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Interview with Pakistan's Foreign Minister; Discussing Education for Girls in Afghanistan

Aired October 11, 2012 - 15:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

The United Nations has designated today, October 11th, as the International Day of the Girl. But even if it had not, our focus would still be on the horrendous Pakistani Taliban attack on one girl, 14-year- old Malala Yousafzai, who tonight continues to fight for her life in a hospital bed.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): She's in critical condition after being shot on Tuesday. And it's galvanized outrage and support for Malala across Pakistan and around the world.


AMANPOUR: For this attack on one brave and outspoken teenaged activist is an attack on every girl, on every woman and every man who stands up for the basic right of girls to be educated.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): Malala started using her voice to take on the Taliban when she was just 11 years old. Her father ran the school that she attended and he was so proud of her dreams that he once told a documentary film team, "When I saw her for the first time, a newborn child, and I looked into her eyes, I fell in love with her."


AMANPOUR: His was one of the last schools in the Swat region to defy the Taliban ban on girls' education, and he was his daughter's inspiration.


MALALA YOUSAFZAI, EDUCATION ACTIVIST (through translator): I found courage because of my father. He supported me a lot and my people, my friends at school supported me a lot. When I looked at my people and my school fellows and the ban on the girls' education and the -- and the Taliban, so I thought that I must stand up for my rights, the right of education, the right for peace.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): That was a year ago. And today the attack on Malala has raised questions yet again about whether Pakistan's government, its military and its intelligence services are, in fact, committed to the defeat of Taliban militancy and to the kind of extremism that would lead anyone to try to assassinate a schoolgirl.


AMANPOUR: My exclusive interview with Pakistan's foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, in a moment.

And then later in the program --


AMANPOUR (voice-over): In Afghanistan, the same fight goes on, secret schools hidden from Taliban assassins. We talked to one girl just like Malala, but all grown up and armed with an education.

Then in some parts of the world, walking to school is all part of the fun. But in others, it's an act of courage and endurance, covering miles on foot just to get to class.


AMANPOUR: We'll have all of this later.

But first, to Pakistan, where foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar tells me that authorities have arrested about 100 people in a dragnet sweep. And she says she's confident that Malala's attackers will be caught.

I spoke to her earlier as she came out of a cabinet meeting where, she says, the government believes this will be a turning point in the fight against these militants.


AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program. Thank you for joining me.

Let me ask you your reaction to this terrible attack on this little girl.

HINA RABBANI KHAR, PAKISTANI FOREIGN MINISTER: Christiane, I think the reactions are at multiple levels. First is at a personal level: with two daughters, I think my reaction would be that of any mother; and then, of course, as a policymaker. And you know, interestingly, at both levels, the reaction is the same. We're all disgusted by this incident. We condemn it strongly.

And I think, to me, this is a wakeup call, to not only people in Pakistan, but people all over the world, that we have a clear and present danger in terms of people who choose to use violence as means to, you know, follow whatever they consider to be their agenda. And to what extent they will go they have revealed in this particular incident.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you, then, you say a clear and present danger.

And obviously many of us have been watching over the years. And we've seen this building, as you have inside as well.

The army chief, Kayani, visited Malala in hospital and he afterwards called what had happened to her, you know, he called them "cowards" and he blamed their "twisted ideology," the attackers, the Taliban.

Is this, then, a turning point? Does this allow Pakistan to do what it has to do and go after these people?

KHAR: Christiane, I would just like to say that Pakistan has already been going after these people. As you know, there was an operation in Swat about two years back. It was against these very people. And it was against this ideology and this mindset that they're trying to impose.

Today, Pakistan, for us, it could be possibly a turning point. I would keep my fingers crossed on that. And what we have in front of us is a war between two different sets of futures, one that Malala Yousafzai represents, a bright, young, dynamic girl who fought for her right to education and the right to live as a normal citizen.

And the other, which is trying to be imposed by this particular band, which is that of an extremist sort and of a terrorist sort.

AMANPOUR: So we have seen the outrage in Pakistan. We've seen the hundreds, if not thousands of people rallying to her cause now and hoping that she survives this terrible attack. We've seen articles and editorials in your newspaper, of course, all around the world as well.

But we've also heard the other side, people even inside Pakistan, saying that unless, finally, Pakistan's leaders, civilian leaders like yourself, the military leaders, stop their equivocation, if you like, stop their rather nuanced relationship with these violent people, that it's going to be happening again.

Let me read you something in one of your own English language newspapers.

"We are infected with the cancer of extremism. Unless it is cut out, we will slide ever further into the bestiality that this latest atrocity exemplifies."

