After a brief visit to Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai has returned to the UK. Her visit, just like her life, once again put Pakistan in the international spotlight, as she is definitely the most famous Pakistani alive today. Due to intensive media coverage, this visit gave Pakistan an opportunity to show the world the amount of progress we have made in combating terrorism. After all, the Swat valley, where she was shot in the fateful year of 2012, has witnessed the restoration of law and order through the elimination of the Taliban and other religious hardliners. Schools which had been closed by the Taliban during their occupation of the valley, are now open for both boys and girls. Though the bitter and torrid memories of the occupation days are still there, the present is far better, and holds promise for an even better future. These four days should have shown the world that the country which young Malala left after being shot has changed, has put the past behind, and is ready to take off and excel in the world. To some extent, we have been able to showcase Pakistan in a positive light. After all, Malala was given VIP treatment by the state. She projected Pakistan by giving a tearful speech in which she reiterated how much she had missed Pakistan in her absence. We witnessed her going with her family to the valley of Swat and pose for a photograph which made global news. And yet, despite these few positives, which were merely ‘good’ optics, the reality is that her visit has ended up showing to the world that we have become a schizophrenic society, bent upon self-destruction through moral bankruptcy. A Nobel laureate, instead of bringing joy, has ended up infuriating most of us, as for some unexplainable reason, we hate her. In Lahore, even an “I am not Malala day” was celebrated by some private schools. Of course, all of this outpouring of hatred has been noticed by the outside world, reinforcing an already negative image of Pakistan and its society. On social media, I have seen posts which still cast doubts on her ordeal. Apparently, many still believe that she was never shot! I have also seen posts which suggest that she is an agent of the West and has come to Pakistan to take control of the Pakhtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), aiming to discredit the Pakistan Army. Some have questioned her credentials for the Nobel Prize and have lamented that Abdul Sattar Edhi would have been a more deserving recipient. The kind of vitriol and hatred against her which I have witnessed on electronic and social media has left me speechless. At the same time, I can’t help but wonder what is wrong with us. Why do so many apparently reasonable Pakistanis hate a young woman who was shot in the head as a little girl, barely survived and has been left with a permanently disfigured face as a gruesome reminder of her ordeal. Today, UN designated terrorists like Hafiz Saeed are more respectable in Pakistan than people like Malala. Ironically, it is this anomaly, not Malala, which is actually disgracing Pakistan in the international arena To a certain extent, it is misogyny. Our society is patriarchal, and some have convincingly argued that hatred of Malala is actually a reflection of gender bias. Pakistanis hate her because as a young woman, she has gotten international fame and recognition, the scale of which no other Pakistani has ever achieved. Hence there is a huge element of jealousy, which is one of the key drivers behind this rage. But misogyny, while definitely a factor, still does not explain the entire story. It does not explain why many Pakistanis do not feel the same rage for other successful and world famous Pakistani women, such as Nergis Mavalvala. I remember when she made headlines, many took a lot of pride in her achievement. Likewise, late Arfa Karim became an icon when she became the youngest Microsoft Certified Professional. Her tragic death at a very young late merely elevated her status. So misogyny alone does not explain anything. I think there is another reason, perhaps even more worrisome which provides a more satisfactory answer. Malala’s only “fault” is that she did not die, and her ordeal gained the West’s attention in a way that Pakistanis did not like. Her fame was due to the fact that she was shot for speaking about the Taliban’s atrocities and for advocating education for girls. So when she got famous, the critical microscope of the world also fell upon religious extremism and mistreatment of women in Pakistan. Consequently, many Pakistanis think that Malala has brought a bad name to Pakistan and has become some sort of tool which the West uses to embarrass the country. This is where Pakistani society completely loses me. In fact, this reason is even more disgusting than the crude misogyny, as it reeks of petty a petty combination of jingoism, misplaced hatred and self-delusion. What we as Pakistanis are completely forgetting is that it is not Malala who is bringing a bad name to Pakistan, but those who shot her. She is a victim, and if her ordeal brings attention to the fact that Pakistan is a patriarchal extremist society, then we need to address that issue — not blame a little girl. What my fellow Pakistanis forget is that right now, Pakistan is ranked as second last in the entire world in the gender gap index compiled by the World Economic Forum. This dismal ranking is not Malala’s fault, it is the outcome of several structural and institutional factors which are heavily skewed against women. In fact, by not recognizing the real issue and constantly accusing the victim, we are ourselves bringing a bad name to our country. It boggles the mind that today, many of us hate the victim more than those who actually shot her. In fact, until very recently, an overwhelming majority was in complete denial and was knitting every kind of conspiracy theory to absolve those monsters of any wrongdoing. When the evidence started to become too damning, then these people started conjuring up apologetic defences for those monsters according to which all the suicide blasts were merely the reaction to US presence in Afghanistan and drone attacks. Political leaders like Imran Khan were the vanguards of this narrative, which shifted the blame away from the religious extremists towards the West. It’s our hyper-patriotism, based on misplaced suspicion and hatred of the outside world which is making us hate an innocent girl. Today, UN designated terrorists like Hafiz Saeed are more respectable in Pakistan than people like Malala. Ironically, it is this anomaly, not Malala, which is actually disgracing Pakistan in the international arena. The writer is currently doing PhD in Political Science from Maxwell School, Syracuse University, USA Published in Daily Times, April 4th 2018.