Shepherdstown Resident Speaks on Life in Pakistan

As part of Shepherd University’s annual common reading event, which this year focuses on the book I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb, a local couple was asked to share their stories of life in Pakistan last Thursday in the Cumberland room of the student center.

“Part of what you are watching here with Malala you will never understand,” said Fred Turco, who lived and worked in East Pakistan, which is now Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Jorden, with the U.S. Department of State.

He illustrated this point by describing a conversation he had with a college professor in Dhaka over the slaughter of Hindus. Addressing the audience, Turco said, “Hate is the problem. If you ever see a politician here preaching hate or intolerance of other people because they are different, you need to tell them that they don’t belong here.”

Turco said that there are some major points that are missed when discussing Yousafzai’s book. He pointed to an article in Dawn, a Pakistani newspaper, which stated that the Afghan Regional Assembly chose to petition the American government to release Aafia Siddiqui, a women sentenced to 88 years in prison for attempting to kill an American soldier over celebrating Malala Yousafzai’s success.

“This is a cultural setting for Pakistan,” Turco said, “It sets a tone for everything that we have to deal with over there on a regular basis, these are people who don’t know good from bad in many cases.”

Turco went on to address his views on Yousafzai’s father, Ziauddin Yousafzai. He acknowledged that Ziauddin made his money off of education and advocated freedom for women. “Women in Malala’s culture are objectified,” he said. “At the end of this book I couldn’t help but feel like Malala was objectified in a wholly different way. About halfway through this book I had to wonder where the guard was for this girl. (Ziauddin) had guards on the school, but not on Malala, and it was clear to everyone that she needed one.”

Turco held two senior CIA positions in Asia and the Middle East, in charge of five headquarter units, including the counter-terrorism center, the office of external development, the central cover division and the information operation center, which he established. While at the CIA’s counter terrorism center, he had a critical role in establishing the center, and he was the center’s first deputy chief followed by four years of being the center’s chief. Turco also taught high school for four years. He is the winner of the senior intelligence service award, the certificate of distinction, the medal of merit, the intelligence medal, the career intelligence medal, and the director of intelligence award. Turco and his wife moved to Shepherdstown in 2001.

Shannon Holliday can be reached at
for more information on common reading events.

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