ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari on Friday felicitated Malala Yousufzai on her 16th birthday and the international community for celebrating the event by inviting her to a special programme organised by the United Nations in New York.
Malala was received by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and honoured to address the special session of the Youth Assembly of the world body to mark her birthday.
“Malala is the symbol of young defiant girls in all climes and all ages wishing to seek education for their emancipation and rejecting extremism, tyranny and militancy,” the president said in his message of felicitation.
“The event today in the United Nations is also a demonstration of the realisation by the international community that the way forward to defeat the forces of darkness and militancy is to equip our girls with education,” he said.
Mr Zardari said Malala’s survival and the honour bestowed on her by the international community was an evident that extremism could best be fought through collective action.
He said the agenda of democracy was peace and progress and that of extremists’ death and destruction.
He said the resolve to provide education to all, particularly to millions of out-of-school girls, was the best strategy to defeat extremism.
As the UN secretary general recently remarked that “what makes the extremists fear, is the sight of a girl with a book in her hand”, the president called for collective efforts to placing a book in every girl’s hands.
Mr Zardari said former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was keen on girls’ education for women empowerment as he quoted her words: “If women are truly to be defined by themselves and their own accomplishments and abilities, they need the level of education that empowers them.”
The president expressed satisfaction that Pakistan recently took a giant leap forward in quest of education and knowledge when all political parties and provinces decided to amend the constitution and made education for all girls and boys — between 5 and 16 years — a fundamental right.
“We are grateful to God for having spared her life and we also express our appreciation to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, former prime minister of UK and UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown and the international community for their support to the cause of girls’ right of education,” he said.
Mr Zardari called for forging a grand alliance of governments, donors, politicians, academics, the private and public sectors for promoting the cause of education and to ensure that every child not only in Pakistan but across the world received quality education.
“On this occasion our thoughts also go to Ms Shazia and Ms Kainaat who along with Malala suffered grievously on that fateful day when cowardly militants attacked the school van. We also wish to place on record our appreciation of the doctors and para-medical staff who helped Malala fight the battle for her life,” the president said.