the Prize one day. And that day may not be too far in the future.
Rehan Naqvi, PhD is a freelance journalist based in Oslo, Norway@Nakvisson