I first met Malala when I visited her father's school in 2009. She served us tea while her father described the situation in Swat. Malala was brave, confident and intelligent, just like her father, who continued educating the children of Swat at a time when the Taliban was blowing up schools and killing those who challenged its ideology. Malala's father encouraged her to write and have bold dreams even though he was well aware of the risks involved.
By targeting Malala, the Taliban targeted a symbol of inspiration for millions of Pakistani women. And Malala was not the first. In July, another Pashtun woman, Farida Afridi, a women's rights worker, was killed by unknown gunmen on her way to her office.
The stories of Malala and Farida depict the broader, and frankly confusing, struggle in Pakistan between progressives and extremists. After so many years of war and violence, Pakistanis still have contradicting beliefs about who the enemy is. Some think that the enemy is India, while others believe that the extremist violence in the country is due to the United States presence in Afghanistan, and that once the Americans leave, the Taliban will simply disappear. Some even attribute the attacks like the one on Malala as a reaction to the drone strikes.