So, again, you have been fighting. We know, though, that they've come back to Swat after that first initial military campaign.

Again, is it time for Pakistan to seriously make this a campaign that doesn't stop until they're defeated?

KHAR: Christiane, that is where I think we need a deeper sort of conversation, because I think it is not only time for Pakistan, it is time for all of us to make that the singular aim that we're all fighting for, rather than against each other. And I'll give you a simple example.

Now if the same people, the same band was -- once they were ousted from Swat very successfully through military operations which led into thousands of military deaths also -- they took refuge in Kunar and Nuristan.

And for the last two years, Pakistan at the diplomatic, political and every level, has been asking, both of one government and the ISAF forces over there, to take this matter seriously, to not let them have safe havens inside Kunar and Nuristan.

That they have the ability to strike back at us within Swat and at this girl also, is a clear indication that what we need to do is to look at this as a challenge to all of us collectively rather than spend time as we have done, unfortunately, in the past, to go into a blame game of who is doing what.

I think Pakistan's commitment to this is clear. I mean, it comes to the cancer or the seeds of the cancer. We know that this started when, together with the United States, my country and many other countries -- some were in the Middle East also -- decided to arm the mujahedeen whose mindset --


AMANPOUR: Foreign Minister, forgive me --

KHAR: -- but the mindset you left behind.

AMANPOUR: Yes. Foreign Minister, forgive me; that is part of the history, that is true. But you talk about a blame game, you talk about Afghanistan; Afghanistan blames you, Pakistan, for safe havens.

Isn't it time, now, to really get serious about this?

I mean, this little girl stands for every little girl, every woman.

What future is there for your own children, your own two daughters in Pakistan, if you don't take this seriously now and stop this blame game?

KHAR: Christiane, that's exactly what I'm saying, that Pakistan is committed to doing that. And Pakistan has never gotten into any type of a blame game. We have never blamed anyone's intelligence agencies, et cetera, for what has been happening in Pakistan.

AMANPOUR: So what are you going to do to protect Malala? I mean, these people have said that, even if she survives, they will go after her again.

What is the state going to do to protect her if, hopefully, she survives? And her father, who they've apparently threatened as well?

KHAR: Christiane, first of all, I just want to use the opportunity to say that the government, at different levels, has also offered to protect her for -- by providing security. And she and her family had refused that. That is one thing that we can always do and we will do.

We have, as I said before, had multiple military operations also in the past. We need more support in terms of moral support, if nothing else, and not being blamed for, you know, all the woes in Afghanistan, because you know and I know that the reason why we are not as successful in Afghanistan as we could have been is because we maybe never gave, you know, we gave the trust deficit mantra too much of a chance and building trust too little of a chance.

And let me also say that, you know, anything which is illegal, which is unlawful, including drone strikes, does come into this equation. So today, as I said, the only dividing line within the society in Pakistan is why drone strikes still operate in Pakistan.

With that exclusion, I think there is absolutely no doubt in any Pakistani's mind, that this is a force, this is a mindset that is a challenge for Pakistan's future, and this is a mindset that we have to fight with all our will. And we endanger ourselves more if we don't fight it today than if we do.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you about the investigation. We've heard that the authorities have, you know, identified some of these people who may have attacked Malala.

Have they made any arrests? Who are they? And what will -- what will happen to them?

KHAR: Christiane, they have made many, many arrests, as we speak. We were just coming out of the cabinet briefing. They have made many arrests. And they will be able to get them.

AMANPOUR: All right. You say you've just come out of a cabinet meeting. Is there any indication that a new military offensive, some kind of action, will be launched in Swat to again clear that place?

KHAR: Christiane, as you know, military operations are conducted according to, you know, the requirements of that particular country at that particular time. So the timing of that, of course, is something that is going to be determined and whether it is required in the form that you are mentioning.

But I think -- let me be clear. In Pakistan today, Malala Yousafzai has probably done what many military operations could also not achieve. She has put it as a black-and-white question. She's put it as either you're with the future that she represents or you are with the future that they are trying to impose. And what you see is only fringe elements who are trying to justify it.

To me, the dangerous sign over here is that these people, after they attacked her, felt that they could fairly justification for an act like this. That has been rejected by all Pakistanis. That, to me, is a confidence building measure. That, to me, is something which gives me confidence for the future of Pakistan.

AMANPOUR: Just give me some more details if you have on those who've been arrested. Who are they? Or rather, yes, you said you've arrested a lot of people. Who are they?

KHAR: Christiane, there is a group, TTP, which has already taken responsibility for this. I'm told that there was earlier a -- you know, they all have these various smaller groups which operate for them. And earlier there was a group which was trying to -- which had intended to attack her, who -- which was taken in before they were able to attack. And this was a new group that emerged.

