PARIS: French President Francois Hollande on Tuesday hailed Pakistani teen Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by the Taliban for championing girls’ education, as a global emblem of the thirst for knowledge.
Hollande, who met Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, said the 15-year-old was the “symbol of a young girl who fought for access to knowledge and education,” adding: “We all share Malala’s spirit.” Malala is recovering in a British hospital after being brutally attacked on her school bus on Oct.9.
Zardari, whose government on Monday donated $10 million for a global war chest aimed at educating all girls by 2015, told Hollande that “every child, every Malala, has a right to education.” The Pakistan leader had also slammed Islamic fundamentalists for giving the religion a bad name.
“The first word of the Holy Quran is ‘iqra’ which is read,” he said, attacking the “fringe minority of darkness, of hatred, of conflict.
“What extremists fear is a girl with a book in her hand,” he said.
The UN estimates that 61 million children do not go to school and girls account for two-thirds of this number.
In an attack that shocked the world, Malala was shot in the head as punishment for the “crime” of campaigning for girls’ rights to go to school.
She survived the murder attempt but requires reconstructive surgery after the bullet grazed her brain, coming within centimetres of killing her.
Meanwhile in Britain, an influential Labour MP of Pakistani origin has called on Prime Minister David Cameron to nominate Malala Yousufzai for the Nobel Peace Prize without any delay.
Khalid Mehmood, the Birmingham Perry Bar Labour MP, led a delegation of academics and campaigners who presented nearly 300000 signatures to Number 10 Downing Street, calling on the government to get Malala nominated for the prize.
The signature petition was delivered to Downing Street by Khalid Mahmood MP, Shahida Choudhry, the campaigner who started the appeal, and young campaigners from the Send My Friend to School campaign.
Separately on Tuesday, the National Assembly of Pakistan unanimously adopted a resolution asking the government to declare Malala Yousufzai as “Daughter of Pakistan.”
The resolution was moved by Pakistan Peoples Party’s Robina Saadat Qaimkhani, who said that Malala had become a role model for child education across the world.
“This House gives great importance and significance to the sacrifice made by Malala Yousufzai for the sake of education. This House, therefore, recommends that Malala Yousufzai should be declared as Daughter of Pakistan,” says the resolution.
Qaimkhani said owing to her struggle for promotion of peace and girls’ education, Malala deserved applause and special recognition from the Parliament.
She also lauded the role of President Zardari for promoting child education in the country.
Meanwhile the father of Shazia, another Taliban shooting victim, was planning to leave Swat and settle in Muzaffagarh, his native town, to avoid the backlash of militants.
Shazia, along with Kainat, was shot at and injured in Swat by Taliban militants in October this year.
Muhammad Ramzan, the father of Shazia, said he was happy that Malala’s father was called to the France conference but the management should have also called Shazia to the conference.
Shazia has been in hospital for two months and now she has been going to school in Swat for the last four days.
Ramzan said he planned to settle in Muzaffargarh for security reasons, adding that he had been living in Swat for 20 years and was running sweet shops.
He said four days ago Malala contacted Shazia and enquired about her health.
He said although the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government had offered him security, two weeks ago a bomb exploded near their home in Swat, which was a warning to them.
Ramzan said the bomb blast had panicked him and the family and he had decided to move to Muzaffargarh.
He said Interior Minister Rehman Malik had met his daughter and gave Rs100,000 cheque to them while the army had also given Rs100,000 to them.
He claimed that the family of Kainat was also planning to shift to some other city.