Nobel’s odd peaceniks: Might the Taliban win before Malala?

Malala Yousufzai did not win the Nobel Peace Prize. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) did. The Norwegians famous for their neutrality, and chosen for the noble task by the Swedish Alfred Nobel, did not wilt in the face of public opinion.

The Pakistani teenager, who was shot in the head by the Taliban just a year ago, only to stage an astounding recovery, not just of body but also spirit would have been a worthy winner. But she needn't despair at being ignored. At just 16, she has time on her side and plenty left to do in her moral battle against repressive Islamic fundamentalists.

In any case, the Nobel Peace Prize Committee has made some odd choices over the last century. Several personalities, arguably far more deserving of the honour than Malala have been ignored.

A certain Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, perhaps the peacenik par excellence of the 20th century was denied a prize. Gandhi’s omission was regretted by the Committee several decades after his death.

 Nobel’s odd peaceniks: Might the Taliban win before Malala?

Could the Taliban get the award before Malala will? AFP

In 2006, Geir Lundestad, Secretary of Norwegian Nobel Committee said, "The greatest omission in our 106-year history is undoubtedly that Mahatma Gandhi never received the Nobel Peace prize. Gandhi could do without the Nobel Peace prize, whether Nobel committee can do without Gandhi is the question.”

Other notable omissions haven’t received similar deference. Vaclav Havel, the Czech playright, staunch anti-communist, peaceful revolutionary and President was never picked by the Committee. In 2009, the influential Foreign Policy actually compiled a list of persons who should have won the prize but did not. It included Gandhi, Havel, Ken Saro-Wiwa and Eleanor Roosevelt among others.

On the flipside, there are several persons less deserving than Malala who have won. There will be questions asked about the decision to give the 2013 prize to OPCW, just months after someone (probably the Government) in Syria used chemical weapons to kill and maim thousands. That isn’t a sign of success for an international organization committed to chemical weapons disarmament. If their latest effort in dismantling Syria's chemical arsenal is Nobel worthy, then so is Vladimir Putin.

There have been other contentious choices. Barack Obama had achieved little as a global peacemaker when he was awarded the prize in the very first year of his Presidency, in 2009. But he was hardly as controversial a winner as Theodore Roosevelt when as a war mongering US president he was awarded the prize over 100 years ago. Or as controversial as Henry Kissinger and Le Durc Tho who won the prize when Vietnam was still aflame. It now seems difficult to believe that Yasser Arafat, with his dodgy role in the Palestinian conflict, was ever a Nobel Peace laureate.

Sometimes, the Committee has seemed over-eager to grant its stamp of approval to wannabe peacemakers. It may do it again. It will be a great disservice to Malala and the world, if in one such moment of over-eagerness, the Committee decides to award the Prize to some leader of the Taliban (or the Taliban itself) who agrees to talk peace, even sign peace, with the West sometime in 2014 or after.

Malala Yousufzai may or may not deserve the Nobel Peace prize – it depends on your point of view. But certain individuals and institutions deserve never to get it – a “peaceful” Taliban would be one of those.

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Updated Date: Oct 12, 2013 09:12:47 IST