President Asif Ali Zardari added his name to a petition created to express solidarity with Malala Yousafzai, presented by UN special envoy on global education Gordon Brown on Friday.
The president signed the petition at the launch of the “Waseela-e-Taleem” initiative on Friday. Attendees at the ceremony included AJK’s prime minister, Gilgit-Baltistan’s governor, federal ministers and Gordon Brown, who is also a former prime minister of the United Kingdom.
The one-million signature petition was created by Avaaz.org, a not-for-profit campaigning group that uses a model of Internet organising. It’s a global civic organisation that promotes activism on issues such as climate change, human rights, corruption, poverty and conflict and boasts a membership of 16 million people.
Brown is in Pakistan on a three-day visit to call for education of all children and to mark Malala Day – Saturday – a global “day of action” in support of Malala and girls’ education.
Speaking at the launch, Brown said the international community was ready to support Pakistan in its efforts to tackle poverty and ensure all children could go to school.
“Malala and her family believe that there are many, many more courageous and brave girls and families in your country who want to stand up for the right of every child, in particular girls, to have the education that they deserve,” he added.
Some 32 million girls around the world are denied access to education, according to UN figures, more than five million of them in Pakistan.
Under the “Waseela-e-Taleem” initiative – which has been launched under the umbrella of Benazir Income Support Programme – over 3 million children of poor families would be provided financial assistance for enrolling them in primary schools in the next four years.
In his address, President Zardari said the PPP-led government was according high priority to the promotion of education, because no country can make progress without investing in its human capital.
“Ignorance and poverty go hand in hand,” he said, adding that poverty combined with ignorance fuels militancy and extremism. “We must fight against ignorance to fight poverty and militancy,” he added.
Brown, in his speech, said the initiative was a measure of determination of the Pakistani government and its leadership to promote education and to safeguard the future of the youth and the coming generations.
Brown thanked President Zardari for inviting him to Pakistan and also lauded his leadership and vision for the promotion of education in the country.
President Zardari reiterated the country’s commitment to achieving the goal of universal primary education, saying that as a result of a constitutional amendment it was now included under fundamental rights.
He called upon provincial governments to extend all possible support to the BISP, deeming their support critical in successful implementation of the programme.
He urged the provincial governments to become partners in ensuring that each and every child was enrolled in the school and said that failure was not an option.
Zardari-Brown bilateral meeting
Earlier, President Zardari had a separate meeting with Gordon Brown wherein he reiterated that Pakistan’s government was according high priority to the promotion of education in the country, especially in the militancy-hit areas, as a long-term tool to fight the militant mindset, adding that this mindset was Pakistan’s biggest enemy.
Brown briefed Zardari about the objectives of the UN initiative “Education First” that aims at helping member countries in promoting education and said his mission in Pakistan was aiming at ensuring greater enrollment, provision of quality education, training of teachers and promotion of education technology in Pakistan.
The president reiterated the commitment of the government to meeting the goal of the Global Initiative on Education and sought enhanced support and cooperation of the UN and international community in the education sector and towards achieving Accelerated Millennium Development Goals.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 10th, 2012.