President Asif Zardari of Pakistan is in Paris spearheading the high profile UNESCO-co-sponsored global event 'Stand Up for Malala: Girls' right to education' on December 10. Just before the event President Zardari and his daughter Aseefa Bhutto Zadari had visited Malala in the hospital to enquire about her recovery, to convey prayers and best wishes of the people of Pakistan in person and to convey to her how proud entire nation was over her bravery and commitment to strive, to seek and not to yield under threats to kill from the blood thirsty terrorists. Malala has become a symbol of nation's pledge to root out terrorism, sectarianism, extremism and its determination to return the country to the liberal and tolerant vision of Quaid-e-Azam and martyred Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.
Dark forces of obscurantism had struck what they thought a debilitating blow that would run panic among the peace-loving people of Pakistan. The Taliban killers believed had they succeeded in assassinating brave 15-year old Malala Yusufzai of Swat (Octover 9) half of their battle against education of girls and empowerment of Pakistani women would have been won. Allah, the Most Compassionate, willed otherwise.
Malala is safe and steadily recovering thanks to expert medicare by Pakistani doctors followed by painstaking efforts by the doctors at Birminigham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Horrendous attempt on Malala's life - a teenager whose only fault, along with other hundreds and thousand of girls in Pakistan - was pursuit of modern education and enlightenment.
An injured Malala has blunted lethal terrorist attack on her by showing rare resilience for a girl of her age by declaring that she being a follower of martyred Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto - who has been a role model for her - she would continue her sublime mission in accordance with the teachings of Holy Prophet Mohammad who had commanded his followers - irrespective of gender - to pursue education and knowledge even if they have to travel as far as China. Despite the murderous attack Malala is determined to pursue enlightened education to be a model and an example for others to emulate.
December 10 Paris "Stand up by Malala" conference organized jointly by UNESCO and the government of Pakistan is coinciding with International Human Rights Day. This high profile event for the cause of making enlightened education available to all girls - irrespective of caste, creed, colour or country - has brought together representatives of governments, UN partners, international and bilateral organizations, foundations, donors, private sector, civil society, academics, religious leaders, eminent personalities, the media and other stakeholders in an effort to renew commitment and seek support for education of girls globally. President Asif Ali Zardari, along with Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Education and Chairperson Benazir Income Support Programme, is personally attending "Stand up by Malala" to ensure his own and his government's resolute commitment to the cause of promoting and universalising education for girls.
Besides the UNESCO conference, the President will be having a briefing meeting with Director General UNESCO Iriva Bokova who is the host of the event. A Memorandum of Understanding to establish Malala Fund to promote education for girls is expected to be signed between Pakistan and UNESCO during this Presidential visit. Pakistan will provide seed money for the establishment of this fund.
President Zardari will also meet French President Hollande to discuss bilateral issues during his three-day visit on December 9-11. Among other high-level International figures to participate in this conference include Jeam-Marc Aryalt, the Prime Minister of France, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education, Tarja Helnon former President of Finland, Michelle Bachelet Executive Director UN women education and Former President of Chile, Sheikh Abdullah Foreign Minister of UAE, Liela Zerrougui Under Secretary General and Special Representative of UN Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict, Dr Abdulaziz Othoman Altwaiijri Director General ISESCO, Maria Arnholm State Secretary to Minister for Gender Equality and Deputy Minister for Education. British government is being represented by Baroness Sayeeda Warsi-- its first high profile Muslim Minister in the FCO holding as well the portfolio of Interfaith Relations and Human Rights.
While the broader framework of Education for All (EFA) seeks universalisation of education for the less and under-privileged in line with the EFA goals and the priorities of the 'Education First' initiative, the overall objective of this event is to advocate for and promote right of girls to education, encompassing on all facets and all aspects of education, so that education becomes available and accessible to all girls. EFA framework will so moulded that it will be readily acceptable and adaptable to every country's specific needs and circumstances.
Since Malala has come to be a global icon of hope and inspiration, defrosting the world-wide inertia, awakening and igniting a revolutionary reaction and mobilising support for education for girls globally, Pakistan's response has been quick, positive and a way forward to grapple the bull of illiteracy by the horns.
President Zardari inspired by martyred leader Mohtarma Benazir Bhuto's desire to seek education for all girls and less privileged children, has been overly expressive of his determination to renew her and Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah's commitment to provide meaningful impetus to encourage, to protect, and to promote education for girls in line with the objective of achieving EFA's goals.
Being held beyond the frontiers of Pakistan encompassing all those who consider education for girls as a must for fostering equality of genders, the historic Paris conference "Stand up For Malala" is a landmark manifestation and commitment of Government of Pakistan to take this opportunity to wake up and mobilize the global support for inalienable right of education for girls all over the world. This unparalleled initiative of Government of Pakistan and UNESCO shall blossom into a trail blazer for 61 million children across the world, most of which are girls, who want to be educated but can not go to schools for reasons beyond their circumstances and resources. The sublime objective of the Paris "Stand up for Malala" conference is to sensitize the global community about the importance of education for girls and enormous challenges and obstacles encountered by those millions of them seeking education. It will also pave way beyond basic schooling for advance education for girls as an imminent policy. "Stand up for Malala" would go a long way in motivating, mobilizing support and commitment from various participants for giving an accelerated boost to the global agenda for education of girls.
*Author is Pakistan's High Commissioner to UK