We are told by the interior ministry that they are very confident that they will be able to get to the people, to the perpetrators. But as I said, I think the challenge, the bigger challenge, also, is to be able to, you know, get after the mindset which has been imposed in Pakistan and the region for the last 30 years.

AMANPOUR: Foreign Minister, thank you very much for joining me.

KHAR: Pleasure.


AMANPOUR: Malala's fierce determination to go to school despite the threats of the Taliban is shared by other young girls across the border in Afghanistan.

We'll meet one of them who had to dress like a boy and attend a secret school just to get an education. Now she's all grown up and fighting for the rights of other Afghan girls.

But before we take a break, another look at Pakistan. It is a bold and clear message. Men standing up for women's rights as Malala lies in that hospital bed, fighting for her life. And with 75 million girls unable to go to school around the world, it is an urgent call for action. We'll be right back.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

Fourteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai has paid a very heavy price for taking on the Taliban in Pakistan.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): Across the border in Afghanistan, girls have been fighting the same kind of resistance ever since the Taliban came to power there in 1996.


AMANPOUR: Their wholesale assault on women, including girls' education, became a source of outrage worldwide, especially here in the United States and way before Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 attacks shifted America's focus to that region.

Back then, I investigated the secret network of girls' schools in Afghanistan, and heroic efforts to give those girls the chance to learn.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): Teachers like Ms. Uveda (ph) taught in a flourishing network of underground schools, secret places like this one in the countryside.

Ms. Uveda (ph) set up her school above her husband's office. He's a doctor.

And when the Taliban came to investigate, Ms. Uveda (ph) blamed the noise on her husband's patients.

AMANPOUR: Was it difficult? Did you have to be careful in case the Taliban found out?

MS. UVEDA (PH), AFGHAN GIRLS' TEACHER: It was very difficult. I had to be very careful. Sometimes I was changing the time of this lesson. Sometimes I was changing the place.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We used to hide our books under our burqas to avoid beatings from the Taliban. Not a few girls were caught and roughed up.

AMANPOUR: Why weren't you afraid, because they've done terrible things to you.

UVEDA (PH)I don't know. I was not afraid at all.

AMANPOUR: But if they'd caught you, they would have whipped you, no? At least.

UVEDA (PH)But I had to help the people.


AMANPOUR: And joining me now is Shabana Basij-Rasikh, who was 6 years old when the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan, and she joined that underground classroom resistance as well.

She eventually came here to America and graduated from college, and she's now working to build schools and educate young women back home in Afghanistan.

Shabana, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: Let me ask you first, your initial reaction when you heard what had happened to Malala in Pakistan.

BASIJ-RASIKH: Well, obviously, I was so angered and I -- when people ask me, I said, you know, this is why more than ever before we need to unite and join the cause, join Malala. And many other -- millions of other girls in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere in the region, to advocate for girls' education, to really get out the message that educating girls really does mean changing the world.

AMANPOUR: It could have been you, couldn't it? I mean, could have been you as a young girl.

BASIJ-RASIKH: Absolutely. Absolutely. And still, that is a risk that I'm trying minimize every day, because I am working with girls in Afghanistan who, like Malala and many other girls, are fighting so many obstacles to receive an education.

AMANPOUR: When I did that report back in Afghanistan so many years ago, you, at that time, I think, were much younger and in one of those underground schools.

BASIJ-RASIKH: I was. I was.

AMANPOUR: How did you go there? Why? Why did your family allow you to take those risks?

BASIJ-RASIKH: Well, I am extremely privileged to have the kind of parents that I do. My father was the first ever in his family to receive an education.

AMANPOUR: And we have a picture of your father right here on the table.

BASIJ-RASIKH: Yes. And my mom was the first female in her family to go to school. And their educational background combined made all sorts of opportunities possible for me. Had it not been for their commitment to my education and to my siblings' education, I would be a sophomore in high school if I were lucky.


AMANPOUR: You mean today, today at 22 years old?

BASIJ-RASIKH: At 22, I would be a sophomore in high school --

AMANPOUR: (Inaudible) achieved that (inaudible)?

BASIJ-RASIKH: Yes, I am a college graduate. I went to Middlebury, one of the best colleges in the U.S. and, by extension, in the world. And I am back in Afghanistan to share that knowledge that I've gained here to help many other girls in Afghanistan, who are still struggling to receive an education in one way or another.

AMANPOUR: Go back a little bit to your father's generation and your mother's generation, because so many people look at Afghanistan and think that forever it was a broken, terrible place with no opportunity for anybody.

However, you tell a different story, about your mother being educated and your father.

Tell me about how that came about.

BASIJ-RASIKH: Well, my grandfather really was the one who insisted on putting my mom to school.

AMANPOUR: This is your mother.

BASIJ-RASIKH: This is my mom, who retired from her teaching job two years ago and then turned our house into a classroom for girls and a woman in our neighborhood. She still teaches students in our house.

And I really was -- my mama was my first teacher at home. I was one day sitting in this little girl's place, studying with my mom. She really taught me how to read and write when I was around 5 years old.

AMANPOUR: And the men of that generation appreciated an educated woman?

BASIJ-RASIKH: Well, you know, that's something that was often dismissed here. But behind every successful woman that I know and that many of you will know, if you really dig deep, it's -- there's always a father who recognized this and appreciates the value in his daughter. And in my father's case, as I said last night to you and to many others, I always dream big. But my father, he dreams bigger for me. He's the one who really makes these opportunities possible.

AMANPOUR: And you mentioned last night, we were launching a campaign called Ten Times Ten. Explain briefly what that is. It's about raising awareness and action for women's education.

BASIJ-RASIKH: Well, it is a -- it's a global campaign that's really calling on action -- everybody to join the cause and to really invest on girls' education, to really appreciate and spread awareness that investing on education girls -- educating girls really means changing the world and that if you educate a girl, she will -- she's more likely to marry later, have less and healthier kids and she will contribute to the country's economic growth and peace and security in our world.

AMANPOUR: And you right now have got boarding school in Afghanistan.

BASIJ-RASIKH: I do, yes.

I co-founded a boarding school in 2008 called SOLA. And sola is a word for peace in Pashto language. And the mission is to further global educational opportunities for the future generation of -- and leaders of Afghanistan.

The girls that you see here, they are the future leaders of Afghanistan. And they come from all over Afghanistan to our boarding school in Kabul. They come from different ethnic groups; they live together. They appreciate the different qualities that every single one of them bring to the school. They study together but they also teach each other a different unique quality.

I have a taekwondo trainer who studies at SOLA for one hour. She teaches students. I have a boxing girl, who is a member of the national boxing team. And she helps the other girls. And I have poets and writers and at really young age, novelists who write things.

And they're so passionate. They have this big and huge hunger for education that gives you so much more hope about the future of Afghanistan.

AMANPOUR: Did you ever, in those days when it was so dangerous to go to your underground school during the Taliban time, the height of the -- did you ever want to say, no, I can't do it?

BASIJ-RASIKH: I absolutely did. I, you know, going to school, constantly fearing that, you know, I would be caught by Taliban any moment, not seeing a clear future for women, I would just really want to quit. You know, I was scared. I didn't want to continue. I didn't want to be killed by the Taliban. And there, my parents, they were always the ones who kept pushing.

He -- my father, I remember, he would say, you can lose everything you own in your life. Your money can be stolen. Your -- you can be forced to leave your house during a war. But the one thing that will always remain with you is what is in here. And he would point to his head. And he would say, "Your education is the biggest investment in your life. Don't ever regret it."

They were really committed. And I am so thankful. I'm grateful for my parents, because as I said before, had it not been for their commitment, I would not have been in a position to help other girls in Afghanistan at a time when they really need our attention. I'm really, really scared that by 2014 --

AMANPOUR: When the West pulls out.

BASIJ-RASIKH: -- when the West pulls out, the funds will dry up and there will be a lot less attention towards education for Afghan girls --

AMANPOUR: And we're going to keep paying attention.

Shabana, thank you very much.

BASIJ-RASIKH: Thank you. Thank you very much for having me.

AMANPOUR: And we'll be back after a break.


AMANPOUR: And a final thought, it took the shooting of a beautiful and brave young girl to remind us all that going to school can be as dangerous as going into battle. And yet Malala Yousafzai was willing to take that risk. Imagine a world where every day young women like Malala make that all-important journey to the classroom.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I woke up and I got ready and I went to school. On my way to school, I went -- I called my friend, Eve (ph), and then we walked down to the train station and I got the train to school.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I come to school with my dad at mostly to 7:15. I have my school prayer at 7:30, which gets over to 7:40.

DORCAS KANINI, EASTERN KENYA: We have walking for 20 minutes. There is 40 minutes left for us to reach school. I have doing this, go to school, for nine years. I don't like walking to school because sometimes I am tired. I miss when I am late. The teachers don't understand.


AMANPOUR: And yet these girls in England, India, Africa and across the globe, in whichever way they can, will do whatever it takes to get an education.

Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with Malala Yousafzai and her family.

And that's it for tonight's program. Thanks for watching. Goodbye from New York.